Heart-healthy oil: Olive or coconut?

Heart-healthy oil: Olive or coconut?

When it comes to cooking oils, particularly heart-healthy ones, olive oil tops the list. It’s the center of the ever-popular Mediterranean diet, and many studies have shown that it has numerous health benefits. However, coconut oil is slowly gaining ground in terms of popularity. Tropical cultures have used it for literally thousands of years, and new reports are cropping up of its various uses and health advantages all the time.

So which is better for keeping our tickers in tip-top shape?

Let’s first compare the two:

  Olive oil Coconut oil
Total fat 100 g 100g
Saturated fat 14g 86g
Monounsaturated fat 73g 6g

* Amounts are per 100g                 

Ginger Sorensen, a clinical dietitian at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., weighs in. “Olive oil has been recommended for years for being a high monounsaturated fat, which is beneficial for heart health,” she says.

A monounsaturated fat simply means at room temperature it’s in liquid form and is less likely to contribute to heart problems.

“Coconut oil is coming into popularity from chefs, and vegetarians prefer to use it for saturated fat since they eat no meat,” explains Sorensen. “It’s saturated, so it’s not heart healthy, and some of the other vegetable oils such as soy, corn and peanut oils are more health-healthy because they have less saturated fat.”

Sorensen explains that saturated fat, found in animal protein, is more of a solid fat so it’s more likely to cause problems with circulation and cholesterol levels and it’s a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

When eaten saturated fats get clumped together and form deposits in the body, which can get lodged in blood cells and organs creating a host of health issues.

Although Sorensen recommends unsaturated fats or olive oil to her patients for a heart-healthy diet, coconut oil is not totally off limits. “You can use coconut oil in small amounts, but we recommend trying to keep the total amount of saturated fat to less than ten percent of daily intake. Particularly if you’re not eating a lot of meat, small quantities are acceptable.”

Sorensen adds that it’s better to think wholistically when eating healthy. “Consider food rather than individual nutrients so look at the total food you’re choosing. For example, asparagus cooked in coconut oil is better than processed food cooked in hydrogenated fats. That’s a good way to look at it,” she says.

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6 Comments

  1. thanks for this great info and comparison!

  2. I’m very surprised that doctors are still recommending highly processed and refined oils like peanut, soy and corn. I am particularly concerned about the recommendation of oils made of corn (which is highly genetically modified as we are yet to understand long term effects of GMOs) and soy without differentiating between fermented and unfermented soy condidering the studies linking unfermented soy to issues of infertility in men, breast cancer in women and hormonal balance in both sexes). I am also surprised by the medical community’s lack of understanding fats anymore than a saturated vs. unsaturated. It goes much deeper than this. Is this 1990? The “war on fat” (as a blanket statement) is the wrong path to improving heart health and will prove, in due time, detrimental in progress from a well-meaning medical community.

  3. Could you also compare canola? I’ve read it has 1/2 the sat fat of olive and coconut – but I’ve also read that canola is not healthy because it is made from rapeseed??? Its all very confusing to try to eat healthy!!! I really like olive oil and have been using it for sometime now so I was glad to read this comparison.

    • Hi, Kathy,

      Were you asking for a comparison between canola and olive oil or canola and coconut oil? Please let me know. I welcome story ideas. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the article.

  4. Thank you for the article, Nikki, but for the past 2 years I have learned to think outside the box, from great doctors such as Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and Dr. John McDougall, and instead of asking “which oil?” I am asking “why oil at all?” – I have learned how to water-sautee and to cook without any oil at all. That is with Indian food which is so heavily loaded with oil usually, that the avg. per person consumption of cooking oil in India is 15 Kilos / year! Oil is 9 calories per gram, so that for 1 tablespoon you are looking at 100 calories. You take 1 cup of broccoli (34 calories) and sautee it in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and you have yourself oil with a side of broccoli! Please reconsider the advice to consume any oil and instead get fat from whole foods such as avocado and olives, nuts such as walnuts / almonds or almond butter, seeds such as flax and chia, whole grains (whole wheat actually contains oil that is natural!), and beans which also contain good fats. Please reference this article: https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2007nl/aug/oils.htm and this one: http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/hurtful-food-its-about-time-the-olive-oil-myth-was-laid-to-rest.html and this picture of what is in the whole wheat grain: http://www.grainstorm.com/pages/rant – you will see a picture of all the components that are in a whole wheat kernel including wheat germ oil. Because of the heavy processing of foods, people don’t naturally get these healthy fats, and feel they must get it from oil, but if you actually go back to the basics, you will not only get healthy fat without processed oil, but all the fiber and nutrients that accompany the whole food! Eat olives, not olive oil. Eat flaked/shredded coconut in small quantities, not coconut oil. And eat NUT butter, NOT Butter! Most whole foods, plant based experts will agree 100% on this point.


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About the Author

Nikki Hopewell
Nikki Hopewell

Nikki Hopewell, health enews contributing editor, is the senior digital content specialist for Advocate Health Care. Her journalism career spans more than 20 years, with experience in consumer and trade publications, custom publishing, health and wellness online content, and marketing content for print and the web. When Nikki is not working feverishly on web content, she spends her blogging and studying intuitive healing methods.

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