Is coconut oil healthy in smoothies?

Smoothies have become an increasingly popular way to get a quick, nutritious breakfast or snack. Many people add ingredients like fruits, vegetables, protein powder, and healthy fats to create a balanced smoothie meal. One common additive is coconut oil. But is coconut oil actually healthy in smoothies?

The Potential Benefits of Coconut Oil in Smoothies

Coconut oil has grown in popularity in recent years as a “superfood.” Advocates claim coconut oil can provide many health benefits when consumed. Here are some of the top reasons people add coconut oil to their smoothies:

  • High in healthy fats. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are a type of saturated fat that may be metabolized differently than other fats, leading to health benefits. The high fat content can make smoothies richer and more filling.
  • May aid weight loss. The MCTs in coconut oil may increase feelings of fullness and calories burned compared to other fats. This may promote weight loss.
  • Antimicrobial effects. Lauric acid makes up about 50% of coconut oil. This fatty acid has antimicrobial properties that may benefit immune function.
  • Increases absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Like other fats, coconut oil helps increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K.

Additionally, coconut oil has a creamy, rich texture and sweet, mild coconut flavor that many people find delicious in smoothies.

Concerns About Coconut Oil in Smoothies

However, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. While coconut oil contains different forms of saturated fat compared to animal fats like butter, it is still high in total saturated fat:

  • 1 tablespoon (14g) coconut oil contains 12g saturated fat, which is 60% of the daily value.
  • Saturated fat has long been associated with increased LDL “bad” cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.
  • The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to no more than 13g daily for optimal heart health.

So while a small amount may be reasonable, adding multiple tablespoons of coconut oil to smoothies could potentially increase LDL cholesterol levels and heart disease risk for some people, especially if consumed frequently.

How Much Coconut Oil Should You Add to Smoothies?

There are no official recommendations for how much coconut oil to consume each day. Many experts recommend using caution and limiting intake.

Here are some general coconut oil intake guidelines to follow for smoothies:

  • 1 tablespoon (14g) or less per day is a reasonable amount that can provide benefits without going overboard on saturated fat intake.
  • Measure coconut oil to add a precise amount. Overpouring is easy to do accidentally.
  • Keep total saturated fat intake under 22g daily, including all sources like meat and dairy.
  • Vary the types of fats you consume and don’t solely rely on coconut oil.
  • Focus on getting primarily unsaturated fats from foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts and fatty fish.

Following these tips ensures coconut oil can be included in smoothies for flavor and potential benefits, while limiting potential downsides from overconsumption.

Healthy Ways to Use Coconut Oil in Smoothies

Here are some healthy ways to incorporate small amounts of coconut oil into smoothies:

1. Use Refined Coconut Oil

Refined coconut oil goes through processing to neutralize the coconut flavor and aroma. This also removes some of the antimicrobial lauric acid. However, refined coconut oil has a more neutral flavor that blends easily into smoothies.

2. Combine with Other Healthy Fats

Pair coconut oil with other sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds or full-fat yogurt to balance out your intake. This provides a variety of nutrients.

3. Add Coconut Flakes for More Fiber

Coconut flakes or dried coconut provide fiber, vitamins and minerals like manganese in addition to the fat from the coconut oil. This gives you more nutritional benefits.

4. Use Sparingly as a Drizzle or Garnish

Instead of mixing coconut oil into the entire smoothie, drizzle a teaspoon on top of the finished smoothie. Or, garnish with just a sprinkle of coconut flakes. This provides just a touch of coconut richness.

5. Measure Precisely

Add coconut oil to smoothies by the teaspoon, or use a measuring spoon to precisely measure 1 tablespoon or less. This prevents overdoing your intake accidentally.

Healthy Coconut Oil Smoothies to Try

Here are some tasty, nutritious smoothies that use coconut oil in moderation along with other healthy ingredients:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Coconut Smoothie

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1-2 ice cubes

Green Tropical Smoothie

  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 cup chopped mango
  • 1/2 cup diced pineapple
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 handful baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Blueberry Coconut Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)

The Bottom Line

Coconut oil can be used in smoothies in moderation to provide healthy fats, flavor and potential health benefits. However, it’s important to keep servings small due to the high saturated fat content, and balance intake with other unsaturated fats.

Aim for no more than 1 tablespoon per day in smoothies. Measuring precisely, combining with other fats and adding mix-ins like coconut flakes can help keep amounts reasonable. This allows you to get the benefits of coconut oil without going overboard.

When used responsibly in moderation, coconut oil can be a tasty addition that provides healthful fat to smoothies without being detrimental to heart health.

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