Your diet plays a big role in weight loss. There’s usually a big fuss, especially on dietary fats and oils you use to cook and dress your salads. Many heart experts also emphasize avoiding trans fats and moderating saturated fats consumption because they are cardiovascular risk factors.
Once you are on a ketogenic diet, you are meant to eat a low-carb diet, that is moderate in protein and high in fats. This carb restriction and increased fat consumption trigger ketosis which promotes weight loss. But what types of fats and oils are allowed on a keto diet? Is coconut oil keto-friendly? Do the proteins in coconut oil qualify it as a keto food?
What will we be looking at in this article today you ask? You will learn more about the healthy fats and oils allowed on keto, the types of fats, types of coconut oil available, the nutrition facts, especially protein in coconut oil and its function in the human body. Let’s get to it!
Which Fats And Oils Are Allowed On Keto?
The keto diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates to help the body achieve ketosis which promotes weight loss. The fats broken down are stored fats and dietary fats. A ketogenic diet allows for fats rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that reduce the risks of developing heart disease.
The healthy oils you are allowed to eat on keto include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and oils from nuts and seeds like sesame seed oil, hemp seed oil, safflower oil, walnut oil, and almond oil. The healthy fats you can consume include fatty fish, avocados, ghee, cheese, butter, lard, and full-fat yogurt.
Coconut oil is allowed because it is low in carb, high in fat and the protein in coconut oil is in moderate amounts.
But what makes fat or oil qualify as healthy? What makes others be considered unhealthy fats? The types of fatty acids in oil or fats are what make it good or bad. Let’s refresh our memories on the type of fatty acids and which ones are considered good or bad!
Types Of Fats: Which Are Good and Bad?
Fats are made up of glycerol with three fatty acids attached to it. Fatty acids or lipids are classified as monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated.
Trans fats are a type of dietary fat found in processed foods and junk foods. This type of fat should be avoided because it is one of the cardiovascular risk factors. Trans fats are made by turning liquid oils into solid fat like in the case of margarine. These fats raise your bad cholesterol levels (low-density lipoproteins) and lower high-density lipoproteins (HDL) which increase your chances of developing heart disease.
This is why junk foods like fries, chips, burgers, commercially baked foods, and margarine are not allowed in a keto diet. The typical western diet is rich in these foods explaining why the rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease are rising year in, and year out.
There have been a lot of controversies surrounding saturated fats and their contribution as cardiovascular risk factors. They are often solid at room temperature and have been termed as bad cholesterol over the years.
However recent research has shown that saturated fat isn’t as bad as we previously believed. Saturated fats have been found to increase HDL cholesterol levels, reduce risks of developing strokes, and promote brain health.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming only 5% to 6% of your calories from saturated fat. Foods that are rich in saturated fat are meats such as poultry, lamb and beef, cheese, and butter. Other oils like coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil are good and rich in saturated fat.
My suggestion is to consume your saturated fatty acids in moderation to reap their health benefits fully. If you completely eradicate them from your diet, then you will be missing out on the good. Excess consumption of these fats will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in the body putting you at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Unsaturated fats labeled as “good fats” are liquid at room temperature and have numerous health benefits including increasing good cholesterol levels, improving blood lipid profile, anti-inflammatory properties, and improving general heart health.
These fats are divided into two: monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Plant-based oils like sesame oil, peanut oil, and canola oil are rich in MUFAs. MUFAs lower blood triglyceride levels, increase good cholesterol, and lower LDL cholesterol.
Foods that are rich in PUFAs are olive oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, and fish. These foods contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that can help reduce triglyceride levels and your risk of stroke.
The American Heart Association recommends for 15% of your calories come from MUFAs and up to 10% should come from PUFAs. Current studies are supporting the consumption of MUFAs and PUFAs to regulate fat oxidation, promote metabolic health, for weight maintenance and to improve cholesterol metabolism.
Now that we know the types of fats and which ones are good or bad, let’s focus on coconut oil. Is it keto-friendly? Is coconut oil rich in proteins? What are its uses and benefits in the body?
