The Skinny and the Fat on Two Popular Oils

Last weekend we attended a SaladMaster dinner party at a friend’s house. At the end of the demonstration, they boiled water and baking soda in our favorite cooking pans that we all brought with us. She then proceeded to have us taste a bit of the water left in the pan and the flavor ranged from metallic to pungent. I am embarrassed to admit that the pungent-flavored water came from our pan. Granted, the pan I brought was purchased about 10 years ago and has seen many meals. The point of the demonstration was to show what is going into our bodies when we cook our food. Needless to say, that pan was put to rest. I did not cook much this week because we had leftovers from our Sunday night dinner at my mom’s. That explains why I did not post a recipe this week. Sorry it took so long to explain. If you are wondering if we purchased the cookware…yes we did. It is going to be a learning experience since they are used at a lower temperature than traditional cookware. The idea behind the lower temperature cooking is to preserve the nutrients in the food we cook. Of course, that will require me not burning everything first. This has been an ego check!

One of the pieces we purchased is called an Oil Core Electric Skillet. It allows the user to “fry” without using oil. As I was telling my mom about this revelation in cookware, we started discussing oils (olive vs. coconut, etc). Since we started eating healthier the main oil we have been using is coconut oil. This is because almost every recipe we read and every health website says coconut oil is the best. But is it?

I have had elevated cholesterol levels over the last 3-4 years. I exercise, limit red meat, limit egg yolks and stay away from butter but nothing helps. We do have a family history so I may be genetically predisposed. We had always cooked with olive oil but when we did the Engine 2 Diet Challenge last year, one of the main things they tell you to eliminate are oils. They go into great detail why oil is bad. We began eliminating olive oil and over the last year added coconut in for baking and use olive oil spray for sauteing or non-stick cooking.


I started researching coconut oil and olive oil. Turns out olive oil is primarily monounsaturated fat and coconut oil is mostly saturated fat. What does this mean?

Monounsaturated fat
Monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your health when eaten in moderation and when used to replace saturated fats or trans fats.  Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.  They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells.  Monounsaturated fats are also typically high in vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin most Americans need more of. Examples for oils made up of mostly monounsaturated fats are olive oil and avocado oil.

Saturated fat
Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods.  The majority come mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products.  Examples are fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat (tallow), lard and cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk.  These foods also contain dietary cholesterol. In addition, many baked goods and fried foods can contain high levels of saturated fats.  Some plant foods, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also contain primarily saturated fats, but do not contain cholesterol.

  • While neither oil contains cholesterol, it is important to use them sparingly. Diets high in saturated fats have been known to lead to high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke. 
  • It is also important to remember that all fats contain 9 calories per gram, so adding any type of oil adds unwanted calories to each meal.
  • Read labels! Nutrition labels break down the amount of total fat, saturated, trans, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in each serving.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7 percent of total daily calories.  That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 140 of them should come from saturated fats.  That’s about 16 grams of saturated fats a day.

The fats in the foods you eat should not total more than 25–35 percent of the calories you eat in a given day…and, for good health, the majority of those fats should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.  Eat foods containing monounsaturated fats and/or polyunsaturated fats instead of foods that contain saturated fats and/or trans fats.

(Source: American Heart Association,, 2014) 

You learn something new everyday!


6 thoughts on “The Skinny and the Fat on Two Popular Oils

  1. I use coconut oil when a recipe calls for butter and I really need to have a baked product, ie, a birthday cake. I substitute half the amount of butter called for with coconut oil. I never use coconut oil where olive oil will do (or some other healthy nut or avocado oil). To sum up, I think olive oil is better than coconut oil is better than butter and other saturated fats.

      • I wrote a post on the subject a while back if you’re interested. I write for kids and their families so the style is light but the facts are sound – also references. I’ve found that fats nutrition is very complex indeed! Just when I think I have it figured out, something new pops up to confound things further…

      • I would love to read your post. I keep having that happen where I learn one thing and then a bunch of new info comes out about it that was the opposite of what I originally heard. It is a little frustrating as a nutrition consultant since I am trying to help people eat the best they can!

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