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|
* 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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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.