Learn everything you need to know to make the best decision for the health of your family. While some oils are good for sautéing, they may not be the best choice for deep frying or baking. Palm oil and olive oil have strong reputations as healthy choices.
Fat was thought of as a dirty word in the mid-1900s. Today, the research points to what the old-timers already knew: The right kind of fats plays a crucial role in many of the body’s systems.
Healthy fats found in some oils help with cell growth, protect organs, help with nutrient absorption, and with the feeling of satiation (the sense of fullness that keeps us from eating too much, too often) which helps us maintain a healthier weight.
Cooking with oils can be a smart move as some of them are a great source of the essential fats required to maintain your overall health.
The USDA even notes that women over 31 years old should have at least 5 teaspoons of healthy oil and men over 31 should aim for 6.
But not all oils are created equal. Some have saturated fat and some are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Some can help the heart, and some can create problems.
In This Article
- Palm Oil vs. Olive Oil
- How Are Vegetable Oils Divided?
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Palm Oil and Olive Oil
- What is Smoke Point in Oils?
- Smoke Points and Your Health
- Smoke Points and Oil’s Nutrients
- Cooking Oil Smoke Point Chart
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Why I Use Coconut Oil
- Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
- FAQ About Coconut Oil
- Summary of Palm Oil vs Olive Oil
Palm Oil vs. Olive Oil
Palm oil and Olive oil have differences both in their fatty components and also in the way they are produced.
For years, palm oil was classified as an unhealthy oil due to its saturated fat content. Recently some researchers have not been able to find a correlation between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease.
Palm oil has saturated fats and olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fats. Palm oil seems to increase cholesterol when compared to olive oil by 6%. Monounsaturated fats like those in olive oil are said to help with healthy blood cholesterols.
So, between the two, when it comes to healthy fats, olive oil is the winner according to recent studies.
When considering all the information available to us today, it can become confusing. It’s important to make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. To do this, you need to understand how and why vegetable oils are divided.
How Are Vegetable Oils Divided?
Vegetable oils are divided into separate categories according to the kind of fat they contain. Saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats are the main three categories all oils are divided into. Some oils contain all three, but they have a higher concentration of one or the other.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are said to help with blood cholesterol levels while saturated fats raise bad cholesterol numbers. This makes it a possible unhealthy choice for the heart and arteries.
Olive oil is considered a healthier option among most oils. It contains vitamin E and antioxidants and is around 75% monounsaturated oleic acid. The saturated fat content of olive oil is around 14% depending on the variety.
Palm oil is around 50% saturated fat which is 45% palmitic acid and 5% stearic acid, 40% oleic acid, and 10% polyunsaturated fat.
This high percentage of saturated fat is the reason most people regarded Palm oil as an unhealthy oil to use for heart health. Coconut oil and Palm oil are both tropical oils. 50 years ago, they were said to be oils to avoid for a healthier heart.
Recent Research on Palm Oil
In recent years, research has pointed to the fact that Palm oil which contains palmitic acid as its main makeup of high saturated fats content, does not have an unhealthy effect on one’s arteries and heart health.
These recent studies released now conclude that the LDL particles in palm oil increase LDL cholesterol. However, this is less of a concern because the LDL particles are large and the other saturated fat being stearate has a beneficial effect on cholesterol in the body. This makes it quite different than saturated fats found in other oils.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Palm Oil and Olive Oil
Palm oil vs olive oil is not the best question to ask. Instead, you should be asking, “When should I use palm oil or olive oil as the healthier option.”
Palm oil has advantages over Olive oil in some cases and Olive oil has advantages in others.
When replacing hydrogenated oils, Palm oil can reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks and improve blood lipids. According to recent studies, Olive oil can also be a very heart-friendly alternative.
However, it’s more of a use case in the modern diet. Palm oil with its saturated fats is semi-solid at room temperature while Olive oil is always a liquid and ready to be used.
Olive oil has a lower smoke point as seen in the smoke point chart and so should be used only for low heat cooking. While Palm oil has a much higher smoke point and is one of the best choices for high temperatures such as frying.
Olive oil is the main ingredient of the famous recipes of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and is perfect for salad, pasta, and bread recipes that it is known for.
While Palm oil works best for preparing foods that require the oil temperature to be much higher.
Whether you use Olive, Palm, or any other type of oil for cooking, you need to make sure that you use the right oil to stand the heat.
