Comparing Olive Oil to Coconut Oil

Everyone has heard of the Mediterranean Diet, right?  People living in countries such as Italy and Greece use olive oil for all their cooking and baking needs and tend to be in better health than us Americans.  Well have you ever heard of the South Pacific Diet?  No, not the South Beach diet, the South Pacific diet.  Ok, so I just made that term up and here’s why.  Just like in the Mediterranean, people of the South Pacific, think Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, have for generations used a naturally occurring oil for all of their cooking and baking needs.  And they too, tend to be in better health than Americans.  Of course we’re talking about coconut oil cooking!  So let’s look at these two oils, olive and coconut oil, and see how they match up.

Olive oil has two standards, virgin and extra virgin.  Both varieties come from crushing and pressing fresh olives.  The result, as everyone is familiar with, is a light to medium golden yellow color and fresh aroma.  The taste profile of olive oil  is mild and smooth making it perfect for salads and pasta dishes.  Health wise, olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fats, such as oleic acid, and doesn’t contain trans fat or cholesterol.

Coconut oil is new to many people but it is much like olive oil.  Virgin coconut oil is extracted from the meat on the insides of the coconut through a cold-expeller press.  The coconut oil is a stark, bright white color and has a fresh coconut smell.  The taste profile of coconut oil is light and sweet, with subtle hints of actual coconut.  The flavor is wonderfully versatile in both savory and sweet dishes.  What surprises most people is that coconut oil can change between a liquid and solid state very easily.  Whenever the temperature is above 76 degrees Fahrenheit, coconut oil will be liquid.  Below 76, coconut oil is a solid.   Coconut oil differs from olive oil, in that most of the fats in coconut oil are saturated fats, such as lauric acid, but coconut oil benefits from not having trans fat or cholesterol.

The question must be answered, which is healthier for me: olive oil or coconut oil cooking?  Well the answer isn’t clear cut.  Both coconut oil and olive oil contain 120 calories per tablespoon.  All of the calories in both oils come from fats.  Again, neither of the oils contain trans fat or cholesterol.  The one glaring difference is the saturated vs unsaturated fat contents.  Saturated fat was once considered bad for you but research is now being conducted to suggest that plant-based saturated fats, like coconut oil, may not have the same negative effects of animal based saturated fats, like butter.  Another smaller known difference between coconut oil and olive oil is the smoke point.  Unrefined olive oil has a lower smoke point than unrefined coconut oil and thus isn’t the ideal oil for higher temperatures.  Oils can break down beyond their smoke points which starts to change the molecular structure and integrity of the oil.

Overall, coconut and olive oil are very similar yet still very different.  Don’t give up your olive oil but don’t ignore coconut oil either.  Looking at the people who have been using coconut oil for generations can lead us to believe that there may be some link between eating natural unrefined oils and your health, ie the South Pacific and Mediterranean diets.  While olive oil is good for cold dishes, like salads, coconut oil is great for stir fry and also for baking.  How will you use coconut oil recipes in your kitchen?

“Nutritional Information Serving Size: 1 Tbsp”

Type of oil:        Coconut Oil             Olive Oil               Butter

Calories                   120                          120                       100

Calories From Fat 120                        120                       100

Total Fat                   14g                         14g                        11g

Saturated Fat           13g                        2g                          7g

Trans Fat                    0                             0                            0

Cholesterol                0                             0                          30

Sodium                        0                             0                          95

Carbs                            0                             0                             0

Color                      White                    Golden                  Yellow

Flavor              Light, Sweet         Mild, Smooth       Rich, creamy

Smoke Point        350 F                    320 F                      350 F


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5 Comments Post a comment

  1. Sandi Ward
    May 31, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Good informaion, thanks

  2. Jodie
    May 31, 2011 at 8:50 am

    This was very interesting. I am a firm believer of olive oil. I will have to check out coconut oil!!!!!

    August 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    This is a very usefull information,thanks

  4. Adil
    March 17, 2016 at 11:06 am

    I have been using premium olive oil for nearly 6 years without any observable health benefit.!! Worse with olive oil is that you cannot cook in it because it doesn’t have any poly fats.

    I have recently switched to premium coconut oil and there is instant change I can feel. Yes, I use it for cooking thus replacing butter. But one immediate change I felt was lots of energy. And that got me hooked onto coconut oil. I remember one of my friend telling me long back that he observed similar thing but I ignored him. Because in India kerelites use coconut oil but I never found them in great shape. But then I recently noticed that Indian diet is high in grains and this would nullify and good food they eat.

    Glad I switched to coconut. And I am saving nearly 75% in oil bill. Also, many European olive oils are contaminated with Chernobyl and there is big fake panelling going on. With coconut oil you don’t have that problem. Also, I suppose coconut trees are hardy and doesn’t require as much chemicals to grow.

    BTW, I eat as much fat as possible. I don’t treat cholesterol as problem. That’s lie. It is starchy food that is biggest problem for health. And I do always prefer red meat. One reason is that I can avoid steroids that are pumped in chicken everywhere. Pork too has steroids and thus it is beef or goat for me.

    • Sandy
      August 26, 2016 at 4:08 am

      Adil. Beware antibiotics that are routinely given to cows whether they require them or not. Look into it. :-))

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