It's the newest buzz hitting the headlines: coconut oil for weight loss. But, is it really the miracle solution that many make it out to be? There are, in fact, several studies – and even more testimonials – to support the idea that coconut oil can be a great addition to your weight management program; however, it must be done right!
Is it a fad? Maybe. Is it safe? There are conflicting opinions due to the the high saturated fat content. Does it work? According to a lot of people – absolutely! Some studies have actually shown that coconut oil for weight loss can increase calorie burn 5-15%. Wow!
How? Well, scientists (and promoters of coconut oil) say that it has to do with it's unique molecular structure.
The Theory of Coconut Oil for Weight Loss
Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids – or MCTs for short - which are metabolized differently than the long-chain fatty acids (LCTs) found in vegetable oils. Unlike LCTs, which are often stored as fat, MCTs go directly to the liver from the digestive tract where they are used very quickly for energy or converted into ketone bodies (A ketogenic diet has been very effective in treating many medical conditions).
MCTs are not stored as fat so they won't make you fat! At least that is what current research is claiming.
So, How Does it Work?
There are many benefits to eating coconut oil, and these factors can all work together to improve the way your body functions. And, the more efficiently your body operates, the easier it will be for you to meet your weight loss goals.
Coconut oil increases metabolism. It does this through a process called “thermogenesis”. Basically, this is the idea that some foods require more energy than others to digest. While protein tops the list, coconut oil is still considered to be one of the best thermogenic foods.
In other words, you will use more calories digesting coconut oil as compared to the same amount of other fats. So, if your body has to work harder, there will be fewer calories left over. And, that's a good thing, right? By adding just 1 tablespoon of coconut oil a day, you can increase your energy expenditure by up to 120 calories.
Coconut oil can help control blood sugar. When our blood sugar drops, we are tempted to reach for quick (and often unhealthy) snacks. So, one of the best ways to lose weight is to stabilize blood sugar levels. There are several studies that have shown the effectiveness of coconut oil in regulating blood sugar, combating sugar cravings, and reducing the risk of insulin resistance -all important factors for weight loss/management.
Additionally, some experts say that it can help slow the digestion of carbohydrates (when eaten together) which may prevent the insulin spike often experienced with higher sugar foods. There is also some promising research that suggests coconut oil may be helpful in the treatment of diabetes.
Coconut oil reduces belly fat. Many people who use coconut oil for weight loss find it very effective for lowering BMI and melting away pounds around the abdominal area. Medical studies have shown that belly fat is a major contributor to many diseases, so slimming down this area should be a priority.
Coconut oil reduces fat storage. It all comes down to the MCTs vs. LCTs again. Research has found that your body is less likely to store fat if you replace long chain fatty acids with the healthier medium chain ones.
Coconut oil can be an appetite suppressant. A couple of significant studies have shown that adding MCTs to your diet can reduce appetite and lower overall calorie consumption. Many people report that eating coconut oil makes them fill up faster, feel fuller longer, and snack less.
Coconut oil can improve thyroid function. Hypothyroidism (or a sluggish thyroid) is a main cause of obesity and a huge hindrance to weight loss. Coconut oil can stimulate the production of extra thyroid hormones and help this gland work more effectively.
Coconut oil can increase energy. Since it promotes thermogenesis and increases metabolism, coconut oil will give you that instant energy boost – similar to carbs only without the risk of fat storage. The liver can convert it quickly to energy (because it doesn't need additional enzymes), so you feel the effects almost immediately. This is good news if you are often too tired to exercise. Now, you will have the motivation to work out and burn even more calories.
Coconut oil can improve your digestive system. Many experts claim that all health problems begin in the digestive tract, so keeping it healthy is important. Coconut oil will relieve constipation, balance intestinal bacteria, and improve overall digestion.
As an appetite suppressant, take 1 teaspoon -2 tablespoons twenty minutes before a heavy meal. Some people prefer to mix it in a mug of hot water or herbal tea, but you can also put it directly into your mouth, letting it liquefy before swallowing.
Use coconut oil to replace other fats in cooking and baking. It has a high smoke point so it is safe to use for high-heat cooking.
Add coconut oil to smoothies.
Start slowly. Many people experience digestive upsets such as nausea or cramping when they first start adding coconut oil to their diets. Your body may need some time to adjust so begin with 1/2 teaspoon and slowly work your way up to 1-2 tablespoons daily.
Use with moderation. Too much of anything (even something healthy) can be a problem. Just because 1 tablespoon can burn an extra 120 calories doesn't mean that 10 tablespoons will burn 1200. If that was the case, I'd eat an entire jar every day! Balance is key. So, unless your health care adviser suggests large amounts of coconut oil, it is best to limit your consumption to a maximum of 2 tablespoons a day. There is really no need for more.
REPLACE don't ADD. Coconut oil may burn an additional 120 calories per day, but it also contains 120 calories per tablespoon. Yes, there are a lot of benefits, but it should be used instead of – not in addition to – other fats and oils.
If you have health issues, check with your doctor before adding large amounts of coconut oil to your diet. It is still a saturated fat, so if you are on a restricted diet, it is recommended that you seek medical advice.
Look for Cold-pressed Virgin Coconut Oil. Some oils, particularly refined coconut oil, may be heated and/or bleached. Also, some extraction processes use harsh chemicals and solvents. For best results, be sure to buy a quality product.
Studies are showing that saturated fat is not your enemy and coconut oil is actually one of the healthiest foods you can eat. But, while research is promising, it certainly isn't conclusive. There is a lot of conflicting information out there and the whole Olive Oil vs. Coconut Oil debate is still going strong.
So, is coconut oil fpr weight loss the miracle weight reducing cure that it claims to be? Probably not. If you just start taking it by the shovelful and don't make any other changes, you likely won't see the results you are hoping for. It's not a magic pill or potion. But, many people have found that, when combined with a healthy diet and exercise, it can definitely be an effective part of their weight loss program.
No, it probably won't work alone (few things do), but it just might be the missing piece of the puzzle that could jump start your metabolism and improve your ability to lose weight. If nothing else, at least you will feel more energetic!
I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.