The alternative health community has really gotten turned on to coconut oil in recent years. Back in 2011, I wrote about the trend in this article with instructions on how to use this traditional fat properly including how much to take daily based on body weight to achieve desired health results.
At that time, coconut oil capsules weren’t yet widely available and so taking it off the spoon or blending into a hot beverage was the usual approach if you wanted to consume larger amounts for appetite suppression, weight loss/maintenance or other beneficial uses such as brain health.
Since that time, coconut oil in capsules of various sizes seem to be everywhere, and I’ve recently received a number of questions about whether they work as well as straight coconut oil to support weight loss efforts or just to enjoy the many health benefits of this amazing traditional oil.
The answer to this question is both yes and no. Let’s examine both the pros and cons of consuming one of Nature’s healthiest fats in capsule form instead of off the spoon or mixed with a beverage or food.
Benefits of Coconut Oil Capsules
One of the most confusing things about coconut oil is how it switches from solid to liquid depending on the temperature. This alarms some folks into thinking that the oil has somehow gone rancid and shouldn’t be consumed. The truth is that coconut oil is naturally liquid at temperatures over 76°F/ 24°C. Conversely, coconut oil will go from liquid back to solid at temperatures below 76°F/ 24°C.
This switching back and forth from solid to liquid and then back again does not harm coconut oil. In fact, this tropical fat is highly resistant to rancidity perhaps more resistant than any other fat on the planet. As an example, I keep a 5 gallon bucket of coconut oil in my garage which regularly gets over 100°F/ 28°C during the summer and sometimes below freezing in the winter, and it keeps perfectly fine for the 18 months or so that it takes until I use it up.
All of this confusion ends when using coconut oil capsules. Whether the coconut oil is liquid or solid within the capsules is usually not even noticed by the person taking them. In addition, the expiration date on the bottle provides a certain level of assurance that the product is safe. The unfounded concerns about whether the coconut oil is fresh or better to take as a solid or liquid become immaterial.
Another benefit to coconut oil capsules is that they are really convenient and helpful for traveling. Oil of any sort in a jar or bottle seems to have a way of leaking out in hand luggage or your checked suitcase with the potential to stain clothes and really make a mess. No matter how tightly you screw on that lid, some always seems to get out! Traveling with capsules instead of the bulk liquid eliminates this problem (as does double bagging the oil filled containers in ziplock bags).
Perhaps the best use for coconut oil capsules is that they conveniently allow for smaller dosages that can be incrementally increased over time. This is particularly helpful for those who find when starting out that taking coconut oil causes gastric distress or diarrhea. These symptoms tend to occur more often for those who have been following a lowfat diet for a long time or who have gut imbalance.
Coconut oil is highly anti-microbial, with die-off of pathogens from sudden adoption of daily coconut oil consumption very possible and a myriad of unpleasant symptoms (diarrhea is very common) occurring for a short period of time. Consuming coconut oil may even cause breakouts in some people.
If nausea or other gastric distress still occurs even with small doses of coconut oil via capsules, using herbal bitters as an inexpensive remedy to further support digestion is a good idea until the metabolism adjusts and improved gut balance is achieved.
The Downside of Coconut Oil Capsules
Coconut oil capsules come in various sizes. The most common size I have seen is 1000 mg (1 gram). A few of these capsules each day works fine if you simply want to add some healthy fat to your diet in small amounts. However, if you want to take larger amounts for weight loss, the coconut oil capsules route doesn’t work so well.
For example, using coconut oil for weight loss involves taking fairly significant amounts approximately 20 minutes before each meal. Prior to eating is the best time to take your coconut oil (virgin or expeller pressed as desired) as it will significantly reduce appetite and help you to feel full more quickly and be satisfied with smaller portion sizes.
In a previous article, I suggested blending 1-2 Tbl of coconut oil in a mug with hot water or herbal tea (bulletproof coffee is not advised). Stir to melt and then drink. The following guidelines outlined by the book Eat Fat, Lose Fat determine how much oil to consume before each meal:
- 90-130 lbs, use 1 TBL coconut oil before each meal for a total of 3 TBL per day.
- 131-180 lbs, use 1.5 TBL coconut oil before each meal for a total of 4.5 TBL per day.
- Over 180 lbs, use 2 TBL coconut oil before each meal for a total of 6 TBL per day.
Calculating the amount of coconut oil needed for weight loss into the capsules equivalent is staggering as you can see below (I used this conversion calculator):
- 90-130 lbs, use 15 coconut oil capsules (1000 mg/1 gram each) before each meal for a total of 45 capsules per day.
- 131-180 lbs, use 22 capsules of coconut oil before each meal for a total of 66 coconut oil capsules per day.
- Over 180 lbs, use 30 capsules of coconut oil before each meal for a total of 90 coconut oil capsules per day.
It’s obvious when you sit down and do the math that using coconut oil capsules for weight loss is impractical. This is due to the huge number of capsules that are required each day even for a person who weighs 130 pounds or less. Not only is it unrealistic to consider taking 45+ capsules of coconut oil every single day for weeks on end while weight loss goals are pursued, but it would get rather expensive too! Most of the brands of coconut capsules I checked cost about $10 for 120 capsules. Nearly an entire bottle would be used every other day compared with purchasing a quart of virgin coconut oil for not much more that would last about two weeks. Buying coconut oil in larger amounts would prove even more cost effective compared with capsules.
When considering a quality coconut oil for health or weight loss, don’t be fooled by the clever marketing behind liquid coconut oil, also referred to in the fitness community as MCT oil. This oil is best avoided in all forms including capsules as it is an adulterated product, a factory fat if you will. Outrageously, the most beneficial fat that exists in coconut oil for health and weight loss purposes – lauric acid – is either partially or completely removed when refining coconut oil into MCT oil. Not surprisingly, the lauric acid is then sold off to the cosmetics industry for a higher price than could be obtained selling the coconut oil in the beneficial form nature provided.
Coconut Oil Capsules Seem Like a Great Idea, But …
In summary, while the idea of coconut oil capsules seems like a good one, it is impractical when considering this healthy fat for weight loss purposes due to the very large number of capsules per day that would be necessary to achieve a therapeutic dose. Coconut oil capsules would only be realistically helpful when traveling or for gradually building up the dosage to a point where the body’s metabolism and detoxification mechanisms could handle it. At that point, switching to coconut oil off the spoon or blended into a smoothie or hot beverage would be the most appropriate method for consumption in therapeutic weight loss dosages of 3-6 tablespoons per day.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
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