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What You Need to Know
Olive oil is one of the most popular oils out there - and for good reason. This staple oil (particularly extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO) is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with lower incidence of coronary heart disease and certain cancers.
It's also widely celebrated and studied for its health benefits.
Most pointedly, it is heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory, and full of healthy phytonutrients.
On one hand, the anti-inflammatory nature of olive oil can seem somewhat surprising. See, olive oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids (and omega-3s), which typically will cause inflammation.
That said, olive oil is one of the only omega-6 oils that will not cause inflammation. In fact, it’s actually an anti-inflammatory. Why? The oil is rich in polyphenols. These have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
In addition, olive oil is 78% monosaturated fatty acid (MUFA), particularly oleic acid. These fatty acids are considered a healthy dietary fat (better than unsaturated fats) because they have been linked to:
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lower total cholesterol
- Lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels
Overall, the fatty acids in olive oil include:
- Oleic acid - 83%
- Linoletic acid - 21%
- Palmitic acid - 20%
And several others as well.
Oleic acid, in particular, has been shown to reduce inflammation, and it may even have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer.
As far as function goes, olive oil is great to put on your salad, and it's a really popular part of the Mediterranean diet.
It's great to consume raw in this way because it has tons and tons of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are those extra nutrients that give you extra health benefits that go beyond vitamins and minerals.
That said, olive oil has a relatively high smoke point when it comes to cooking oils, so it's a great cooking go-to as well.
Finally, olive oil is rich in antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of chronic disease and quell inflammation. These include oleocanthal, an antioxidant that has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen - pretty cool!
That said, there are not any true minerals or proteins in olive oil. There are also very few vitamins, except vitamin E. Instead, olive oil mainly has healthy essential fatty acids or fatty acids that your body needs but cannot make on its own.
But the biggest benefit for olive oil is the heart benefit - supporting a healthy heart.
I believe the reason for that is because it stabilizes blood sugars, which helps to reduce insulin, which is underneath the heart problem.
Remember, though, to always go for cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil if you can afford the choice. Extra virgin olive oil is the first oil that is pressed from the olives after they are picked from the tree. As a result, it's richest in all of the nutrients that come from the vine. It'll also have a stronger flavor and aroma that can be really delicious.
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of mature coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. It has grown in popularity, and it has many popular applications:
- It can be used as a moisturizer for hair and skin
- It can be used for "oil pulling" to improve dental health
- It can be consumed as a fat source or cooking oil, with a high smoke point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- And more
Coconut oil is 92% saturated fats. Now, there is a lot of negativity surrounding saturated fats, with many “experts” linking them directly to coronary heart disease (CHD). That's why the American Heart Association (AHA) warns against consuming too much coconut oil in general.
Honestly, though, saturated fatty acids are not a bad thing:
- They're very stable
- They will not increase bad cholesterol
- They will not clog your arteries
- They are not the type of fat that will cause heart attacks, insulin resistance, or anything like that.
And many of the studies that say otherwise are based on bad information (more on that here).
Coconut oil is also really good for your immune system because it has something called lauric acid (48% total). Lauric acid is high in breast milk and coconut oil. You have to make sure that the quality is there, but if you do, lauric acid is really good at:
- Supporting the immune system
- Providing anti-microbial properties
Coconut oil also has phytonutrients. I believe olive oil has more, but coconut oil still has numerous phytonutrients.
Coconut oil is also a great part of the ketogenic diet, since it can give you energy between meals. You can put it in all sorts of recipes for keto bombs, and this will help you with keto diet and intermittent fasting.
So what’s the point here? With keto diet, you want to have a high fat, medium protein, and low carbohydrate diet. Fat is the only nutrient that does not spike insulin - protein and carbohydrates both do. On top of that, any large meal spikes insulin as well. The goal, then, is to stop this from happening by eating less frequently and eating high fat.
This will prevent any insulin spikes and allow your body to start burning fat rather than sugar. That is one of the great things about the keto diet.
To this end, consuming small snacks with coconut oil - aka keto fat bombs - will help you maintain your keto diet and intermittent fasting without getting too hungry. It will also increase HDL and lower LDL.
How to Consume It
If you want to start incorporating coconut oil into your diet, you can put it in your coffee and blend it up.
You can also use it for cooking, and you can find a great fat bomb recipe here.
Conclusion: Both Oils Have Their Benefits
Overall, it’s important to know that both of these oils have their benefits, and they are both healthier choices than other options like sunflower oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil. Olive oil, on one hand, is anti-inflammatory, full of monounsaturated fats, and rich in phytonutrients. Coconut oil, on the other hand, has keto-friendly fats and immune-boosting lauric acid.
I wouldn’t even say that one is better than the other - I would consume them both. Just know that they do slightly different things and consume them accordingly.
Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.