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The comparison between coconut oil and olive oil has over the past few years been a “hot topic” in the world of nutrition, with several people replacing olive oil with coconut oil from their diet, believing that it would be more stable at high temperatures and more beneficial for cardiovascular health than olive oil! In fact, data from a 2016 New York Times survey found that 72% of respondents said coconut oil is a healthy food and notably 37% of the survey's nutritionists agreed. Which shows that a food myth may have been created!
However, analyzing the two foods, in relation to their nutritional composition, both are sources of fat (99.9g of lipids per 100g), however differentiated by the type of fat and in the micronutrients that compose them.
Clearly, olive oil has a greater amount of unsaturated fat, unlike coconut oil which is predominantly composed of saturated fat. And in this duel between saturated fat vs unsaturated fat, it is known that in terms of cardiovascular health, saturated fat causes an increase in LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) and unsaturated fat benefits an increase in HDL cholesterol (“cholesterol” good"). However, another of the myths created was that the type of saturated fat present in coconut oil is medium-chain fatty acids and that for this reason would not harm cardiovascular health and cholesterol levels. For the review “The Effect of Coconut Oil Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors, A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials”, published earlier this year, came to show its conclusions on this topic:

  • Compared to non-tropical vegetable oils (eg olive oil), coconut oil significantly increased total cholesterol by 14.69 mg / dL, LDL-C by 10.47 mg / dL and HDL-C by 4 mg / dL. (...)
  • Coconut oil did not significantly affect triglycerides or markers of glycemia, inflammation and body fat compared to other non-tropical vegetable oils;
  • Compared with palm oil - another tropical oil - coconut oil also significantly increased LDL-C, HDL-C and total cholesterol;
  • Compared to butter, coconut oil significantly reduced LDL-C and increased HDL-C.

To conclude, the researchers calculated “that an increase in LDL-C of 10.47 mg / dL of coconut oil can translate into a 6% increase in the risk of major vascular events and a 5.4% increase in risk coronary heart disease mortality ". According to the authors:" Despite the growing popularity of coconut oil because of its supposed health benefits, our results raise concerns about the high consumption of coconut oil. Coconut oil should not be seen as a healthy oil to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and the consumption of coconut oil should be limited due to its high saturated fat content. ”
Thus, in comparative terms, olive oil is the most healthy fat from a nutritional point of view, and this must be the fat of choice in our diet. And as a form of reflection, the Mediterranean Diet is considered one of the healthiest dietary patterns in the world, and what fat is presented in this dietary pattern? It should be noted that the consumption of saturated fat (present in coconut oil, palm oil and butter, for example), should be consumed occasionally and in reduced amounts, in order to keep the cholesterol levels within the desirable values. Obviously coupled with this, other healthy eating practices should be favored, such as regular physical exercise. Another important sub-topic in this matter is the question of the smoking point, that is, the temperature at which the food begins to degrade. And, when it comes to cooking, both options are stable as they do not degrade at high temperatures. Currently available data show that olive oil has a higher “smoking point”, in the order of 190 ° C - 220 ° C ( depending on whether it is refined or not), compared to coconut oil, between 177 ° C to 232 ° C.

There is not much difference in these values, is there?
No less important, and by way of conclusion, with regard to fat (be it olive oil or coconut oil, for example), one of the main precautions to take is the amount that is placed on the plate, bread or in the confection. Fat is the most caloric nutrient (1g equals 9 Kcal), so moderation is the keyword. A dish that is said to be healthy, such as cooked ling, can quickly cease to be so if we put “fish swimming in oil”. Excess oil, even if it is a healthy fat, will be combined with an excess of calories that may contribute to excess weight.
The trick is and will always be the balance and rigor in the quantities of the various food groups, as the Food Wheel says: “Eat a little bit of everything, without ever abusing anything!”.

Adriana Sales, Nutritionist

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