Changes occur to all oils at different temperatures. These changes cause oxidation which produces oxides and free radicals.
Cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil has all the nutrients, but it has a lower smoke point than Palm oil. Yet most believe that olive oil is a healthier option for low heat cooking.
Also, using the same oil multiple times can break down the oil causing it to become rancid.
When purchasing Olive oil. There are 5 things to look for to ensure you are getting a high quality oil. I will list them for you here and share this helpful video for you by Dr. Eric Berg.
- Always purchase extra-virgin olive oil
- Don’t purchase a major chain product
- Look for the harvest date, not the best by or bottled on date
- Single country or estate of origin
- Third-party seal is a plus
The olive oil I use meets all these and more. We recommend it based on our personal use and experience.
What is Smoke Point in Oils?
An important point about using the right oil for the cooking to be done is to know the smoke point of the oil you choose to use.
Smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil will start to smoke. This happens right before oil starts to boil. Using oils past their smoke point has been linked to the formation of carcinogens.
The smoke point will affect the best cooking temperatures, flavor, and nutrients of any oil.
Main Factors Affecting Smoke Point
Fat Type: Is the oil primarily made up of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, or saturated fats? Olive oil has a medium smoke point while Palm oil, being in the saturated fat category, has a high smoke point.
Refining: Refining removes free fatty acids and other healthy components that cause the oil to smoke at a lower temperature. This allows refined oils to have a higher smoke point.
Age: The older an oil gets, the more it’s exposed to air, heat, and light the more it deteriorates. This deterioration lowers its smoke point.
High Smoke Point Oils
Oils with a smoke point of over 400 degrees F are best for frying and other cooking methods that require high heat.
Medium Smoke Point Oils
Oils that have a smoke point of around 300 – 375 degrees F should be used for low heat cooking.
Low Smoke Point Oils
Oils that have a smoke point of lower than 250 degrees F are great for salad dressings, dips, and bread toppings.
Smoke Points and Your Health
As the oil is heated to higher temperatures, more free fatty acids, and free radicals are produced. This in turn lowers the smoke point. This is why it’s not recommended to reuse oils that have been heated to high temperatures, like frying oils.
Each time oil is reused, it becomes more unstable and rancid as it’s reheated. It’s a good rule of thumb to not use frying oils more than twice.
Fried foods cooked in oil that has been reused and become rancid can cause the food to become carcinogenic. This can lead to serious health problems.
You want to be sure to have proper ventilation when using cooking oils. Some studies have suggested that there is a connection between long exposure to frying oils and lung cancer.
Smoke Points and Oil’s Nutrients
When considering smoke points and the heat an oil can withstand and remain nutritious and healthy, not all oil is created equal.
After oils are extracted from their source, they can be packaged for use or refined and processed.
Oils that are left unaltered are sold as an unrefined, cold-pressed, virgin, or raw. These oils, left in their natural state, are also not processed with any chemicals and retain more of the original nutrients and polyphenol.
These unrefined oils have lower smoke points, so it takes less heat to make them rancid.
Refined oils have been processed, often with chemicals. Almost all of the nutritional and health value is removed in this refining process. Because of the healthy fats and other components removed, refined oils have a higher smoke point.
Cooking Oil Smoke Point Chart
Choosing the best oil for your cooking needs is as easy as verifying the smoke point and starting with the healthiest option available.
The smoke point chart below will help you determine the best choice for your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I cook with extra virgin olive oil?
Yes, you can. While its smoke point isn’t high enough to use for deep frying, it can still be used for low to moderate heat cooking with tasty results.
Extra virgin olive oil has the highest nutrients and polyphenol content and is best used for cold applications. It’s considered one of the healthiest oils. Virgin olive oil is a step down in the quality but still has good flavor and nutrition.
- To season a pan, do you need an oil with a high smoke point?
When you season a pan, it’s best to use a healthy oil with a higher smoke point since you will be using a higher temperature for a long period of time.
- What are the benefits of a high smoke point cooking oil?
The greatest benefit of a high smoke point is its ability to withstand higher temperatures. These oils are great for frying, searing, and sautéing without as much breakdown of fats and the creation of carcinogens.
- What is the healthiest cooking oil?
Healthy cooking oil depends on your cooking needs. Low smoke point oils that have all their natural nutrients are the healthier option for cold foods like salad dressings, dips, etc. High smoke point oils are better for deep frying and higher heat.
