Home / Eating / Coconut Oil vs Olive Oil
coconut-oil-vs-olive-oil

Coconut Oil vs Olive Oil

Healthy fats are essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and we are told that both olive oil and coconut oil are sources of healthy fats, but are very different in their composition of fats meaning they are both important.  This article will explain the differences between coconut oil and olive oil, the the advantages of each, and where is best to use each one in food preparation to benefit the most from them. Throughout this article it is assumed that both oils are cold processed, and that the fats are not damaged. Who will win in coconut oil vs olive oil?

Oil content

The types of oils in both olives and coconuts are very different. Coconut oil can contain up to 91% saturated fats, with the remaining 9% being made up of polyunsaturated fats (6%) and monounsaturated fats (3%). Olive oil is slightly more balanced in oil composition, but is predominantly monounsaturated fats (72%), with polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats both making up approximately 14%. With such a large difference in fatty acid composition both oils will behave differently and offer different benefits to the body.

Coconut Oil vs Olive Oil

Image Courtesy of Bionicteaching

Coconut oil – The saturated fats in coconut oil is medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a fantastic source of sustained energy, and the body prefers to use MCTs a source of energy instead of converting them into body fat. The advantage of this is that there is no energy slump from the consumption of coconut oil, as MCTs do not trigger an insulin response (unlike carbohydrates). These triglycerides are well known for their benefit to the cardiovascular system, and are able to prevent atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the artery wall) and reduce platelet aggregation (which can cause heart attacks and blood clots). MCTs have also been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, which is linked to cardiovascular disease, and some studies have shown it can raise HDL cholesterol (which is considered to be ‘good cholesterol’). There is also large amount of evidence to show that coconut oil can strengthen your immune system, and aid with weight loss by stimulating thermogenic activity similar to that of green tea.

Up to 50% of the saturated fat in coconut oil a is a fat called lauric acid, and coconut oil contains the highest concentration of lauric acid out of all foods. In the body lauric acid converts in a compound called monolaurin, which extremely beneficial for the immune system. It has shown significant antiviral and anti-fungal properties, which make it very beneficial for the digestive system.

Coconut Oil vs Olive Oil

Image Courtesy of Oileanach

Olive oil – Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) are well researched and known for their powerful protective effects on the cardiovascular system, and their ability to protect against cardiovascular disease is considered to be greater than that of the MCTs found in coconut oil. MUFAs have also shown an ability to help reduce inflammation via a number of pathways, which can help with joint pain and redness. However, the anti-inflammatory properties of MUFAs are less than that of other natural anti-inflammatories such as curcumin, but operates via different pathways, so would be a beneficial accompaniment. There is also emerging evidence that MUFAs (especially those found in olive oil) can help protect against the development of type 2 diabeties, and can also help diabetics regulate their blood sugar.

Micro-nutrients

Both coconut oil and olive oil contain the fat soluble vitamins E and K. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, which embeds itself in our cell membrane to protect them from oxidative damage (which will help protect against cardiovascular disease), whereas vitamin K is needed to maintain strong bones and control platelet aggregation meaning it is important for cardiovascular health. The levels of these vitamins in coconut oil is quite small, so coconut oil cannot be considered a good source of these vitamins, whereas olive oil is much higher in these vitamins, and contains nearly 100 times more vitamin E and 10 times more vitamin K than coconut oil. The high levels of these vitamins in olive oil could to some extent explain why olive oil is more beneficial than coconut oil for the cardiovascular system.

Heat stability

When exposed to high temperatures many nutrients will react with the oxygen present in the air; becoming oxidized and toxic to the body. Saturated fats are much more stable and resistant to oxidative damage at high temperatures, whereas monounsaturated or polyunsaturated are more vulnerable to oxidative damage. This means that coconut oil is a better choice than olive oil for cooking/ frying with, but olive oil is suitable as a salad dressing.

