Coconut Oil vs. EVOO: What’s the Real Difference?

Coconut and coconut oil

Coconut oil has been getting a lot of attention from nutritionists and the general public alike. The oil, which is actually categorized as a solid fat by the USDA, is a staple of the paleo diet. So how does coconut oil compare with EVOO, the oil most often associated with the Mediterranean-style diet?

In a clever comparison test called the Health Hub Knockout, the Cleveland Clinic sorts out common questions about the differences between EVOO and coconut oil. The two look surprisingly similar when it comes to calories and total fat. Each oil contains about 120 calories and 14 grams of total fat per tablespoon. They have similar uses in the kitchen as well: baking, light sautéing, dressings, and sauces—though EVOO lends itself better to dressings and oven-baking.

The difference between the two lies in the fats of which they are composed.

To start, EVOO has significantly larger amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than coconut oil. You’ll find 11 grams, or 78 percent of monounsaturated fat in a tablespoon of EVOO. Coconut oil contains just 0.1 grams, or 6 percent, in the same serving size.

Monounsaturated fats are heart healthy dietary additions scientifically proven to lower cholesterol, which can help prevent or delay the progression of heart disease. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should aim to get 15 – 25% of total daily calories from monounsaturated fats.

What about other naturally occurring fats? Well, EVOO contains just 1 gram of saturated fat in a tablespoon. Compare that to coconut oil’s 13 grams of fat in the same serving size.

According to Chris Hostetler, an integrative health and nutrition coach and founder of Do Not Die Young, both EVOO and coconut oil have powerful effects on the human body. He recommends both, in moderation, to his clients on a regular basis.

“They support metabolism, immunity, nutrient absorption, improve body composition, and help with depression,” he says. He recommends using coconut oil for high-heat cooking, and says that it has been “unfairly demonized” but that it’s making a comeback as part of a balanced diet. For one, it contains high levels of medium-chain triglycerides that can help moderate body fat.

Hostetler recommends using olive oil because it contains fats, soluble vitamins, antioxidants, and helps lower LDL levels.

Take a look at the recipes on the Do Not Die Young website, and you’ll see a nice mix of cooking uses for coconut oil and EVOO. That’s because the two oils serve different health purposes. Far from interchangeable, EVOO and coconut oil each have their own unique place in a healthy, diverse diet.