Why I Use Coconut Oil
I have used coconut oil for years. You can find over 1,000 studies that show coconut oil to be one of the healthiest foods available. Coconut oil is something I use every day and in most of my recipes.
The coconut tree is called the tree of life in the tropics and after you understand the uses and benefits of this oil you may also agree.
Most people seem confused about this oil mostly because of studies produced over the last 50 years that warn against foods high in saturated fats. The American Heart Association published a report on recommendations for saturated fat intake to be 30 grams for men and 20 for women per day.
The fact is, we all need some saturated fat to support immune health and especially to protect the liver from toxins.
Coconut oil has many health benefits I have personally discovered and there are many studies and research you can see for yourself.
How Is Coconut Oil Made?
Coconut oil is mostly grown in the tropics and is made by pressing dried coconut meat (copra) or fresh coconut to make coconut oil. The coconut milk is pressed and then the oil is removed.
Attributes of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is firm at room temperatures around 75 degrees F or lower. Above 75 degrees F the oil will liquify.
The smoke point of coconut oil is around 350 degrees F. It is a great substitute for butter and other oils in almost every recipe.
Types of Coconut Oil
As with all foods, you must find a reputable seller and producer of high quality oil. Even when buying healthier foods, you may not be getting all of the benefits you think if it’s not produced properly.
There are three basic types of coconut oil you should be aware of.
Extra Virgin & Virgin Coconut Oil: Extra Virgin coconut oil is the rawest and retains the most beneficial ingredients. Extra Virgin is the oil produced from the first press and has a stronger coconut flavor.
Virgin coconut oil is produced from the second cold press and has a slightly less coconut flavor.
I haven’t noticed too much of a difference between extra virgin and virgin when it comes to using coconut oil. They both have a strong nutty flavor and are cold-pressed from coconut meat.
Refined Coconut Oil: Refined coconut oil has gone through a refining process that can involve bleaching (Ugh) and other processing systems that deodorize the oil taking out most of the nutty taste and flavor.
Refined coconut oil is produced at high temperatures that destroy many of the oil’s natural benefits and antioxidants. It has a neutral flavor.
Refined oils are cheaper, go through more processing before packing for sale, and have a higher smoke point.
Nutrition Information of Coconut Oil
Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are the healthy fats that many scientific studies have been focused on.
Coconut oil is made up of around 62% of the healthy fats Caprylic acid, Lauric acid, Capric acid.
Coconut oil has been called a healthy fat source because its fat composition makes it one of the most beneficial according to the USDA nutrient database.
MCFAs found in coconut oil are much easier to digest than other fats. Only 3 steps are required in the body to it into energy while other fats can take around 26. This makes MCFAs found in coconut oil easier to digest and less likely to be stored as fat after eating.
1 Tbsp of coconut oil has 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
You can find plenty of studies about coconut oil and its benefits including the USDA nutrient database.
Here are some of the uses of coconut oil proven by studies and researchers:
1. Memory and Brain Function
In a study published in the Journal of Neurobiology of Aging, researchers found that the MCFAs in coconut oil improved memory in subjects.
2. Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment
MCFAs are digested by the liver which creates ketones that can be used by the brain for energy without the need for the brain to create its own insulin to process glucose into brain energy.
Recent research has shown that the brain creates its own insulin to process glucose for brain energy. An Alzheimer’s patient’s brain loses the ability to create its own insulin, the ketones from coconut oil could create an alternate source of energy to help with brain function.
3. Coronary Heart Disease
Coconut oil is high in natural saturated fats. Saturated fats increase the healthy cholesterol (HDL cholesterol), but also help convert the LDL “bad” cholesterol into good cholesterols.
4. Kidney Infection Help While Protecting the Liver
Coconut oil has been known to clear up and improve UTI symptoms and kidney infections. The MCFAs in the oil work as a natural antibiotic by disrupting the lipid coating on bacteria and killing them. Research also shows That coconut oil directly protects the liver from damage.
5. Reduces Inflammation and Arthritis
In a study in India, the antioxidants present in virgin coconut oil reduced inflammation and improved arthritis symptoms.
6. Cancer Prevention
Coconut oil has ketones which tumor cells are not able to access for energy causing coconut oil to help fight cancer cell growth.
Also, MCFAs break down lipid walls of bacteria, helicobacter pylori bacteria, that have been linked to stomach cancer.