Coconut Oil Nutritional Information
Coconut oil is derived from coconuts. Coconut oil consumption is allowed on a keto diet because it is high in fats and low in carbs which helps the body achieve and maintain ketosis. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a tablespoon of coconut oil contains (11.6g):
- Energy: 104kcals
- Protein: 0 g
- Total Fat: 11.5g
- Carbs: o.097g
- Saturated Fat: 9.57g
- Total MUFA: 0.732g
- Total PUFA: 0.197g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
The high saturated fat content in coconut oil may have you concerned about whether it is healthy or not. No need to worry, even though coconut oil is 92% saturated fat, it contains medium chain fatty acids, Lauric acid that makes it good for heart health.
Is There Protein In Coconut Oil?
As you have seen above, one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 0g of protein. The protein in coconut oil is in really small amounts. However, coconut oil is made up mostly of fats. Coconut oil is made up of 50% MCTs of saturated fat and 5% unsaturated fats. The type of saturated fat found in coconut oil is medium-chain triglycerides which can increase fat metabolism.
The MCTs in coconut oil are caprylic acid, caproic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid. Although lauric acid is considered medium-chain triglyceride, it behaves like long-chain fatty acids during digestion. It is digested for longer and absorbed slowly compared to other MCTS. Coconut oil is digested the same way as other saturated fats.
Types of Coconut Oil
There are different types of coconut oil, although all of them are gotten from coconut meat. Coconut meat or coconut flesh is the white edible lining of a coconut. The primary forms of coconut oil are:
- Unrefined coconut oil/ virgin coconut oil
- Refined coconut oil/ processed coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil
Unrefined or extra virgin coconut oil refers to coconut oil pressed from fresh coconut meat. You can get extra virgin coconut oil through dry or wet pressing. Dry pressing involves drying the coconut flesh before pressing to retain nutrients while wet pressing does not involve any form of drying before pressing. Note that there is no difference between virgin coconut oil and extra-virgin coconut oil.
Virgin coconut oil has a lower smoke point compared to refined coconut oil and has a stronger scent and flavor because it uses fresh coconuts to make. When stored properly in a cool dark place, unrefined coconut oil can last two years before going bad.
Refined Coconut Oil
The refined version of coconut oil is extracted from mature coconuts. Dried coconut flesh is pressed, bleached and clay filtered to remove impurities in the oil. Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point compared to extra virgin coconut oil. It also has a neutral flavor and scent because of the processing. Store coconut oil in a dark cool place, however, this variety has a shorter shelf life of only a few months.
Is Coconut Oil Keto-friendly?
The basic rules of keto require one to eat low-carbohydrate foods, moderate proteins and a high-fat diet. To answer this question you need to know:
Is There Sugar In Coconut Oil?
A tablespoon of this tropical oil contains 0 g of sugar, which makes it low in carbs. The low-carb coconut oil nutrition facts enable it to be a good choice for individuals with metabolic syndrome. Research on rats fed virgin coconut oil showed an improvement in redox status and glycemic index.
Another study on diabetics reported that coconut oil consumption increased fat-free mass, promoted insulin sensitivity, and increased plasma HDL cholesterol levels reducing risks of cardiovascular disease.
The low carbohydrate content, and high-fat content in coconut oil make it good for weight loss and keto-friendly.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Using Coconut Oil?
Virgin coconut oil contains polyphenolic antioxidants that increased its scavenging properties for reactive oxygen species. It contains ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid which reduce inflammation preventing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
An open pilot study to assess the efficacy of virgin coconut oil in reducing visceral adiposity showed that coconut oil was efficient in weight loss among men. There was no change in blood lipids, but a reduction in creatinine and alanine transferase levels was observed. There was a reduction in belly fat observed through the reduction of waist circumference. Coconut oil consumption is less likely to trigger weight gain and obesity compared to other oils like soybean oil.
Some research reports that although coconut oil consumption increased HDL cholesterol and reduced LDL cholesterol, it did not affect weight and body fat. More research should be done to investigate how coconut oil manages weight.
Improve Cognitive Function and Brain Health
There’s no pharmacologic drug that can prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease. A study carried out on patients with Alzheimer’s dementia consuming 40ml/day of virgin oil reported an increase in cognitive status.
How does coconut oil improve brain health and cognitive function? Mild cognitive impairment is brought about by the deregulation of brain glucose metabolism. Coconut oil’s MCTs are broken down to produce ketone bodies which are the brain’s preferred source of energy. The dietary roles of coconut oil in the suppression of neuro-inflammation, including reversing neurodegeneration are attributed to the benefits of ketones on brain health.
