Should You Put Coconut Oil In Your Coffee? The Top Benefits & Side Effects
Coconut oil is wonderfully versatile. It can be incorporated into skin and hair care and provide a variety of health benefits in the diet. One popular and somewhat surprising way that people like to consume coconut oil is as a coffee additive.
Here, we're breaking down the benefits of adding coconut oil to coffee, sharing who it's best for, and providing a few recipes to get you started.
Why do people put coconut oil into coffee?
Coffee and coconut oil both come with their own benefits and side effects. By consuming them together, you can harness some of the beneficial elements of each and limit some of the unpleasantness, such as jitters caused by coffee consumed on its own.
Coconut oil in coffee was largely popularized by advocates of the keto diet, a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet that aims to help the body use ketones as energy instead of glucose (sugar). The keto diet and its variations are used frequently as weight-loss techniques.
Many people also enjoy the rich flavor that coconut oil lends to coffee. It's buttery, and, believe it or not, it can make your coffee quite creamy. Even if you're not using milk or a milk substitute, the coconut oil alone will cut the acidity of coffee and deliver a nice smooth, indulgent flavor.
What does putting coconut oil in coffee do?
First, let's review how coffee works in the body. Coffee is a nervous system stimulant, and it provides an energy boost in two main ways.
For starters, caffeine sources like coffee and espresso are what is called "adenosine blockers1." Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that promotes sleepiness. The caffeine locks into the adenosine receptors, blocking sleepiness in the brain. At the same time, caffeine stimulates the release of energizing neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
Now, onto coconut oil. Coconut oil is a plant-based fat source. What makes it extra special, from a nutritional standpoint, is that although it is high in saturated fat (which is a bit controversial in the heart health2 and cholesterol3 conversation), the saturated fats in coconut oil are metabolized quickly.
Coconut oil is made up of about 50% lauric acid, a type of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT). MCTs are metabolized in a way that provides quick fuel for the body.
Research4 shows that coconut oil and its MCTs may have a protective effect against cancer5, diabetes6, and Alzheimer's disease7. Like coffee, coconut oil also has antioxidant8 properties that can fight oxidative stress.
So, what happens when you combine coconut oil and coffee? One reason to combine the two is to quickly get the MCTs into your body as a quick-burning, noncarbohydrate fuel. Putting coconut oil in coffee can also have positive effects on blood sugar, the digestion of caffeine, immunity, skin and hair, and more, research shows.
Science-backed health benefits of coconut oil in coffee:
We are all familiar with that groggy stumble toward the morning coffee pot, eager to enjoy the energy jolt that coffee delivers.
Coconut oil is also a quickly metabolized energy source. While it doesn't stimulate the body in the same way as caffeine, it does offer a morning energy boost of its own, similar to fruit or other carbohydrates but without the crash. By consuming the two together, you're getting two energizing ingredients in one cup.
It may enhance mental alertness and cognitive function.
Coffee has been shown to enhance mental alertness9 and boost cognitive function10 in both the short and long term.
And one of the roles of fatty acids in the body is to slow down digestion for the sake of absorption. So, consuming fatty acids with your coffee means that the caffeine gets absorbed over a longer period of time, and you get to enjoy the mental alertness a bit longer.
"The fat essentially will bind onto the caffeine because the caffeine's fat soluble, and it creates a time-release source of caffeine so that you don't get an immediate peak and then a crash in the afternoon," metabolic health expert Alexis Cowan, Ph.D., previously told mindbodygreen of the combo. "Instead, you're adding to that slow, sustained energy that ultimately I think everybody's looking for when they're going into their workday."
Additionally, coconut oil on its own helps to fuel our brains on a short-term basis and seems to have some long-term protective effects11 on our cognitive function. The healthy oil has been studied for its potential role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease12, because it provides the brain with a noncarbohydrate fuel. Alzheimer's is characterized by a reduced ability to utilize carbohydrates/glucose as fuel.
It may regulate blood sugar.
Coconut oil is thought to increase insulin sensitivity13, which is helpful in balancing blood sugar. Blood sugar balance is important for maintaining energy throughout the day, getting healthy sleep, and keeping balanced hormones. This is important because coffee can spike blood sugar in the short term14—especially if you drink it with sweetener.
It may support digestion and gut health.
Another reason you might gravitate toward coffee is to help get your bowels moving (hey, it works15!). While there hasn't specifically been any research on whether coconut oil makes you poop, it certainly seems, anecdotally, to be effective. This is one reason you might want to start with a smaller dose in your coffee, to see how your body reacts.
The lauric acid in coconut oil is also antimicrobial16, which might contribute to a more balanced microbiome16. Coconut oil contains caprylic acid17, too, which has antimicrobial properties18 of its own. With one working on GI motility and the other working to keep your healthy bacteria thriving, you've got a powerful duo for the gut.
And just make sure you're not relying on your morning coffee to have a bowel function. Here are a few gut-healthy habits that will get things moving naturally.
It may enhance satiety, leading to weight loss.
Fans of the keto diet often tout coconut oil as an effective tool for healthy weight loss19. And the MCTs in coconut oil have been shown to be satiating, 20potentially reducing caloric needs throughout the rest of the day.
It may support a healthy immune response.
Coconut oil offers impressive immune protection. It is made up of a variety of fatty acids including lauric acid (about 50%) and caprylic acid (about 7%), both known to be antiviral21, antimicrobial22, antibacterial23, and antifungal24. You can benefit from these effects when consuming coconut oil or using it topically.