Some research shows that lauric acid found in coconut oil may have anticancer abilities by causing anti-proliferation and pro-apoptotic effects in the body.
7. Antibacterial, Antifungal, and Antiviral
Coconut oil contains lauric acid which has been shown to reduce candida, fight bacteria and viruses.
8. Skin Issues (Burns, Eczema, Dandruff, Dermatitis, and Psoriasis)
Coconut oil is wonderful as a face cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. But it can also treat many skin disorders.
It’s easily absorbed into the skin because of its smaller fat molecules, making it an excellent skin and scalp moisturizer.
The fatty acids (caprylic and lauric) in coconut oil reduce inflammation making them a great solution for all types of skin conditions.
9. Prevents Gum Disease and Tooth Decay
Coconut oil is one of the most effective oils for oil pulling due to its high concentration of antibacterial MCFAs.
By swishing the oil in your mouth, the oil denatures the bacteria and sticks to it. Removing oral bacteria greatly reduces your risk of periodontal disease. If you want to heal your gums and repair your teeth, I recommend coconut oil pulling three times a week for 15 minutes a day.
Research on osteoporosis has found that coconut oil helps increase bone volume.
11. Improves Type II Diabetes
The MCFAs in coconut oil help balance insulin reactions in the cells and promote a healthy digestive process.
12. Coconut Oil for Weight loss
A study from Boston University Medical School points to why MCFAs have the fat-burning ability. Testing the effects that MFCAs have on fat breakdown, adipose (fatty) cells in rats were pretreated with caprylic acid. They observed that fat breakdown occurred at such a significant level that it literally mimicked the characteristics of fasting. This speeds up the body’s use of stored fat.
13. Coconut Oil for Healthier Hair
You can make homemade coconut shampoo or just use straight coconut oil as an all-natural hair conditioner.
14. Coconut Oil for Anti-Aging
The medical journal, Food and Function, published research showing how coconut oil improves antioxidant levels and can help slow aging.
FAQ About Coconut Oil
- Does coconut oil go bad?
Yes, it will eventually go bad but if you store it in a cool, dark place, refined coconut oil should last for almost two years and unrefined coconut oil should last for up to 5 years before it goes rancid.
- Can you substitute coconut oil for butter?
Coconut oil can be substituted for butter in most baking recipes using a 1:1 ratio. This is a great option to quickly make a recipe vegan-friendly for family and friends.
- How do you use coconut oil in cooking?
If you need a liquid oil in your recipe, let It liquify before measuring to get the right amount.
If you are substituting it for butter in baking, you can leave it as a solid and measure it as you would butter.
If the food you’re making will be refrigerated, remember that coconut oil will get solid at 75 degrees F. This may change its texture a little.
I know if I use all coconut oil to make mayonnaise, it gets too firm to spread easily. To get around this, I use Avocado oil and coconut oil to make homemade mayo.
You can use coconut oil for frying, sautéing, and as a butter substitute in most recipes.
As with the olive oil, we recommend the coconut oil we buy based on experience and personal use.
Summary of Palm Oil vs Olive Oil
- Research proves what the old-timers already knew: The right kind of fats play a crucial role in many of the body’s systems
- Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature and Olive oil is always a liquid
- Olive oil has a lower smoke point and should be used only for low heat cooking
- Palm oil has a much higher smoke point and is better for high temperatures
- Healthy fats help with cell growth, protect organs, help with nutrient absorption, and with the feeling of satiation which helps us maintain a healthier weight
- Olive oil is considered a healthier option because it contains vitamin E and antioxidants.
- Olive oil is around 75% monounsaturated oleic acid with a saturated fat content of around 14% depending on the variety.
- Palm oil is around 50% saturated fat which is 45% palmitic acid and 5% stearic acid, 40% oleic acid, and 10% polyunsaturated fat
- Research has pointed to the palmitic acid in Palm oil as not having an unhealthy effect on one’s arteries and heart health
- Look for these 5 things when purchasing olive oil:
- Always purchase extra-virgin olive oil
- Don’t purchase a major chain product
- Look for the harvest date, not the best by or bottled on date
- Single country or estate of origin
- Third-party seal is a plus
Our goal is to help you make the decision of what is right for your family in palm oil vs olive oil, to consider coconut oil, and how to purchase the right oil you need for any cooking task.
As always, I’m here to help.