I must admit, I’ve hopped on the coconut oil bandwagon quite happily. I’ve always loved anything with a coconut scent or flavour so when I heard about the numerous health benefits associated with coconut oil in coffee, it was a perfect excuse to add it to my daily routine.
Jars of coconut oil can appear anywhere from my bathroom cabinet to my pantry. I put it on my skin daily (it’s cured my dry skin!) and have been drinking coconut oil in coffee for over a year now.
Recently there has been a a bit of controversy online as to whether coconut oil in coffee is good or bad for you. I’ve laid out the facts so you can come to your own conclusion. Read on to find out about coconut oil in coffee: is it a good idea?
What Is Coconut Oil Coffee?
The idea of using fats such as coconut oil, butter or ghee in coffee or tea has been around for a long time. However, it gained popularity in recent years with the creation of so-called “Bulletproof Coffee” by Dave Asprey.
Asprey had the idea for this coffee and fat mixture after traveling to Tibet and trying traditional yak-butter tea drinks. His recipe uses his own brand of coffee beans with grass-fed, unsalted butter and a type of oil named “Brain Octane”.
Bulletproof coffee enthusiasts report many benefits such as improved cognitive performance and weight loss – making it a popular choice for sportspeople and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. (source)
Many of the same benefits apply to drinking coffee with coconut oil as it has a similar composition to “Brain Octane”. It’s a cheaper and more easily accessible option for many who don’t want to buy into the branded product. There’s a lot of scientific evidence supporting the positive health effects of coconut oil too.
The Benefits of Coconut Oil in Coffee
1. It Can Increase Your Metabolism
Coconut oil is described as a “thermogenic” food, i.e. when you eat it, your energy expenditure increases – burning more fat. I found this hard to believe until I read the facts. The effect isn’t huge – one study found that consuming 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day resulted in 120 extra calories burned per day. (source)
Coffee also has a well-documented effect on metabolism. One study found the increase to be around the 3-4% mark, so that’s around 80 calories extra. (source) Not much on it’s own, but combined with coconut oil this daily habit could make a noticeable impact.
2. It Helps You Eat Less
In addition to its direct calorie-burning powers, coconut oil may also help you avoid overeating. Studies have shown that consuming a small amount of coconut oil makes you feel full so you’re inclined to eat less at meals and avoid snacking.
The effect is quite complex and may be linked to ketone bodies produced by the liver upon eating coconut oil. Ketone bodies curb your appetite and cravings. A small study found that participants ate around 250 calories less per day upon supplementing with coconut oil. (source)
Caffeine also has an appetite-suppressing effect. One study found that after ingesting caffeine, male participants consumed 21.7% fewer calories compared with the control group. (source)
3. It Gives You an Energy Boost
The energy-boosting effects of coconut oil coffee are due to more than just the caffeine – although that helps. Coconut oil has a large proportion of medium chain fatty acids, rather than the longer chain varieties found in other oils. This means that they are converted to energy quickly rather than being stored as fat in your body. (source)
4. It Improves Digestion
Both ingredients in coconut oil coffee help keep your digestive system moving. Caffeine is a stimulant, as most of us know from its ability to keep us awake. However it also your muscles – including the muscles in your large intestine. Caffeine gives your digestion an extra push, so to speak, and helps prevent constipation.
Coconut oil also acts and a natural laxative. Like most oils when consumed directly – it lubricates the digestive system
5. It Fights Infection
One of the main fatty acids found in coconut oil is lauric acid. Lauric acid has antimicrobials effects against many different organisms. One study found that it was effective against gram-positive and gram negative bacteria (source)
Another showed that the fatty acids in coconut oil may be useful in treatment of fungal infections, specifically Candida which is becoming resistant to conventional drug treatments. (source) A third study showed inhibitory effects on Staphylococcus Aureus, a strain of bacteria which causes serious illness in humans. (source)
6. It Keeps Your Blood Sugar in Check
The substance in your body which controls your blood sugar is insulin. We want our blood sugar levels to remain stable – if our levels are constantly dipping and spiking, it leads to low energy, cravings and other unpleasant symptoms.