One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 0.013mg of vitamin E and 0.116g of calcium. It is also a good source of manganese which plays a significant role in the metabolism of cholesterol, carbohydrates, and proteins. It also contains copper and iron which are used in red blood cell production and selenium which is an antioxidant.
Increases Absorption of Vitamin D
Coconut oil increases the absorption of fat-soluble vitamin D. The MCTs in coconut oil help absorb more of this vitamin compared to other fats with short-chain fatty acids. The elderly who are at a higher risk of osteoarthritis are usually advised to consider MCT supplementation to improve vitamin D absorption which contributes to the maintenance of normal muscle function and bone building and strengthening.
The Different Coconut Products
The best thing about the coconut fruit is its versatility! The USDA categorizes coconut oil in the ‘Salad dressings and vegetable oils’ food category in its database. However, other than edible oil you can get coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut moisturizer for your hair and skin, and soaps. Let’s take a look at non-edible coconut products and their health benefits.
Coconut Hair Oil
Coconut oil can be an effective moisturizer for dry hair. Lauric acid nourishes your hair preventing thinning and breakage. It also contains antioxidants that reduce hair damage and promote hair growth.
Does Coconut Oil Restore Protein In Hair?
Although the levels of protein in coconut oil are low, it prevents protein loss from your hair and increases moisture levels, In a study comparing the health effects of sunflower oil, coconut oil, and mineral oil on hair damage, evidence showed that only coconut oil reduced protein loss in both damaged and undamaged hair. Coconut oil had a greater impact on hair healing and growth compared to both sunflower oil and mineral oil.
Coconut oil can therefore be used as a protein treatment. Coconut oil is not a protein but it does behave like a protein because of its ability to penetrate the hair shaft but does not do the build-work reserved for proteins. If you are protein-sensitive, then coconut oil may be a great treatment option for your hair.
Coconut Skin Oil and Soap
A random study comparing the effectiveness of coconut oil to mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis showed more improvement in skin hydration and an increase in skin surface lipid levels when using coconut oil than mineral oil.
Lauric acid in coconut oil is good for the skin since it helps control acne-causing bacteria. Using coconut to make soaps and skin care products, introduces lauric acid to the picture which has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties reducing acne inflammation.
A comparative study showed that lauric acid had greater anti-bacterial properties against P.acnes than capric acid, both saturated fats in coconut oil. This means that coconut oil is good for your skin’s health.
Is It Healthy To Use Coconut Oil For Cooking?
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat which can withstand high temperatures compared to unsaturated fats which are highly volatile and not recommended for cooking.
The structure of saturated fat is more compact, making it stable even after being exposed to heat. Saturated fats won’t be oxidized on heating.
Which Is Healthier Coconut Or Olive Oil?
For healthy eating, choose olive oil over coconut oil. Olive oil is richer in polyunsaturated fats and contains lower amounts of saturated fat. Extra virgin oil lower your risks of heart problems and other chronic conditions.
However, when cooking with heat above 300°F (149°C), it is healthier to use coconut oil than olive oil. This is because coconut oil has a high smoke point compared to olive oil. The smoke point of coconut oil is 350°F and that of olive oil is 280°F. Use coconut oil for frying, sautéing, and baking and olive oil for pan-frying, and medium-heat cooking. Extra virgin olive oil is the best choice for dressings since it has a strong flavor.
Why Do Bodybuilders Use Coconut Oil?
Bodybuilders use coconut oil because it helps them burn fat which promotes muscle building. Coconut oil increases the activity of enzymes associated with producing testosterone. Testosterone plays a significant function in muscle building and toning. Coconut oil also contains saturated fat that increases satiety reducing food intake. Thanks to the MCTs in coconut oil, your appetite will go down and hunger will be delayed.
Don’t forget the weight loss benefits of coconut oil brought about by ketosis. It can also help regulate blood sugar reducing carb cravings and further promoting weight loss.
There are small amounts of proteins in coconut oil. In addition, the American Heart Association advises replacing coconut oil with other MUFA and PUFA-rich oils. This doesn’t mean you should do away with coconut oil completely from your diet. Use it in moderation and you will enjoy its benefits while eating keto. There are so many keto recipes you can incorporate coconut oil into to reap its benefits.
Do you use coconut oil in your diet? What benefits have you reaped since you started using this tropical oil? Would you recommend this oil to other dieters? Leave your answers in the comment section below!