When it comes to your health, olive oil and coconut oil are like two of your closest friends.
Olive oil is the friend you’ve known since grade school who’s completely dependable and always supports you. Coconut oil is the new friend you made as an adult who’s always up on the latest trend and exposes you to all kinds of things you didn’t have access to before.
You need both of them, right? But what if your schedule’s gotten really busy and you’ve only got time for one?
Translation: When you reach for a bottle at Trader Joe’s, which should you carry home if your grocery tote is too full for both? (Reminder: We’re talking about olive oil vs. coconut oil, not people.)
Here are the facts on which is healthier: olive oil or coconut oil.
Olive oil contains some saturated fat as well as minimal omega-3s and omega-6s, but the star of its fatty acid profile (what a title!) is monounsaturated fat, most of it in the form of oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats are linked to decreased risk of high blood pressure and a decrease in LDL (AKA bad) cholesterol, both of which are associated with heart disease.
RELATED: Why Healthy Fats Don’t Make You Fat
Coconut oil, on the other hand, is made up primarily of saturated fat in the form of molecules called medium-chain-triglycerides (MCTs). Saturated fat used to be demonized for raising heart disease risk but recent research has changed that thinking, and the saturated fat in coconut oil has actually been found to raise your good (HDL) cholesterol and lower triglycerides (fats in your blood that raise heart disease risk).
MCTs are also quickly metabolized and turned into energy, which means less stored fat—and some research suggests that means coconut oil may be superior for weight loss.
Some preliminary evidence even suggests coconut oil’s fat profile may also help prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease (because of the way MCTs are broken down into molecules the brain can use as fuel), but the research is far from conclusive.
Olive oil has a reputation for being rich in antioxidants for a reason. It’s filled with bioavailable phenolic compounds that have been found to have multiple, varied positive health effects like decreasing oxidative damage to DNA and lowering inflammatory markers.
Coconut oil has been linked to some antioxidant activity, but not to the extent of olive. It does, however, contain some anti-bacterial compounds that play a role in preventing acne, boosting immune function and fighting infection.
Finally, a science break (sort of)! There are a few factors that don’t necessarily have to do with straight-up nutrition facts that are worth considering.
First, it may seem like olive oil is significantly cheaper than coconut, tempting you to opt for olive. That is sometimes true, but fraud is also rampant in the olive oil industry. So, if an imported bottle of EVOO is crazy cheap, that’s probably because it’s watered down with fake, or heavily processed, oils. Opt for extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive and virgin, cold-pressed coconut—and do some homework first on brands you can trust.
You may have also heard that because olive oil has a lower smoke point, you shouldn’t use it for cooking at higher heats because it will break down and become carcinogenic. Most research actually shows olive oil is very resistant to oxidation even at high heats (likely due to those incredible antioxidants!). Coconut oil does have a higher smoke point if you want to err on the side of caution and primarily use olive oil for cold foods and coconut for hot.
When it comes to research-backed health benefits, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil wins. Especially when you consider it’s a cornerstone of the Mediterranean Diet, which has been studied at length and is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and more.
But coconut oil is amazing for your health, too. It has multiple benefits—for your heart, weight, and more—they’re just not as well-studied yet. It also wins when it comes to versatility. (You can use it outside the kitchen for dental health, to take off makeup and moisturize, and so much more.)
At the end of the day, it’s nice to have one option for when you want savory, Mediterranean flavor and another when you’re craving tropical and sweet. Just look for extra-virgin and cold-pressed varieties from trusted brands, and stock your pantry with both options.
3 Easy Ways to Get More Coconut into Your Diet
Eating fresh coconut used to be nearly impossible. You’d have to be on an island somewhere and find either a local with a machete or a resort bar with fancy straws.
When not on vacation, you’d find them at the market, all hairy, brown and overlooked. They were the thing you’d always say, “Oh cool, coconuts…” but then you wouldn’t actually buy one.
If you did decide to bring one home it would sit on your counter until someone decided to get out the hammer and (you’ll have to fill in your own blank here, maybe a screwdriver? giant nail?) to get the job done with lots of hacking, cracking and laughing.
The meat of the coconut is a total mystery of dry and crunchy yet moist and rich. No other food offers this kind of yummy complexity. And beyond the taste, coconut also has a great fatty acid profile that offers amazing health benefits.
I’m super happy that there’s been a coconut revelation and I can find coconut in all forms all over the place now, not just on an annual trip to palm tree land. If you’re looking to get more of this tropical goodness in your diet, here are 3 easy ways.
Coconut chips are basically dehydrated coconut. They come in little baggies, are portable and easy to open as anything and deliciously satisfying. I like to eat them as a snack — either alone, or sprinkled on fruit. Try them this weekend on your yogurt. They’re ridiculously addicting but you only need about a half an ounce to get the job done — you can over do it on these. Trust me.
Coconut water (agua de coco – sounds so much more exotic, don’t you think?) has been a rage for some time now. Imagine if you could just pop a straw in a whole coconut…that’s pretty much what we’re talking about here. Coco water is a great post workout replenisher since it’s full of electrolytes, and it comes in a portion controlled box. You can find them at any deli or drug store, but be sure to grab the plain kind since the flavored versions can be high in sugar.
Coconut butter is made from the meat of the coconut and coconut oil is just the fat from the coconut without the meat in there. They are both great alternatives to regular butter because they have those amazing fatty acids to improve, rather than damage, your heart. The fat in coconut has also been linked to fat metabolism (aka burning fat). A little fat for taste and satiety goes a looong way when you go the coconut way. Try coconut butter on your sweet potato, toast, roasted veggies or popcorn. It’s like going on vacay in every bite.3 Incredible Benefits of Coconut Oil
Just like we can’t remember a time pre smart phones, it’s almost hard to remember the days when the benefits of coconut oil were singular – a killer tan – and the only way we ate coconut was in the form of a colada or candy bar.