Most food that we consume triggers insulin release, however, coconut oil does not. It also helps your cells bind with existing insulin, leading to an overall more efficient process. (source)
7. It Can Boost Brain Function
Coconut oil coffee is often recommended as a good beverage to drink before going to work in the morning as it claims to improve productivity. There is definitely some truth to this. First of all, we know that caffeine in coffee is a mental stimulant, increasing alertness. However, coconut oil has effects on the brain too.
Lately research has been done around the link between ketone bodies and Alzheimer’s disease. Basically, ketone bodies help feed the brain cells in this disease which can help to relieve symptoms. The fatty acids in coconut oil increase blood levels of ketone bodies. (source)
What this means for healthy brains is pure speculation at this point, but it’s exciting research to say the least. If there’s a chance coconut oil can keep my brain healthy I definitely want to try it.
Coconut Oil in Coffee: the Controversy
There are a few points of concern when it comes to regular consumption of coconut oil. I’ll leave the discussion on the coffee component for another day as the scientific community community seems to flip back and forth as to whether it’s healthy or not. Here’s the facts on the coconut oil controversy:
1. It’s High in Calories
Don’t forget that at the end of the day, coconut oil is a fat. Therefore, it contains a lot of calories. If you consume too much of it without adjusting other areas of your diet, you could gain weight. Stick to one tablespoon or less in your coffee and if you’re watching your weight, make sure to log the calories to make sure you are still within your goals. (source)
2. It’s High in Saturated Fat
Saturated fat is something we are generally instructed to avoid. An excess of saturated fats in your diet raises the level of “bad” cholesterol in your blood. This in turn increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. (source)
The modern western diet is full of saturated fat in foods such as cheese, butter, chocolate, steaks, bacon and fast food. In Asian cultures where coconut oil is frequently consumed, it tends to be lacking in these other sources of saturated fat.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your saturated fat consumption to less than 13 grams a day. This is about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. If your diet contains other saturated fat sources, you’ll need to cut down on them before adding coconut oil. (source)
Just to be safe, I don’t drink coconut oil coffee everyday (around 3 times a week when I don’t have time for a full breakfast). I just use a teaspoon in my coffee too as I haven’t managed to eliminate other sources of saturated fat from my diet, nor do I really want to.
It’s always a good idea to have your cholesterol and other blood levels measured every six months or so by your doctor. This way, if coconut oil coffee is causing a problem, you can detect it early and make an adjustment.
3. It’s an Unhealthy Meal Replacement
This is another fair point against coconut oil coffee. Many people, especially those trying to lose weight, use coconut oil coffee instead of breakfast. By doing that, they are missing out on essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients such as protein.
If you are eating a decently-sized, well balanced lunch and dinner, you’ll probably be okay. Otherwise, I don’t recommend cutting out breakfast altogether. Have your coconut coffee with some scrambled eggs or swap it out for a full breakfast at weekends to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional goals.
How To Make Coconut Oil Coffee
Making coconut oil coffee is very straightforward once you know how. You will need a blender unless you want a greasy oil layer floating on top of your hot drink though.
Make your coffee with water as usual, I use a french press. Pour the coffee into the blender and add a tablespoon of coconut oil. Blend it up until it lightens in colour. You can add sugar, stevia, vanilla essence – anything you would add to your normal coffee. It lasts in the fridge too if you want it cool.
Can You Use Any Type of Coconut Oil?
Not all coconut oils are created equal. If you’re going to be consuming it you must make sure to get a high quality variety from a reputable source. Virgin coconut oil is the way to go. It’s made from the fresh coconut meat or milk, unlike refined coconut oil which is chemically treated and processed. (sources 1, 2)
So, what do you think of coconut oil in coffee: is it a good idea? If you want my personal opinion, I’m a firm believer in taking everything in moderation. Coconut oil coffee is no exception.
I do think that consuming huge amounts of coconut oil daily for the rest of your life will have a negative impact. However a tablespoon here and there in an otherwise balanced diet might just do some good. Besides, coconut oil in coffee is delicious so I don’t plan on giving it up any time soon.