Palm Oil vs. Coconut Oil Health Benefits

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/04/2023

When it comes to clean eating, it isn’t just about what you’re cooking—it’s about what you’re cooking with. Here are the coconut oil vs. palm oil health benefits.

Coconut oil and palm oil are excellent tropical oils to use in your cooking that are also a great source of dietary fat. You can use them in place of animal fats, butter, lard, or any other oils. 

While you may have heard a lot about coconut oil, palm oil may be something that’s not on your radar. Find out the difference between coconut oil and palm oil and the many benefits of adding healthier oils to your diet. 

coconut oil vs. palm oil

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is an oil produced from the pulp of the oil palm fruit. It’s composed of saturated, unsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. 

Palm oil absorbs fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers than other oils, and it’s a great alternative to partially hydrogenated oils and other vegetable oils.

There are two edible oils that come from the African oil palm:

Palm kernel oil: Palm kernel oils are derived from the kernel of the oil palm tree.

Palm fruit oil: Palm oil, also known as palm fruit oil or crude palm oil, is extracted from the pulp of the palm fruit.

There is no other crop that can yield as much oil per acre as oil palms. The palm oil industry has gotten a bad rap over the years, falling behind competitors like olive oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil because of the effect palm oil production has on the environment. 

For effective palm oil production, farmers have to clear trees in tropical rainforests. This can be detrimental to both the forests and the wildlife within. If you choose to add palm oil to your diet, you want to make sure that you find a product that’s both eco-friendly and sustainable.

red palm oil

Health benefits of palm oil

Supports healthy vitamin E levels

Palm oil is very high in vitamin E. In its natural state, vitamin E is part of a complex made of compounds called tocotrienols and tocopherols. It’s important to consume the entire vitamin E complex because it has:

  • Anticancer properties

  • Antitumor properties

  • Neuroprotective benefits

  • Radioprotective properties

  • Hair regrowth benefits

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects the inside of your arteries from oxidative damage.

Unfortunately, many vitamin E supplements do not contain the entire complex. They typically contain a synthetic version of vitamin E that only provides the compound tocopherol, a small part of the vitamin E complex. 

Palm oil is one of the best natural sources of the vitamin E complex.

High in vitamin A

Palm oil contains vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene. These are both pre-vitamin A, meaning that they have to be converted into vitamin A by the body. Some of this converts into retinol, the active form of vitamin A.

Here are some of the benefits of vitamin A:

  • It’s an antioxidant, so it can fight against free radical damage.

  • It plays an important role in the function of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other vital organs.

  • It can repair skin damage.

  • It helps form and maintain teeth, bone, soft tissue, white blood cells, the immune system, and mucous membranes.

Rich in phytonutrients

Palm oil is high in phytosterols, a type of phytonutrient. Phytosterols have been shown to lower total cholesterol, balancing good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Phytosterols are the precursors to steroid hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that helps the body adapt to stress. It can also control and regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, and help with memory formation.

Looking for a good source of palm oil? Try Nutiva, an amazing red palm oil that’s loaded with vitamins A and E. It’s also unrefined, so it hasn’t lost any of its natural, healthy compounds.

coconut trees

Coconut oil

Coconut (Cocos nucifera) oil is made from fresh coconut meat that is cold-pressed into an oil. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat and comes from the coconut palm. 

Unrefined coconut oil has gained popularity over the years as a healthy fat to cook with and has even been added to beauty products. 

Here are some unique effects of coconut oil: 

  • It has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties 

  • It helps reduce belly fat and curb appetite

  • It strengthens the immune system

  • It boosts weight loss

  • It helps with yeast infections

  • It can help with dementia and Alzheimers

  • It’s comprised primarily of medium-chain fatty acids and other saturated fats

  • It supports HDL cholesterol or "good" cholesterol

Health benefits of coconut oil

Rich in lauric acid

Coconut oil is nine times lower in palmitic acid than palm oil, but it’s very high in lauric acid. In the body, it turns into monolaurin. 

Monolaurin has numerous benefits for the body, including:

  • Immune-boosting properties

  • Antiviral properties

  • Antimicrobial properties

Coconut oil is also rich in other saturated fatty acids—like capric acid and myristic acid—that are beneficial for a healthy body.

An incredible natural source of MCTs

Coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These are a type of medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) that doesn’t convert to fat in the body. Instead, they are directly converted into ketones and used as fuel. 

MCTs can help you lose weight and improve your heart health because they are rarely stored as fat.

MCTs are also very friendly to your liver and gallbladder. Digesting this fat doesn’t involve a lot of bile or a lot of work from the liver. Instead, it immediately goes right into the lymph system through your intestines and is used right away for energy.

100% keto-friendly

Coconut oil is an excellent addition to the ketogenic diet and gives you energy in the form of ketones. You can use it in keto bomb recipes to help you stay full when doing keto and intermittent fasting. You can also make Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches, and this will help you with the keto diet and intermittent fasting.

