Both olive oil and coconut oil can be good oils to use in your kitchen, depending on what you are cooking and what health benefit you are looking for. Both oils are obtained by expressing the oil from either olives or coconut and 1 tbsp. provides approximately 120 calories and a total of 13.5 to 13.6 g of fat.
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Coconut Oil and Saturated Fats
More than 85 percent of the fat in coconut oil is saturated. Saturated fats have a bad reputation and many health-conscious individuals avoid consuming animal fats and tropical oils because of their high saturated fat content. However, it is now recognized that saturated fats are not related to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, as shown by a rigorous meta-analysis published in January 2010 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." Moreover, Mary G. Enig, an internationally renowned fats and oils expert, explains that the main type of saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is one of the same fatty acids present in human breast milk. According to Enigh, lauric acid has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that could be beneficial for your health.
Olive Oil and Monounsaturated Fats
Approximately a quarter of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated are recognized by the American Heart Association has being heart-friendly fats and the Mediterranean diet promotes the consumption of large amounts of olive oil and other monounsaturated fat-rich foods, such as nuts, seeds and avocado. Monounsaturated fats can help you lower your LDL cholesterol levels. Moreover, extra virgin olive oil is a good source of vitamin E and polyphenolyic compounds -- antioxidants that can prevent or reduce your levels of systemic inflammation.
Smoking and Melting Point
The smoking point of olive oil corresponds to 280 degrees Fahrenheit, which is relatively low and implies that olive oil should not be heated at high temperatures. The smoking point of coconut oil is 350 F, making more appropriate for cooking at moderate temperatures. Cooking above the smoking point of an oil is not recommended and can lead to the formation of compounds that could be harmful for your health. Olive oil is usually liquid at room temperature but becomes solid in the refrigerator, while coconut oil is hard when kept in the refrigerator and can be either solid or liquid at room temperatures because of its melting point of 76 F.
You can use both olive oil and coconut oil for cooking vegetables or meat at low temperatures. However, it is best to use a regular, less expensive olive oil for cooking and keep the high-quality extra virgin olive oil for seasoning your meals or preparing homemade salad dressings. Heating extra virgin olive oil will result in the destruction of its precious vitamin E and polyphenolic compounds. While the taste of olive oil does not work well with baked goods, coconut oil does give a good flavor. You can simply replace the fats in your usual recipes, whether it is margarine, shortening or a vegetable oil, with the same amount of coconut oil, and you will get similar results.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient Data Laboratory
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies Evaluating the Association of Saturated Fat with Cardiovascular Disease; Patty W Siri-Tarino, et al.; January 2010
- "Know Your Fats"; Mary G. Enig; 2000
- American Heart Association; Monounsaturated Fats; October 2010