Coconut Oil vs Olive Oil – Summary

In the battle of coconut oil vs olive oil, both contain very different fats, but are both extremely beneficial and healthy for different reasons. Coconut oil will support the immune system, and is a better substitute for carbohydrate calories than olive oil, as it is readily converted into energy. Olive oil is offers better protection to the cardiovascular system, and can aid with reducing inflammation. Both oils will help the reducing the risk of diabetes, as olive oil can aid with blood sugar control, and coconut oil is a fantastic energy source which give no insulin response. To ensure you get the most benefits from both oils, only coconut oil should be used for cooking, and olive oil should be used as a dressing.

References

Francisco Pérez-Jiménez. (2002). Protective effect of dietary monounsaturated fat on arteriosclerosis: beyond cholesterol. Atherosclerosis. 163 (2), 385–398.

 

María-Isabel Covas . (2007). Olive oil and the cardiovascular system. Pharmacological Research. 55 (3), 175–186.

 

Nalin Siriwardhana. (2013). Modulation of adipose tissue inflammation by bioactive food compounds. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 24 (4), 613–623.

 

R.P. Mensink. (2013). Fatty Acids: Health Effects of Saturated Fatty Acids. Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition (Third Edition). N/A (N/A), 215–219.

 

S.V. Veeresh Babu . (2010). Lauric acid and myristic acid prevent testosterone induced prostatic hyperplasia in rats. European Journal of Pharmacology. 626 (2-3), 262–265.

 

Ward Dean. (2012). Medium Chain Triglycerides . Available: http://www.nutritionreview.org/library/mcts.php. Last accessed 03 Jul 2013.

The following two tabs change content below.

Craig

Nutritionist at The Health Cloud
I hope you enjoy the site, and like what we have worked hard to create, any feedback is very much welcome, after all this site is for you!

Latest posts by Craig (see all)

  • Morg

    I’m definitely a coconut oil kinda guy myself, but I do use olive oil a lot, and maybe a little too much when frying. I need to get some more coconut oil!

  • ron

    Thank you for very important info about coconut oil and olive oil.

  • Craig

    Thanks Ron :)

  • Randy Smith

    When cooking I often use butter, coconut oil or olive oil. Sometimes I do use olive oil for cooking, but I mix it with a bit of butter. I don’t have the heat too high and the mixture not only tastes great but appears to be more stable than olive oil alone. On the whole though I use olive oil for salads and cold foods. Coconut oil is my main frying oil and I use it for everything, even bacon and eggs! I feel bad for all the people using vegetable oils…

    • Craig

      I would agree, I only really use olive oil for salads. Coconut oil to cook bacon is awesome :)

  • jemma

    i use coconut oil for hair conditioner all the time, but im not fussed when it comes to cooking. the flavour is a bit too strong for me. i dont fry often so i guess its not the end of the world and for now ill stick to olive oil.

    • Craig

      I know a number of people say they can’t cope with the taste of coconut oil. It is quite a strong taste for a cooking oil. I think butter would be better to cook with than olive oil though, have you tried that?

      • jemma

        no i havent tried using butter, i try to avoid too much fat but ive read a lot on saturated fat recently and i think im ready to start adding some good sources to my diet, will give the butter a try. thanks craig!

  • Jamie

    This article is exactly what I was looking for. I now only use olive oil for salads and rarely use it to cook with, especially frying. I don’t mind rubbing it on food that will be baked though. I’ve stocked up on coconut oil and use that for any frying I do, the taste doesn’t always go with the food but I got used to it pretty quickly. Health should always be priority in daily life, then treat yourself every now and again!

  • wameyo

    I do love the taste of coconut oil on my food especially rice. It does give me the appetite to eat more and more(which is good for me because am skinny). And it’s great to know that coconut oil is good if used as cooking oil.

  • rosie

    I have been using coconut oil in the last few months, Having my bloods checked every three months because of family members having diabeties..i have discovered that my cholesteral has dropped from 5.4 to 5.2 then again 5 in my last two tests. Coconut oil is the only change I have made to my diet!

    • Craig

      Great news! Coconut oil is amazing stuff :)

  • Isabel peerbux

    Coconut oil is fab ! I buy it from our local health food shop £6 a jar lasts a about 3 weeks . I wish if known about it sooner . My body likes it ! And it smells yum when cooking !

  • sarita singh

    thank you very much for the exact information i was looking for –
    have not been up to the mark – but will now surely use both the oils as per suggestions
    sarita