Coconut oil or olive oil? Know the benefits and the best options for health


Cooking oils are frequent targets of nutritional myths, sometimes popularizing themselves as heroes, sometimes as villains of diets. Coconut oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, butter, margarine, olive oil – all have had their moment in the spotlight.

When it comes to dietary fats, the main characteristic to be observed to say if a food is healthy is the chemical composition of the lipids. The most recommended are those rich in unsaturated fats, as is the case with most vegetable oils. This type of lipid helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The most common cooking oils, such as soybean oil, have a high concentration of this type of fat and are therefore safe. However, according to nutritionist and doctoral student in public health at the UCES (University of Business and Social Sciences) in Argentina, Ney Felipe, oils should not be seen only as a source of fats, but as complete foods, capable of providing other nutrients.

For him, the most beneficial is olive oil. Present in large amounts in Mediterranean diets, this oil is rich in unsaturated fats, but also has polyphenols and vitamin E in its composition. Such antioxidant substances are present in fruits and vegetables and are capable of fighting free radicals, in addition to preserving nutrients from other foods in the recipe.

A study published in 2020 suggests that olive oil may also be beneficial for the gut microbiome, which in turn positively influences weight loss and immune system functioning.

Flaxseed, chia, sunflower and canola oils are also good alternatives, as they are rich in omega 3, 6 and 9. These substances are polyunsaturated fats with cardioprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics.

Endocrinologist and board member of the Brazilian Society of Endocrinology of Paraná, Daniele Cristina Tokars Zaninelli, warns that even the healthiest oils should be ingested in moderation. Although rich in good fats, if consumed in excess, they can also lead to obesity, which facilitates the emergence of metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

The least recommended oils are those rich in saturated fats, such as those of animal origin, such as lard and butter. This type of fat, however, is also present in some oils of vegetable origin, such as coconut and palm.

The endocrinologist claims that this type of oil increases the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in the bloodstream – a type of fat that increases cholesterol deposits in blood vessels and the liver, and can disrupt circulation and metabolism.

The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends that saturated fats do not exceed 10% of total caloric intake. Ney Felipe says that these fats, present in fast foods and ultra-processed foods, for example, are very common in Western diets and, therefore, oils rich in this type of lipid should be avoided.

He says he does not believe, however, that these foods need to be abolished from the diet. “We have to stop looking for this dichotomy between savior food and demonized food, it all depends on the context. Correct nutrition nutrition has to do with balance.”

Experts agree that oil consumption should not be analyzed in isolation. A healthy lifestyle includes fruits, vegetables and foods rich in protein and healthy fats, as well as a good intake of fiber and water; moderate consumption of sugars and carbohydrates; sleep care and regular practice of physical exercises. Choosing the most suitable cooking oil is just one of these factors.

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