As for the role of coffee, research on the effects of caffeine on immune function is more limited. We know that it has antioxidant properties25, but it also can negatively impact our sleep health26 and stress response27, both intricately related to our immune function. So, including coconut oil in your morning brew could be a nice way to ensure you tip the balance toward it being beneficial.
It may benefit the skin.
Polyphenols in coffee seem to protect skin from sun damage28, while coconut oil offers antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits29. However, drinking coffee can be dehydrating and lead to situationally dry skin, so be sure to drink water with your morning brew.
It may help you stay in ketosis.
Finally, some people following the keto diet will add coconut oil (or more often, MCT oil) to their coffee as a way to stay in ketosis. Research shows that30 the addition of caffeine has an additive effect on the ketogenic potential of MCT and coconut oil, increasing levels of the ßHB ketone body.
How to use coconut oil in coffee.
There are two main types of coconut oil: unrefined (also called virgin) and refined coconut oil. They differ slightly, but both can be included in your coffee. If you prefer a subtler coconut taste, opt for the refined, more heavily processed version.
To get started, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of your coconut oil of choice to 12 oz. of hot coffee. If you're new to the practice, start with 1 tablespoon to see how your body responds.
Combine hot coffee and coconut oil in the blender, whir for 30 seconds or so, and enjoy. Here are a few other add-ins that can take your brew's flavor (and health benefits) to the next level:
- ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon to help balance blood sugar31
- ¼ teaspoon of ginger, turmeric, or both for anti-inflammatory properties32
- Collagen for healthy skin elasticity and some added creaminess
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Splash of nut milk of choice
Do you need a blender?
No, you can also just stir them together, but using a blender will better incorporate the coconut oil into the coffee. If you just stir the oil in, you will find that there is a film on the top of your coffee. Some people don't mind, but if the oil film bothers you, or if you prefer something a bit more on the frothy side, using a blender (or hand frother) is a better option.
Can I put coconut oil in my coffee while fasting?
Coconut oil in coffee will technically break your fast (sorry). But you can sip it in the morning if you need a bit of a mental boost or are feeling a bit hungry and still have a few hours to go on your fast.
Sipping a Bulletproof-style coffee can also be helpful here. "Some people do quite well with coffee, butter, and MCT oil without tanking their blood glucose," Vincent Pedre, M.D., medical director of Pedre Integrative Health, previously told mindbodygreen. "These individuals may be able to have coffee early in the morning while still fasting and maintain the fasted state until lunchtime in the afternoon."
Can I drink coconut oil in coffee on the keto diet?
Yes. The fat in coconut oil is helpful in pushing your body toward ketosis.
However, as nutrition expert Dana Ellis Hunnes, Ph.D., a senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, tells mindbodygreen, those following the keto diet will also benefit from switching up their healthy fats and combining them with other food groups like fiber-rich veggies. Here's our beginner guide to the keto diet if you're just getting started.
Safety and side effects.
It is always important to consider the negative impacts that a food can have on your body, especially if you plan to consume it daily.
For starters, one concern with coconut oil is that it's high in saturated fat, which may raise LDL (bad) cholesterol 3and harm cardiovascular health over time2 (though its overall impact on cholesterol is highly contested33). Those who are watching their fat intake for medical reasons will want to use it cautiously. Like other fat sources, it's also relatively high in calories, which will be a concern for some.
Caffeine also comes with side effects of its own34. It can trigger anxiousness, headaches, digestive issues, heart palpitations, and jitters in some people, so you'll want to pay attention to how it impacts you. Plus, it impairs sleep quality when consumed too late in the day, which will have negative downstream effects on your mood, alertness, and more.
Those who are new to adding coconut oil to coffee also might find that the combination leads to stomach cramps and digestive upset. Start with a small amount of coconut oil (roughly 1 tablespoon) to help prevent this.
Coconut oil vs. other coffee additives.
Perhaps, if you have investigated adding coconut oil to your coffee, you have also looked into olive oil, butter, or ghee. While you will get some of the same benefits by adding any fat to coffee (blood sugar balance, for example), what really stands out about coconut oil is its high proportion of the MCT lauric acid. Coconut oil is actually the highest natural source of lauric acid35.
MCT oil is another popular coffee additive. It's made of pure medium-chain triglycerides, whereas coconut oil is only 50 to 65% composed of these quick-metabolizing fats. In terms of flavor, coconut oil and MCT oil are quite comparable, with MCT oil being slightly more neutral.
The one major bonus that you get with coconut oil is lauric acid, an antimicrobial, antiviral16 powerhouse. Lauric acid is typically removed in the production of MCT oil.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is coconut oil better than MCT oil in coffee?
Not necessarily. It depends on your goal. MCT oil has a higher concentration of MCTs, so it will likely be a better pick for those on the keto diet. But it's more heavily processed and doesn't have some of the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties you'll find in coconut oil.
How much coconut oil should you put in coffee for weight loss?
One to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil should be enough to fill you up, without causing digestive upset. But everyone's different, so you'll need to experiment to find the right amount for you.
Does coconut oil in coffee make you poop?
It depends on the person, but yes, both coffee and coconut oil have a laxative effect.
Coconut oil in coffee is delicious and may offer improvements in blood sugar, digestive health, cognition, and more. Just don't overdo it, and listen to your body to find the right recipe and ratio for you. Try adding collagen for even more benefits, and pair it with a protein-packed breakfast to start your day right.
Johanna Modak, NTP is writer, educator, mom, and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Her work focuses on body literacy and women’s empowerment. When she’s not thinking about food or hormone balancing, she is probably watching a women’s soccer match or traveling with family.