How Coconut Oil Can Support Your Keto Diet and Brain Health

How Coconut Oil Can Support Your Keto Diet and Brain Health

Is It Okay To Skip Breakfast? Here’s the Science-Backed Truth Reading How Coconut Oil Can Support Your Keto Diet and Brain Health 8 minutes

Coconut oil has surged in popularity in recent years, finding its way into kitchens, coffee cups, keto diet plans, and even oral hygiene routines. Yet, amidst its widespread use, a lesser-known fact remains: coconut oil boasts remarkable benefits for brain health. 

Want to learn how this tropical oil can support your noggin and how to add it to your routine? Read on.

What Is Coconut Oil? 

Coconut oil is a natural oil extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts. It’s primarily composed of saturated fats, with medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) being the predominant type. 

Coconut oil is extracted through various methods, including cold pressing or expeller pressing. It has a unique composition that distinguishes it from other dietary fats, making it a popular choice for cooking, skincare, and various health-related purposes.

Coconut Oil and MCTs: Your Brain’s Superfuel

Coconut oil owes much of its acclaim to its rich medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) content. MCTs are comprised of medium-chain fatty acids, which are metabolized differently in the body than long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) found in many dietary fats.

These MCTs, comprising primarily caprylic acid (C8), capric acid (C10), and, to a lesser extent, lauric acid (C12), play a pivotal role in unlocking coconut oil’s potential as a brain-boosting elixir.

How Does the Brain Use MCTs?

Typically, brain cells rely on glucose as their primary energy source. However, given the critical role of the brain in sustaining life, there’s a backup plan. When glucose availability is low (such as when someone is following a keto diet), the body starts burning fats, converting them into a type of chemical called ketones for fuel. These ketones are then transported to the brain. 

This process is similar to having a backup generator for your home. If you lose power during a storm, the backup generator kicks in to keep your power running.

All fats will be converted into ketones in the absence of carbs, but most dietary fats have to first be broken down in the intestines, circulated in the bloodstream, metabolized in the liver, and finally converted into ketones. 

MCTs, on the other hand, are sent directly from the small intestine to the liver where they’re rapidly broken down into ketones. This rapid conversion provides a near-instant energy source to the brain, similar to how glucose from carbs does (but ketones provide a far more sustainable, crash-free energy stream). 

Coconut Oil for Keto: How Can It Help? 

The rapid conversion of MCTs into ketones makes them particularly beneficial for those following low-carb, high-fat diets, like keto, where the primary source of energy is derived from ketones rather than glucose from carbohydrates.

By incorporating coconut oil into your keto meals, you can get into ketosis faster and stay in it longer. Ketosis is the metabolic state in which your body and brain burn fat as fuel (instead of glucose) — and it’s the goal of the keto diet. 

Bonus? The unique structure of MCTs makes them more satiating than other types of fats, leading to reduced hunger and increased feelings of fullness.[*]

Benefits of Coconut Oil on Brain Health

Now that you know the basics of coconut oil, let’s dive a bit deeper into how it can support your brain. 

Enhanced Cognitive Function 

The brain is unable to store energy. As such, it needs a steady stream of energy, which is normally supplied by glucose (aka sugar).

As mentioned, MCTs are converted into ketones in the liver. Unlike glucose, which requires insulin for uptake into brain cells, ketones can freely cross the blood-brain barrier, supplying neurons with a more efficient and sustainable fuel source. This metabolic shift has been associated with improvements in cognitive function, including enhanced memory, focus, and mental clarity.

In one study, adults with mild cognitive impairment who were given MCT oil showed significant improvement in memory recall within just 90 minutes of their initial MCT dose.[*]

Alzheimer’s Symptom Management

There’s some evidence that coconut oil can support the management of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. In Alzheimer’s, areas of the brain may lose the ability to properly use glucose (the brain’s primary energy source). In fact, some researchers are calling Alzheimer’s disease “type 3 diabetes.”[*] 

Several studies suggest that increased ketone levels (which can be obtained by consuming more MCTs via coconut oil), may provide brain cells (in people with Alzheimer’s) with an alternative energy source. In turn, this may reduce the severity of symptoms in patients.[*

Potential Support for Other Brain Disorders

Besides Alzheimer’s, MCTs have been shown to help manage symptoms and behaviors associated with epilepsy and autism. But more research is needed in this area.[*][*]

Other research suggests that MCTs could reduce depression. In fact, researchers have deemed MCTs an “antidepressant functional food” due to their unique combination of MCTs and antioxidants.[*]

Gut Support

There’s some evidence that MCTs can help optimize intestinal flora.[*] But what does this have to do with brain health? A lot, actually!

A growing body of research suggests that the health of the gut microbiota (aka the trillions of microorganisms living in the digestive tract) plays a key role in influencing brain function and mental well-being.

MCTs, known for their antimicrobial properties, can help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria by targeting harmful pathogens while promoting the growth of beneficial microbes.

Better gut health means reduced gut inflammation, better production of key mood neurotransmitters, namely serotonin and dopamine, and enhanced nutrient absorption.

How to Get Your Daily Dose of Coconut Oil 

Incorporating coconut oil into your daily routine is easy, with a variety of options available to suit different preferences and lifestyles. Let’s explore some simple ways to make coconut oil your brain’s bestie.

Sauté and Bake  

Unrefined coconut oil (aka extra virgin coconut oil) has a smoke point of 350°, making it good for sautéing food at medium temperatures. And refined coconut oil has an even higher smoke point of 400°, making it a good choice for high-temperature cooking techniques, such as frying and searing. (For those that don’t know, the smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to overheat, producing smoke, toxic fumes, and harmful free radicals — aka stuff you don’t want to breathe in or eat).

You can also use coconut oil in baked goods, like muffins or cookies.

Blend Up Some Bulletproof Coffee 

Upgrade your morning coffee by adding a spoonful of coconut oil to your brew. This popular trend, known as bulletproof coffee, combines coffee with grass-fed butter or coconut oil for a creamy, energy-boosting beverage.

☕️Try this: Prepare a cup of IQJOE, pour it into a blender, add one tablespoon of coconut oil, and blend. This will create a frothy, satisfying drink that will help your brain fire on all cylinders! 

Enhance Your Smoothies 

Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to your favorite smoothie recipe for a creamy texture and an extra dose of healthy fats. Coconut oil pairs well with fruits like bananas, pineapple, and mangoes, adding a hint of tropical flavor to your smoothie.

Nosh on an IQBAR

If you’re looking for a super convenient, easy, and delicious way to add coconut oil to your diet, try IQBARs. These keto and vegan protein bars are made with clean-label ingredients, including coconut oil, to support cognitive function and overall well-being. In addition to MCTs (from coconut oil), each bar contains four other brain-boosting nutrients, including lion’s mane mushroom, vitamin E, magnesium, and flavonoids.

😋With crave-worthy flavors like Peanut Butter Chip, Lemon Blueberry, and Matcha Chai, IQBAR offers a tasty and portable option for getting your daily dose of coconut oil anytime, anywhere.

Embrace Coconut Oil as Your Brain’s New Ally

This keto-friendly oil holds great potential as a cognitive enhancer and neuroprotective agent. By integrating coco oil into your daily routine — whether through cooking, baking, bulletproof coffee, or convenient options like IQBAR — you can harness the power of MCTs to fuel your brain, support your low-carb diet, and safeguard your long-term brain health.


Written by Katie Koschalk, a health and wellness writer, certified holistic
nutritionist, and certified personal trainer based in California.