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Try-It Tuesday: Coconut Oil Instead of Canola Oil

Written by: Cindi Lockhart, RD, LD, Weight Loss Coaching Program Manager

I’m often asked is “what oil is best to use in cooking?” Although there is a lot of information out there, many resources contradict others leading to further confusion.  Today I will try to clear up the debate. Canola oil has been traditionally sought out as one of the healthiest Omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) oils. It has been clinically recommended over the tropical saturated fat oil, coconut.  However, canola oil contains double the amount of Omega-6 (inflammatory) fatty acids than Omega-3 fatty acids. [i] Also, canola oil is refined which means the nutrients have been ripped from the seeds to create a final product that oxidizes (rusts) more easily.  This oxidation damages our cells, making them more susceptible to disease. 

Try an experiment with your canola oil – after using it a few times, open the bottle and smell it.  It will most likely smell rancid, which means it has oxidized or broken down.  The other concern with canola oil is that refined oils provide some hydrogenation, or trans-fat.  This alone increases one’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.  In fact, a recent study showed that after 25 days of canola oil consumption there was a decrease in antioxidant status and an elevation in blood lipids. [ii]

 Coconut oil, although a saturated fat, is a much healthier option for cooking.  Coconut is actually known to be the “tree of life” with many health and medicinal benefits.  It has been shown to be a naturally anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, immune-stimulant, and liver protective fruit. [iii] Most fats or oils contain long chain fatty acids (LCFA) whereas coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFA).   Not only do MCFA’s provide 10% less calories than LCFA’s, but they are also absorbed more quickly to be used as fuel by the body instead of being stored in fat like LCFA’s. [iv]  Another great benefit of coconut oil is its stability and ability to not break down with higher cooking temperatures.  To check its quality, heat it up in a skillet and see how it transforms from a white solid to a clear liquid.  Good news is that it will not make your food taste like coconut.  It works great for cooking eggs, stir fries, sautéed vegetables as well as a replacement in baking.  So, give it a try – seek out an organic coconut oil in your local natural foods store and judge this great healthful oil yourself!


[ii] Papazzo, A.  et al. “The effect of short-term canola oil ingestion on oxidative stress in the vasculature of stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats”  Lipids Health Dis 2011 Oct 17; 10 (1):180.

[iii]  DebMandal, M. et al. “Coconut: in health promotion and disease prevention” Asian Pac J Trop Med 2011 Mar; 4 (3) : 241-7.


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Reader Comments (6)

I agree. There are many great health benefits of coconut oil that so many people are unaware of. I don't use it specifically for weight loss but it definitely has given me more energy and has helped with my digestion. Great article.

December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I like the comparison to using Canola Oil which many of us have gone to for several years. My sister turned me on to using it just lately. Recently viewed at YouTube video about the use of coconut oil and improvement in Alzheimer's patients. Posted on my Facebook page.

March 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarian

What about the differance between coconut and olive oil?

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMathew Gress

@Matthew: Olive oil is a mainly monounsaturated fat. It doesn't handle heat as well as coconut oil, but you can use it for cooking with lower heat. It works well as a salad dressing. Choosing olive oil or coconut oil depends on how you're going to use it. Personally, we use a lot more coconut oil than olive oil in our home.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom Nikkola

I have used coconut oil, but I disagree that it doesn't give food a coconut taste, especially eggs. Could it be the brand that I am using? Living Foods, extra virgin coconut oil, organic.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

I have used coconut oil from childhood till i left home for education at age 18. i came to America at age 30 read all kind of articles about coconut oil being unhealthy so used canola oil ,vegetable oil etc my cholesterol always high always felt tired .now i am back on coconut oil i i am enjoying it feeling better .I grew up in a place called "Kerala" means land "of coconut". Thanks for coconuts.

June 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClara Mathews

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