Global Food Myths #9: Is coconut oil healthier than olive oil?

Bernadette Murg, Global Food Myths #9, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil

LSG Group experts clarify food myths from around the world – Episode 9 is about coconut oil.

It is said to promote flawless skin, smooth hair, protect against cardiovascular diseases and help lose weight; Coconut oil is one of the most popular ingredients in the world. But does the alleged superfood live up to its promises? Is it healthier than olive oil for cooking and baking? Bernadette Murg is a dietician with the LSG Group and tells us more about the hype.

“The current level of research does not allow us to conclude that coconut oil is a miracle cure,” says Murg. On the contrary, its high content of saturated fatty acids (around 90g in 100 g), which are known to increase cholesterol levels, indicates that other oils might be better for daily use.

For comparison, the same amount of olive oil (14g), sunflower oil (13g) and rapeseed oil (9g) contains significantly less saturated fatty acids, but a higher proportion of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These types of fatty acids have a positive effect on fat metabolism – which can actually help you lose weight – and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases in comparison to coconut oil.

The alleged superfood also doesn’t fare well in its vitamin content. As opposed to olive oil, coconut oil contains much fewer quantities of Vitamins E and K, making it difficult to scientifically prove the claim that the oil boosts metabolism rates.

“Coconut oil is not particularly environmentally friendly either,” says Murg. It is not suitable as a substitute for palm oil because the coconut palm is native to the same ecologically sensitive parts of the world. In addition, it is less efficient in production than that of palm oil, so it takes more resources to produce the same amount of end-product. This means more greenhouse gas emissions and an additional danger for animal species whose habitat is threatened. Olive trees, on the other hand, do not grow in the tropics, but in more temperate regions.

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