We used to be afraid of fats in general and coconut has the – dare we spoke of – saturated fats. Fortunately, we smartened up and learned that some fats are healthy. And, then, we got even smarter and learned that even some saturated fats are healthy.
While coconut is high in fat, the type of fat in coconuts is a good form of saturated fat, medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Plus, many coconut products found in grocery stores today are not the same as the coconut products used in the past that were highly processed and/or loaded with sugar. Today, there are more pure and healthier options available.
So, no, you can’t run out and grab a Mounds bar for your snack today, but you definitely should be stocking your pantry with loads of other coconut products.
The white part, or meat, of the coconut is what gives us coconut oil and milk. When the meat is soaked and pressed, the liquid that comes out is coconut milk. Coconut oil also comes from the meat – it is extracted from the meat either by pressing or by using chemicals.
Famous as nature’s sports drink, coconut water is the liquid found inside the coconut.
Coconut oil is full of saturated fats and is solid at room temperature like butter or cheese. Normally, if a fat is solid at room temp, we think of it as more likely to be solid in your blood, which is generally linked to raising your bad cholesterol and increasing risk for heart disease. Not so in this case, so don’t get scared. One of the benefits of coconut oil is that the saturated fats help raise your good, HDL, cholesterol and lower triglycerides, helping to protect your heart.
Remember, coconut oil has a similar calorie and fat count to olive oil. One tablespoon has 122 calories. I’m no calorie counter, but you can’t ignore this completely. You’ll want to replace other fats, like butter in baked goods or on toast or use in a stir fry instead of another oil. But, don’t go putting coconut oil everywhere with a heavy hand. It’s still easily over consumed.
Another benefit of coconut oil is that it can help with weight loss because it provides satiety like other fats. In other words, it helps you feel satisfied. The MCTs in coconut oil are also readily used for energy versus being stored as fat like other types of fat. I always recommend a little bit of fat at every meal to help you feel full and for the health benefits. Again, just remember to swap out another fat, don’t just add this in.
One of my other favorite benefits of coconut oil is that it’s loaded with lauric and caprylic acid, both of which have antibacterial properties. These compounds play a role in preventing acne, boosting immune function and fighting infection. Lauric acid converts to monolaurin in the body helping to kill bacteria. On the skin, monolaurin creates a protective layer helping to fight acne.
When buying coconut oil look for organic and cold pressed. Cold pressed means that no chemicals have come in contact with your oil. When buying milk look for organic, not from concentrate. You also want to read the ingredients list and make sure there are no flavorings or added sugar.
Guest Blog: Why You Need to Start Dry Skin Brushing Immediately
by Mariam Bandarian, NLC
Have you heard of dry skin brushing? Whether you’ve heard of it but never tried, never heard of it or it sounds vaguely familiar, I promise you’ll be hooked once you give it a try.
If you’re a dry skin brushing pro, then you already reap the benefits of this ancient technique. Go you, because this technique is very beneficial and can (and should!) be incorporated into your daily routine just like brushing your teeth and washing your face.
Dry skin brushing is a simple, holistic beauty practice that helps energize and stimulate your body, and is usually done right before bathing. Using a natural bristle brush, begin brushing your feet and move up your body towards your heart using long, sweeping motions.
You may think OUCH, why would I want to rub a scratchy brush over my skin, right? But it’s actually quite enjoyable once you get used to it. You know that awesome head scratch feeling you get at the salon when they wash your hair? It’s kind of like that, only over your whole body!
There are many noticeable benefits of dry brushing if done daily. Think of how great your skin feels after a nice body scrub. This is a similar concept but even more effective because it’s like a more intense body scrub with cumulative effects helping to bring on effortlessly glowing skin.
Dry brushing can also act as a detoxification aid because “when you dry brush your skin, it increases circulation to your skin, which encourages the elimination of metabolic waste,” says Joseph M. Mercola, M.D., an osteopathic physician, natural health expert and founder of Mercola.com.
Dry skin brushing is also a great exfoliant because it “will slough off dead, dry skin, improving its appearance and allowing it to hydrate more efficiently when moisturizer is applied afterward,” says Francesca Fusco, M.D., a celebrity dermatologist and frequent editorial contributor for Women’s Health Magazine.
Women who dry brush frequently say that it’s also extremely relaxing. This could be due to fact that dry skin brushing stimulates the nerve endings in the skin resulting in an invigorated and rejuvenated feeling. Hello total Zen experience!
To really amp up your at-home spa experience, alternate the water temperature from hot to cold during your shower to further invigorate the skin and tighten your pores. The shock of the cold water hitting your skin is better than any double-shot espresso or venti-extra-shot java jolt!
Lastly, end this therapeutic experience by applying organic, unrefined coconut oil as a moisturizer. Coconut oil is a wonderful skin moisturizer because it has antimicrobial properties, contains vitamin E, and the medium chain triglycerides present in the oil deeply penetrate the skin resulting in baby soft skin!
Mariam Bandarian is a Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Coach. Her passion is to help women get healthy, lose weight and love their bodies. Mariam thinks food should be fun, nutritious and adventurous! She holds a B.S. degree in Nutrition Science from Kaplan University. After completing her formal education, she went on to receive advanced certification and training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and most recently The Nutrition School. Drawing on this knowledge, she will create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals. To learn more please visit mariambandarian.com & her blog MissNutritionista.com.