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Canola Oil vs Coconut oil - Which is healthier?

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Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan by Arpi Gasparyan | Last updated on November 26, 2021
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Canola
vs
Coconut oil

Summary

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.

Introduction

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.

Varieties

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.

Nutrition

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.

Calories

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.

Fats

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.

Vitamins

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.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Canola
2
:
Contains more Vitamin E +15772.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +11783.3%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 350% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 179%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 2%
Contains more Vitamin E +15772.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +11783.3%

Minerals

Coconut oil contains insignificant amounts of zinc, iron, calcium, and choline.

Canola oil contains only choline at even lower amounts.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic indices of coconut and canola oils are 0, as they contain no carbs.

Acidity

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).

Health Impact

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

Cardiovascular Health

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).

Diabetes

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).

Cancer

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).

Neurological Health

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).

References

  1. Ask the Expert: Concerns about canola oil
  2. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9717/8/4/402/pdf
  3. Heating Effect on Quality Characteristics of Mixed Canola Cooking Oils
  4. https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/10/3/419/5365770
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31183867/
  6. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-17373-3
  7. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2020/fo/d0fo00872a/unauth
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938417302111
  9. COCONUT OIL – A REVIEW OF POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS
  10. https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn201786
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746113/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15259529/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215974/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33278395/
  15. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/8/972/htm
  16. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2010.10719844
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27804268/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4990731/
  19. Is there a place for coconut oil in a healthy diet?
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29974400/
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4892314/
  22. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510
  23. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/3/e020167
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24929428/
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33123324/
  26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32690147/
  27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24625239/
  28. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27055960/
  29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9506190/
  30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32364230/
  31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7781718/
  32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5509134/
  33. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21264790/
  34. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24761850/
  35. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23859037/
  36. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17571951/
  37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20730604/
  38. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34145544/
  39. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0956713517302967
  40. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32162691/
  41. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31736449/
  42. https://www.nature.com/articles/cddiscovery201763
  43. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28421789/
  44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6885391/
  45. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30056419/
  46. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31953123/
  47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5719422/
  48. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31676261/
Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: November 26, 2021

Infographic

Canola vs Coconut oil infographic
Infographic link

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains more Calcium +∞%
Contains more Iron +∞%
Contains more Zinc +∞%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 1% 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0%
Contains more Calcium +∞%
Contains more Iron +∞%
Contains more Zinc +∞%

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Canola Coconut oil
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
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

Nutrient Canola Coconut oil Opinion
Net carbs 0g 0g
Protein 0g 0g
Fats 100g 99.06g Canola
Carbs 0g 0g
Calories 884kcal 892kcal Coconut oil
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 0g 0g
Fiber 0g 0g
Calcium 0mg 1mg Coconut oil
Iron 0mg 0.05mg Coconut oil
Magnesium 0mg 0mg
Phosphorus 0mg 0mg
Potassium 0mg 0mg
Sodium 0mg 0mg
Zinc 0mg 0.02mg Coconut oil
Copper 0mg 0mg
Vitamin A 0IU 0IU
Vitamin E 17.46mg 0.11mg Canola
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B1 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B2 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B3 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B5 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B6 0mg 0mg
Folate 0µg 0µg
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 71.3µg 0.6µg Canola
Tryptophan mg 0mg Coconut oil
Threonine mg 0mg Coconut oil
Isoleucine mg 0mg Coconut oil
Leucine mg 0mg Coconut oil
Lysine mg 0mg Coconut oil
Methionine mg 0mg Coconut oil
Phenylalanine mg 0mg Coconut oil
Valine mg 0mg Coconut oil
Histidine mg 0mg Coconut oil
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat 0.395g 0.028g Coconut oil
Saturated Fat 7.365g 82.475g Canola
Monounsaturated Fat 63.276g 6.332g Canola
Polyunsaturated fat 28.142g 1.702g Canola

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Canola Coconut oil
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet Equal

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
44
Canola
0
Coconut oil
Mineral Summary Score
0
Canola
0
Coconut oil

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
0%
Canola
0%
Coconut oil
Carbohydrates
0%
Canola
0%
Coconut oil
Fats
462%
Canola
457%
Coconut oil

Comparison summary

Which food is richer in minerals?
Coconut oil
Coconut oil is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Canola
Canola is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 75.11g)
Which food is cheaper?
Canola
Canola is cheaper (difference - $2.2)
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar (0 g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sodium (0 mg)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Canola - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172336/nutrients
  2. Coconut oil - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171412/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.