Coconut Oil – Definition & 50+ Uses

So, you’ve finally broken down and purchased yourself a jar of coconut oil. But why are you supposed to be into it again?

“Coconut oil…is a type of fat that is actually utilized by the body to make energy,” said clinical nutritionist Ariane Hundt. “Unlike other saturated fats, coconut oil is not an artery-clogging type of fat but rather a medium-chain fatty acid that the body burns off to generate energy. It’s also antimicrobial and antifungal and, as such, a fantastic oil to add to your diet.” And though the research is still in its infancy, coconut oil also may boost metabolism and decrease appetite, according to registered dietitian Abbey Sharp.

As if that weren’t enough, coconut oil produces ketones, the brain’s second-favorite form of energy, which makes it good for brain health, said naturopathic physician Meagan Purdy. Ketones also tend to burn fat but not muscle tissue, which makes coconut oil ideal for building strength.

The best part? You don’t need to be a nutrition expert or foodie to make use of this trendy superfood. Here are a few low-investment, high-return ways to incorporate coconut oil into your diet.

1. Substitute it for butter According to Sharp, you can use coconut oil in popcorn, on vegetables, in baked goods, on toast or pancakes, and in pretty much anything else where you would normally use butter for a healthy, vegan alternative.

2. Use it as a cooking oil While olive oil and other cooking oils often lose their nutritional benefits at high temperatures, coconut oil stays intact, making it great for pan-frying vegetables and other foods, as long as you don’t mind the coconut taste, said Purdy.

3. Add it to hot beverages According to Purdy, coconut oil adds a frothy, creamy texture to hot beverages and can be used in place of a coffee creamer. Or, to satisfy sweet cravings without compromising nutrition, Hundt recommends mixing a spoon of dark cocoa with hot unsweetened almond milk, stevia, and a teaspoon of coconut oil.

4. Mix it into smoothies You can also add a spoon of coconut oil to smoothies to help stabilize your blood sugar, fill you up, boost your energy, and nourish your muscles after workouts. Hundt suggests mixing it with a cup of frozen cauliflower, a cup of frozen butternut squash, three strawberries, and a scoop of protein powder.

5. Saute fruit in it Purdy recommends lightly frying bananas in coconut oil and drizzling them with cinnamon for a tasty, nutrition-packed dessert.

As with any food, though, you can have too much of a good thing. The average 150-pound woman needs 60 grams of fat per day, and a teaspoon of coconut oil has 14 grams, so a few delicious spoons a day should do it, said Hundt. Sharp advocates substituting coconut oil in place of other fats rather than adding it, since a tablespoon of coconut oil is about 117 calories.

That one caveat aside, nutritionists agree that coconut oil is pretty great. And since it tastes fantastic, that’s really just a bonus.