Smoothies have become an increasingly popular way to get a nutrition-packed breakfast or snack on the go. With endless smoothie recipes circulating the internet, there are lots of options for creating a healthy, delicious blended drink. One ingredient that often comes up in smoothie recipes is coconut oil. But is adding coconut oil to your smoothies actually good for you? Let’s take a closer look at the potential benefits and downsides of using coconut oil in smoothies.
Potential Benefits of Coconut Oil in Smoothies
Here are some of the touted benefits of adding coconut oil to smoothies:
- Healthy fats – Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are a form of saturated fat that may have more health benefits than other types of saturated fats. MCTs may help with fat burning, appetite control, and brain health.
- Smoothes texture – Coconut oil can create a creamy, smooth texture and mouthfeel in smoothies.
- Enhances flavor – Coconut oil has a mild coconut flavor that may enhance the overall taste of a smoothie.
- Nutrient absorption – Some research indicates MCTs may help with the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E and K.
Potential Downsides of Coconut Oil in Smoothies
However, there are also some potential cons to adding coconut oil to smoothies:
- High calories – Coconut oil is very high in calories, providing 120 calories per tablespoon. Adding too much can lead to excess calorie intake.
- High saturated fat – While the MCTs in coconut oil may be healthier than other saturated fats, coconut oil is still nearly 90% saturated fat. Consuming too much may negatively impact blood cholesterol levels.
- GI symptoms – Eating too much MCT oil at once can sometimes cause stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea due to the way MCTs are absorbed and metabolized.
- Allergies – Coconut allergies are not common but do exist. Those with coconut allergies need to avoid it.
How Much Coconut Oil Should You Use in Smoothies?
When adding coconut oil to smoothies, moderation is key. Here are some tips:
- Limit to 1 tablespoon (15ml) or less per smoothie.
- Start with just 1 teaspoon (5ml) at first to assess tolerance.
- Consider using MCT oil instead, which provides only pure MCTs without the saturated fat or calories of coconut oil.
- Reduce your intake of other saturated fats to compensate for the coconut oil.
- Only add coconut oil to smoothies occasionally as a special treat.
The following table provides a nutrition comparison of 1 tablespoon (15ml) of coconut oil versus MCT oil:
|Nutrition Facts||Coconut Oil (1 tbsp)||MCT Oil (1 tbsp)|
Which Smoothies Pair Well with Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil will pair best with smoothies that have an already creamy texture. Fruit and vegetable smoothies can benefit more from the flavor and texture boost of coconut oil. Here are some delicious smoothie ideas that work well with a bit of coconut oil:
- Piña Colada Smoothie – Pineapple, banana, coconut water, Greek yogurt, coconut oil
- Coconut Cream Berry Smoothie – Mixed berries, banana, coconut milk, coconut oil
- Tropical Smoothie – Mango, pineapple, banana, coconut oil
- Peaches and Cream Smoothie – Peaches, vanilla Greek yogurt, almond milk, coconut oil
- Green Smoothie – Spinach, mango, banana, coconut oil
Top Tips for Adding Coconut Oil to Smoothies
Here are some quick tips for seamlessly incorporating coconut oil into your smoothies:
- Store your coconut oil at room temperature or warm it up slightly so it liquifies before adding to your smoothie.
- Measure coconut oil before adding other smoothie ingredients so it distributes evenly.
- If you use protein powder, add it before the coconut oil to help emulsify.
- Start with just 1 teaspoon (5ml) coconut oil and increase slowly as tolerated.
- Add extra liquid if needed to blend properly when adding coconut oil.
- Use full-fat canned coconut milk for a coconut flavor boost without the calories of oil.
The Bottom Line
Coconut oil can be a tasty addition to smoothies in moderation, providing creamy texture and subtle coconut flavor. The MCTs in coconut oil may also have some health benefits. However, at 120 calories per tablespoon, coconut oil adds significant calories and saturated fat. It’s best to limit coconut oil to 1 tablespoon (15ml) or less per smoothie and focus on fruit- and veggie-based smoothies versus heavy creams and milks. As always, variety and balance are key in a healthy diet.