Canola Oil vs Coconut oil - Which is healthier?
Canola oil and coconut oil contain only vitamins E and K, canola oil being significantly richer in each.
Canola oil is also richer in zinc, iron, choline, and calcium.
Canola and coconut oils contain only fats. Canola oil is the richest in monounsaturated fatty acids, whereas coconut contains predominantly saturated fatty acids.
Table of contents
Canola oil is a variety of rapeseed oil. Unlike rapeseed oil, canola oil or double-zero rapeseed oil contains less than 2% erucic acid, high levels of which may cause adverse health effects. Coconut oil or coconut butter is an edible oil that is solid at room temperatures and liquid in warmer climates. Nutritional values, beneficial and adverse health effects of canola and coconut oil will be described in this article.
Taste and Use
Vegetable oils are used in numerous ways and in different industries.
Canola and coconut oils are used as cooking oils, hair and skin oils, and industrial oils.
Some of the other uses of canola oil are its use in the production of margarine, dairy blends, emulsifiers, animal feed, vitamin E, candles, cosmetics, plastics, inks, etc.
Coconut oil is used in the production of soap, shampoos, detergents, emulsifiers, pesticides, cosmetics, and it can also be an alternative fuel source.
Virgin or unrefined coconut oil has a coconut scent and flavor, whereas refined coconut oil and canola oil have a neutral flavor.
Canola oil can be virgin or refined.
Refined canola oil is chemically extracted using a solvent, commonly hexane. The heat during this process can affect the stability of oil molecules, leading to omega-3 fatty acids being destroyed and trans fats produced (1). Canola oil can be extracted by the cold-press method as well.
Virgin canola oil is an expeller-pressed oil that has been mechanically pressed or squeezed.
Canola oil can be genetically modified or non-GMO. However, most canola crops are genetically modified to be herbicide-tolerant.
The two kinds of coconut oil are refined and unrefined.
Unrefined, also known as a virgin, extra virgin, or pure coconut oil, is produced by pressing the coconut meat. No further processing undergoes this oil; therefore, it keeps its flavor.
Refined coconut oil is derived from dried coconut meat, known as copra. The copra goes through a process of refining, bleaching, and deodorizing, which leads to a loss of coconut flavor.
Refined edible coconut oil can be partially hydrogenated as well. Hydrogenation transforms unsaturated or “good” fats into saturated or trans fats, known as “bad” fats.
Nutritional values in this article are presented for canola oil and coconut oil.
Macronutrients and Calories
Both canola and coconut oils are absent in proteins and carbohydrates. Instead, they have a very high content of fat. Canola oil contains no water at all, while coconut oil contains very little water.
The serving size of the oils is one tablespoon, which equals 14 grams for canola oil, and 13.6 grams for coconut oil.
The edible oils are very high in calories. Canola and coconut oils provide more calories than most foods.
One serving of canola oil provides 124 calories, while one serving of coconut oil provides 121 calories.
More than 99% of the macronutrient content of coconut oil belongs to fat, whereas canola oil consists of almost 100% fats.
Nearly 63% of the fats in canola oil are monounsaturated fatty acids, 28% are polyunsaturated fatty acids, and only 7% are saturated fatty acids.
The predominant monounsaturated fatty acid in canola oil is omega-9 oleic acid. The polyunsaturated fatty acid is omega-6 linoleic or omega-3 α-linolenic acid.
On the other hand, coconut oil contains more than 82% saturated fatty acids. Next by portion are monounsaturated fatty acids and only then polyunsaturated fatty acids.
More than half of the saturated fatty acids are medium-chain triglycerides or MCT. The predominant MCT found in coconut oil is lauric acid.
The oils contain some levels of trans fats as well and are absent in cholesterol.
Canola oil contains only high amounts of fat-soluble vitamins E and K. One serving size of canola oil covers the daily needs of vitamin E by 25% and vitamin K by almost 50%.
Coconut oil contains the same vitamins but in insignificant amounts.
Coconut oil contains insignificant amounts of zinc, iron, calcium, and choline.
Canola oil contains only choline at even lower amounts.
The glycemic indices of coconut and canola oils are 0, as they contain no carbs.
Virgin coconut oil has a pH of 6.4 to 6.5, making it slightly acidic, whereas refined coconut oil has a pH of 6.9, making it neutral (2).
The pH of canola oil is neutral; it ranges from 6.9 to 6.7. A decrease in the number appears during the heating of the oil (3).
The PRAL or potential renal acid load value shows how much acid or base the given food produces in the organism.
The PRAL value of canola and coconut oils is 0, making them neutral.
Weight Loss & Diets
A meta-analysis including 25 studies has revealed that canola oil consumption leads to a modest decrease in body weight. However, changes in body mass index, waist and hip circumference, body lean, and fat mass were insignificant (4).
A study on mice suggests that cold-pressed canola oil is a better oil when compared with refined canola oil, as it may lower the risk of obesity and “bad” fat content in the blood (5).
However, another study on mice claims that a canola-rich diet leads to an increase in body weight (6).
