After seeing so many fads come and go, you might be used to tuning out the steady buzz about the latest food or drink that can help you lose weight. After all, working out at the fitness center is a much more dependable way to see results. Still, a handful of foods are gaining increasing attention as research continues to support their health –and weight loss – benefits. Coconut oil is one of them.

Coconut Oil: A “Good” Fat

It might seem odd to suggest that a type of fat could help you lose fat – especially one that’s gotten a bad rap for decades since it’s a saturated fat (which we’re advised to limit). But not all saturated fats are created equal. Here’s what makes coconut oil (in its purest forms) a potential friend to your fitness gym sessions:

  • Coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) that’s metabolized differently. Research suggests that our bodies process this type of fatty acid in a way that boosts the metabolism. Unlike long-chain fatty acids, coconut oil goes immediately to the liver where it’s used for energy or stored as ketone bodies.
  • MCFAs like coconut oil are thermogenic (they burn energy). The way our bodies digest certain foods expends more energy than others. One study improved participants’ energy expenditure (calorie-burn) by up to 5% in one day.
  • Coconut oil may be stored less efficiently than other fats. Results of some animal tests suggest that eating coconut oil versus other types of fat isn’t as likely to result in weight gain.
  • Coconut oil reduces the appetite. Anything that reduces our appetite can help us lose weight! It does this by increasing our sense of fullness, an effect that could be linked to how it increases ketone production in the liver.
  • Coconut oil specifically encourages the loss of belly fat. Studies also show that, even though coconut oil’s fat-burning effect isn’t significant, the type of fat it targets is: abdominal fat. Belly fat is linked to an increased risk for heart disease and other health conditions. By encouraging fat loss in this area of the body, coconut oil could improve someone’s overall health and risk of disease.

How to Use Coconut Oil to Boost Healthy Weight Loss

Before you start loading up on coconut oil, keep in mind that it still has calories. Since it’s a fat, that’s 9 calories for each gram. Rather than adding coconut oil to your diet, consider using it to replace other less healthy forms of fat. Dieticians say we only need about 30 milligrams (two tablespoons) of coconut oil a day to reap the benefits.

The quality of coconut oil you take in is also important. As with many other healthy oils and fats, the purest forms are the best for you. Here are some ways to use it:

  • Eat it by the spoonful (some people enjoy the flavor!)
  • Sauté your veggies in it.
  • Add it to your morning smoothie, yogurt, or oatmeal.
  • Use it in your “bullet-proof” coffee or tea.
  • Use it to make chocolate (in moderation)
  • Bake with it.

However you decide to include coconut oil in your diet, research supports its status as a “good” fat that will benefit your health and, along with your fitness gym routine, actually help you lose weight.