Should you swap out your canola oil for coconut oil? Is is better for your heart? Your brain? Your waistline?
What is it?!
First, we should discuss what these oils are made of and from. Coconut oil is an oil that is extracted from the kernel and/or meat of mature coconuts. Canola oil is extracted from the seeds of the canola plant. Canola was bred through cross breading of the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed is considered toxic because it is high in a compound called erucic acid but canola has been breed to be low in erucic acid.
1 tsp of coconut oil is 39 calories with 5 grams of fat (4 grams of saturated fat), no carbohydrates, and no protein.
The majority of the saturated fat in coconut oil are medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a unique kind of fat that is more rapidly absorbed by the body because it is absorbed directly into portal circulation and sent to our liver to used as fuel.
1 tsp of canola oil has 40 calories with 5 grams of fat (no saturated fat), no carbohydrates, and no protein.
Canola oil consists mostly of monounsaturated fats (almost as much as olive oil!) and polyunsaturated fats. It is the lowest saturated fat vegetable oil and the second highest in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)- an omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid. Canola oil also contain compounds called phytosterols which lower cholesterol.
Coconut Oil to Lose Weight?
Coconut oil contains lauric acid (essentially a saturated fat) which has been advertised as a fat burning food. This is thought to be beneficial because of how the body uses it. The majority of lauric acid is sent directly to the liver where our bodies covert and use it as energy rather than storing it as fat. BUT the research is inconclusive on whether coconut oil can help increase weight loss.
Keeping our Heart Healthy!
Coconut oil, even though it is high in saturated fatty acids, has been shown to NOT increase risk of heart disease risk factors or heart attacks. Lauric acid, the saturated fat in coconut oil, is thought to increase your “good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) but unfortunately, the research is inconclusive.
Canola oil contains high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid important in that has consistently shown to decrease risk of heart disease.
And the Winner is...
Stick to plant based fats and oils: canola, olive, coconut, nuts, seeds, avocado, etc. These are better for your heart than animal based fats (lard, butter).
All fats are calorie dense, so use moderation and watch your portion size.
If you’re concerned about hexane processing or just want to be more environmentally friendly, look for cold- and expeller-pressed oil. If you want to discourage the use of genetic modification, buy organic oils.
And if you made it all the way to the end, here is a great comparison of the olive oil vs coconut oil!
Until next time,
Amanda Rosenberg RDN
A Randomized Study of Coconut oil vs sunflower oil on cardiovascular risk factors in patients w/ stale coronary heart disease (2015)
Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease (2003)