On Healthy Keto®, you want to keep your insulin levels low, and fat is the only macronutrient that doesn’t spike insulin.

Keto and intermittent fasting can help you get healthy and lose weight. Palm and coconut oils are a staple in the keto diet. They prevent insulin spikes and allow your body to burn fat rather than sugar.

Contains saturated fat

Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat. Despite popular belief, the saturated fat content in tropical oils like palm and coconut is actually beneficial to your health while you’re on keto. 

While monounsaturated fat is thought of as a healthier option, saturated fat provides just as many health benefits. Saturated fat is stable, provides energy, and helps protect against insulin resistance. Coconut oil is great for increasing HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL cholesterol.

Saturated fats and coffee

The truth about saturated fat

Palm oil and coconut oil are both rich in saturated fat. They contain 50% and 90% saturated fat, respectively. The American Heart Association has linked saturated fat to coronary heart disease (CHD), and they don’t recommend it as a fat source or as a cooking oil. 

However, many conclusions surrounding saturated fat are based on bad information. 

The studies examined saturated fat in combination with carbohydrates. The real problem was this combination, not the saturated fat content itself. Saturated fat is actually beneficial to healthy blood cholesterol levels and promotes healthy body weight. 

Palmitic acid has also gotten a bad rap. This fatty acid makes up the majority of palm oil’s saturated fat content, so it’s no wonder that palm oil consumption isn’t very popular.

The majority of these studies were done on refined isolated palmitic acid, not on virgin palm oil itself. Isolated palmitic acid does not exist in nature, and the effects of palmitic acid are not the same as consuming palm oil in its natural form.

Saturated and unsaturated fats play an important role in a healthy diet, but partially hydrogenated oils are full of trans fats and are not beneficial to human health.

Trans fats have several negative consequences and are not recommended for human consumption. 

Check out this fascinating study examining the relationship between dietary fats and cardiovascular disease. 

It’s important to avoid trans fatty acids and add healthier oils and fats to your diet. 

Tropical oils

Key takeaways

There are some key differences in the nutritional content of palm and coconut oils, but both are healthy, nutritious fat sources that should be in your diet. Palm and coconut oil are two of the best sources of lauric acid. They promote healthy cholesterol levels and provide energy when you’re in ketosis. 

Coconut oil has stolen the spotlight lately, but palm oil can be a healthy choice too! Make sure to choose a sustainable, eco-friendly source of either red or white palm oil. Sustainable palm oil is not only beneficial to your health, but it also protects the environment. 


1. Is palm oil the same as coconut oil? 

No. Palm oil is made from the fruit of the oil palm, and coconut oil is made from the fruit of coconut palms. 

2. Is palm oil coconut-free?

Yes. Palm and coconut oil are made from the fruits of two different types of palm trees. The oil palm does not contain coconuts. 

3. Can coconut oil replace palm oil?

Yes, palm and coconut oil can be used interchangeably. However, they each have their own unique health benefits and flavors.

4. What is the healthiest cooking oil?

There are several healthy options when choosing a cooking oil. Tropical oils like coconut oil and palm oil provide numerous health benefits. Olive oil is also a great choice.

5. Which is better, palm oil or coconut oil?

Palm oil and coconut oil each have their own unique health benefits. Either of these tropical oils will be an excellent addition to your diet. Virgin coconut oil or virgin palm oil can be better choices because they have been minimally processed and retain the most nutritional benefits. 

6. Is palm oil healthy?

Yes, palm oil is a healthy option. It’s composed of saturated, unsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

7. Can I cook with palm oil?

Yes! You can use palm oil to replace any other oils or fats like butter, sesame oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil.

8. Is coconut oil healthy? 

Coconut oil is incredibly healthy and has unique properties that contribute to health and longevity. It’s rich in MCTs, supports ketosis, and promotes healthy cholesterol levels. 

9. Do palm oil and coconut oil come from the same tree?

No, palm oil comes from the African oil palm and coconut oil comes from the fruit of coconut palms. 

10. Can I have palm oil if I’m allergic to coconut?

Yes! Palm oil doesn’t contain coconut. 

11. Is there a difference between palm oil and palm kernel oil?

Palm oil is made from the pulp of the palm fruit, while palm kernel oil is made from the kernel. 

12. What are the benefits of palm kernel oil? 

Palm kernel oil is rich in vitamins A and E, so it helps with skin health and can help with hair regrowth. Its potent antioxidant content also helps reduce inflammation. 

13. What’s the difference between refined and virgin coconut oil?

There are two types of coconut oil that you can use: refined coconut oil or virgin coconut oil. Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point and a milder flavor, so it can be a more popular choice for cooking. Virgin coconut oil is minimally processed, so it retains more of its micronutrients.

Up Next:

Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

FREE Keto Diet Plan