Is Coconut Oil Keto-Friendly?

The keto diet exploded in popularity as followers everywhere began to drop pounds, but the massive success also comes with a downside — the severe low-carb, moderate protein, and high fat quotas that the diet requires makes it very hard to stick to in the long-run. It's understandable, then, that sooner or later, keto-devotees eager to increase their fat intake will wonder whether coconut oil is a keto-friendly addition to the diet.

The good news is that yes, coconut oil gets a big thumbs-up. Being pure fat with no carbs, it's an excellent way to meet the diet's high-fat requirements, while not using up any of the precious carb count.

There has been some controversy over how healthy coconut oil actually is, especially since a bombshell 2018 speech given by Harvard professor and epidemiologist Karin Michels, in which she described the fat as being as good for you as "pure poison" (via The Guardian).

Michels's main concern was coconut oil's very high level of saturated fat, which has long been thought to raise the risk of heart disease. But other experts point out that much of the saturated fat in coconut oil is in the form of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT's), a type of fat that may help decrease "bad" LDL cholesterol, as well as burn body fat more efficiently (via Livestrong).

Coconut oil can be a great addition to a keto diet

Rachel Wagner, MS, LD, a licensed dietitian at the St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center, says "There is controversy surrounding coconut oil, and although I believe more studies are needed to know the truth, I feel it still plays a role in the Keto Diet." And she explains further, "Essentially MCT oils act as a carbohydrate and provide a quick source of energy to anyone on the keto diet. This type of fat is more readily absorbed, entering the liver faster, and more quickly entering into the bloodstream as ketones" (via St. Elizabeth Healthcare).

In moderation, coconut oil can be a lifesaver when making keto fat bombs or looking to round out the day's fat requirement. But coconut oil is also very high in calories — 120 calories per tablespoon — and so those doing keto for weight loss need to be careful how much they're getting. Even on keto, weight loss won't happen if you're consuming more calories than you burn (via Healthline).