A clinical trial performed with 29 obese men has concluded that coconut oil increases high-density lipoprotein levels and decreases total cholesterol / high-density lipoprotein ratio levels without changes in anthropometric variables (7).
A study suggests that daily intake of coconut oil may reduce body weight and fat accumulation as it is rich in MCT or medium-chain triglycerides. However, another study claims that coconut oil should not be promoted as having similar effects as MCT oil. Nevertheless, there is not enough consistent evidence on the topic of satiety and weight loss; further research needs to be done (8, 9, 10).
It’s important to mention that most of the research is done on less refined and unrefined or virgin canola oil, whereas most canola oil in the market is refined.
Health Benefits & Downsides
Many canola and coconut oil studies show contradictory results, making it unclear whether these oils are good or bad for heart health.
Canola oil may have cardioprotective, antithrombotic, antiarrhythmic, and anti-inflammatory effects and promote cardiovascular health. Due to the high level of monounsaturated fatty acids, canola oil has a beneficial effect on the regulation of plasma lipids and lipoproteins, leading to the reduction of coronary heart disease risk (11, 12).
However, another study on rats has suggested that canola oil is pro-inflammatory and increases plasma lipid levels, risk factors for heart disease (13). Similar results have been achieved when rats were given repeatedly heated oil, which induced inflammatory stress and even negatively affected the liver (14).
A study has demonstrated that overweight or obese people continuously consuming canola oil have higher scores of metabolic syndrome (including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and high risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis) than those who rarely or never use it. However, other studies suggest that canola oil reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome (15, 16, 17).
A 2-year lasting study of coconut oil on patients with stable coronary heart disease receiving standard treatment has demonstrated no changes in lipid-related cardiovascular risk factors and events. However, this outcome may be caused by medication (18).
Coconut oil has a high percentage of saturated fats called medium-chain triglycerides or MCT, which are known to be beneficial for health. The beneficial effects of MCT cannot completely be applied to commercial coconut oil, as it is the richest in lauric acid, which is absorbed and metabolized more slowly than other MCT (18, 19).
The evidence lacks between consumption of coconut oil and heart disease risks. Coconut oil raises levels of high-density lipoprotein or “good,” low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels. In conclusion, a presidential advisory from American Health Association and several studies suggest lowering dietary saturated fat intake (up to 10% of total calorie intake) and replacing it with unsaturated fats lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease (20, 21, 22, 23).
A 3-month ongoing controlled trial has shown that canola oil-enriched low glycemic load diets improve glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes, particularly those with high systolic blood pressure (24).
Several studies suggest that canola oil, along with sesame and sesame-canola oils, may beneficially affect diabetes carrying different genotypes (25, 26).
Other studies speak in favor of canola oil and diabetes, suggesting improvements in fatty liver, lipid profile, measures of insulin resistance, and lower levels of fasting blood glucose (11, 27, 28, 29).
On the other hand, refined canola oil is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (30).
A case has been presented where a 66-year-old man with type 2 diabetes managed with insulin developed recurrent hypoglycemia due to coconut oil supplementation. However, this case was not a controlled experimental trial, and the primary source of data was the patient’s report. A review of the literature showed that coconut oil might positively affect blood sugar control, but more studies are required to confirm this (31).
In one study, animals have been fed a high calorie, fat, cholesterol, and fructose diet rich in coconut oil and developed obesity but had normal blood glucose levels and decreased markers of inflammation (32).
Several animal studies suggest that canola oil may be chemoprotective against colon cancer (33, 34).
Canola oil can potentially suppress the growth of breast cancer cells as well. In a study, canola oil has shown synergistic effects on cancer cell growth suppression with some chemotherapeutic drugs (35, 36, 37).
Canola oil has some amounts of PAH or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which increase after heating the oil. PAH may potentially increase the risk of cancer (38, 39, 40).
A study has shown that virgin, processed, and fractionated coconut oils have anti-cancer properties against oral and liver cancers (41).
As mentioned before, coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which has been shown to have antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effects in breast and endometrial cancer cells (42).
Studies have shown that coconut oil improves cognitive functions in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. MCT metabolism leads to ketone bodies production, which can potentially serve as an alternative energy source and compensate for the lack of glucose utilization in the brain and stop the progression of neural death occurring in Alzheimer’s disease. Coconut oil has significantly improved orientation and language-construction areas of the brain (43, 44, 45, 46).
On the other hand, chronic consumption of canola oil in mouse models had a negative effect on memory and synaptic integrity (normal functioning synaptic unit) (47).
Another study on rats and their offspring has shown that a maternal high-fat diet enriched with canola oil can lead to neurodevelopmental issues in the offspring (48).
- Ask the Expert: Concerns about canola oil
- Heating Effect on Quality Characteristics of Mixed Canola Cooking Oils
- COCONUT OIL – A REVIEW OF POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS
- Is there a place for coconut oil in a healthy diet?
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in Sodium||Equal|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Lower in Glycemic Index||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Omega-6 - Linoleic acid||18.64g||1.676g|
|Omega-3 - ALA||9.137g||0.019g|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet||Equal|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet||Equal|