Is Coconut Oil Paleo?


Coconut oil is found in many Paleo recipes. How does it fit into a primal diet and what nutritional benefits does it offer? And why is it such a popular Paleo ingredient in the first place?

Nutritional Value of Coconut Oil

Serving size: 1 TBS (15mL)

  • Calories: 130
  • Total Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated fat: 13 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: < 1 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: < 0.5 g
  • Trans fat: 0
  • Carbohydrate: 0 mg
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Fiber: 0 g

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is beneficial for many different things including heart health. While some may steer clear of it because it is a saturated fat, it’s good to keep in mind that recent studies have shown that saturated fat isn’t the culprit we once thought it was when it comes to heart disease. Coconut oil actually has heart protective benefits like reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. It even reduces damage to arteries.

Coconut oil is also effective at promoting healthy hair. It can help to heal damaged hair and promotes strong, new growth. Put coconut oil on dry hair before washing, or leave in after washing as a conditioner. Beyond the scalp, coconut oil is also great for skincare. It can be used to address anything from dry skin to severe eczema.

Other areas of health positively impacted by coconut oil include:

  • Helps curb appetite for weight loss and promotes a feeling of fullness.
  • Strengthens the immune system with its antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
  • Supports gut health by providing an antagonistic environment to bad bacteria like candida (yeast) and parasites.
  • Kills bacteria that cause ulcers in the stomach, as well as the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, ringworm, and athlete’s foot.
  • Improves the body’s ability to absorb dietary minerals, improving bone and teeth health.
  • Can boost brain function, including in Alzheimer’s patients.

Where to Buy Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is becoming increasingly more popular, so can now be purchased at all major grocery retailers (Costco, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.) and even many smaller town grocery stores are beginning to carry it. It can also be purchased at many different online stores.

For quality purposes, it’s best to purchase organic virgin coconut oil (like Spectrum or Nutiva), which can be bought at a steep discount from Costco or Amazon.

Should I Eat Coconut Oil? Is Coconut Oil Paleo?

When you’re looking at different varieties you may notice that some say “refined” or “unrefined.” Refined coconut oil has been processed to make it whiter and to have less of a coconut smell and taste. This is done using very high temperatures, and at times, solvents will be used to extract as much oil from the coconut as possible.

Unrefined coconut oil is synonymous with “virgin coconut oil”, meaning that it has not been processed with high heat like refined coconut oil. It also doesn’t require solvents or other additives, making it a more pure form. Because it has been processed less, it will still smell and taste more like coconut than the refined alternatives.

When you’re living a Paleo lifestyle, the goal is to consume things in their most natural state. For items that you can’t necessarily make yourself – like coconut oil – this means purchasing them with as little processing as possible. Thus, virgin or unrefined coconut oil would be acceptable for a Paleo diet, but refined coconut oil would not.

As with all fats, even the healthy ones should be balanced with a good variety. Coconut oil is great for cooking, as it is already a saturated fat and won’t be damaged from oven temperatures like olive oil and other monounsaturated fats can be. It is also hypoallergenic.

Using coconut oil to cook with and to make delicious Paleo items like salad dressing, as well as using for skincare, makes it a great addition to your Paleo cupboard. But beware of gimmicky tricks, like taking coconut oil as a supplement or eating several tablespoons daily. You won’t have need to take it by itself if you integrate it into your recipes – and many Paleo recipes already call for it – and, as mentioned before, it’s best to vary fat intake to ensure that all of your nutrient needs are met.

Aimee McNewAimee McNew

Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid disorders, autoimmunity, and fertility. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Healing Plan for Managing Symptoms Naturally (Simon & Schuster, 2016). Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.