Comparing the Health Benefits of Coconut Oil vs. Olive Oil
As essential nutrients, natural oils provide many health benefits for our bodies. Oils contain plenty of healthy fats, but not all fat is exactly alike. There are unsaturated and saturated fats, which we’ll focus on a bit later. Additionally, while healthy oils have their benefits, it’s important to understand the difference between each one.
Soon, we’ll dive into comparisons between coconut oil and olive oil. If you’re not sure which oil to incorporate into your daily life, the following may serve as a helpful guide.
Types of Oils
Before we chat about the specifics of both coconut oil and olive oil, here are two properties you may find in either oil:
Hemp Seed – Extracted and cold-pressed from hemp plants and often used in conjunction with olive oil, hemp oil is mainly used for medicinal purposes. Health benefits may include improved skin, lower blood pressure, and better heart health.
MCT – Typically made from coconut or palm kernel oil, MCT oil is very easy to digest. People use MCT oil to help with weight loss, appetite control, extra energy for exercise, inflammation, and implementing fats and nutrients.
Now, let’s jump into the health benefits of coconut oil versus olive oil to find out which one may be better suited for your lifestyle.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is a popular superfood that is made by pressing fresh coconut meat or dried coconut meat called copra. This oil has also become a well-known staple in both ketogenic and paleo diets. MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) are present in coconut oil, and as mentioned earlier, are easily digestible and may control blood sugar.
Interestingly, coconut oil is high in saturated fat, containing about 13 grams in just one tablespoon. While an excess of saturated fat is often linked to heart disease, having the recommended dosage of coconut oil may still provide health benefits.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
Here are some of the possible health benefits of coconut oil.
- Increase good cholesterol– According to numerous studies , MCT, a property of coconut oil, may contribute to boosting good cholesterol, otherwise known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Good cholesterol means better cardiovascular health.
- Decrease stress – Specifically, virgin coconut oil has antioxidant properties, which are known to reduce stress.
- Improve skin/hair – Some have discovered that applying coconut oil directly to the scalp or as an extract on the skin may prevent inflammation and overall skin damage.
- Improve dental health – Coconut oil can be used for oil pulling , a traditional oral treatment for dental health that’s similar to mouthwash. Studies show that oil pulling with coconut oil may prevent cavities and improve gingivitis.
How to Use Coconut Oil
As coconut oil is quite high in saturated fats, it’s important to keep in mind that implementing less processed coconut oil will lead to greater health benefits. Taking a lower dose will be more beneficial for your heart health as well. Depending on an individual’s daily caloric intake, the recommended dose of coconut oil is no more than two tablespoons per day.
Here’s some healthy options for incorporating coconut oil into your diet:
What is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is made directly from olives growing on olive trees. Specifically, extra virgin olive oil is cold-pressed from ripe olives. Extra virgin olive oil is commonly used in cooking or salad dressings, producing more of a peppery flavor than refined olive oil.
Generally, olive oil is a very healthy fat and is well-known in Mediterranean diets. When compared to coconut oil, which has a high amount of saturated fat, olive oil is much healthier. One tablespoon of olive oil has about 9.9 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and only 1.9 grams of saturated fat. Consider adding olive oil to your diet for overall healthfulness.
Benefits of Olive Oil
Again, due to its unsaturated fats, olive oil is one of the healthiest foods you can include in your diet. However, do not overdo your intake. Olive oil may be a healthy fat, but moderation is still important.
Some potential health benefits of olive oil are:
How to Use Olive Oil
Here are some great methods for including olive oil into your wellness routine:
- Cooking Oil – You may use either extra virgin olive oil or refined olive oil for cooking. However, keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil is not as processed and contains more antioxidants than refined olive oil.
- Dressings, dips, and marinades – Use extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings, dips, or marinades for beneficial antioxidants.
- Tincture – Try Vitaldiol’s Essential Tincture, a CBD and extra virgin olive oil tincture that can boost metabolism, increase well-being, and help you find balance in your everyday life. The Essential tincture is flexible enough for everyday use, and is a great way to incorporate a bit of extra virgin olive oil into your diet.
Healthy fats or not, we should always be mindful of the amount of fat we consume on a daily basis. You may safely consume olive or coconut oil in moderation, but we do suggest looking further into the benefits of olive oil over coconut oil. We believe that olive oil is far superior than coconut oil due to its adequate amount of unsaturated fat and helpful contribution to a heart-healthy diet.
Carrier Oils for CBD: How to Choose the Best One
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Lana Butner, ND, LAc, is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist in private practice in New York City .
If you’ve ever used a CBD oil, you’ve gotten more from the product than just cannabidiol (CBD). For multiple reasons, manufacturers include a carrier oil, too.
As its name suggests, a carrier oil delivers (or carries) the contents of the active compound. In this case, it’s CBD. In the realm of beauty products, carrier oils dilute essential oils because the essential oil may be too strong on its own. (For example, a lavender reaction from lavender oil can cause the skin to itch, burn, or break out in blisters.)
Carrier oils are important to CBD because they help dissolve the cannabinoid’s molecules so they can be absorbed by the body. Many carrier oils are similar, but they may have differences that could be important to you for various reasons. For example, most of them are nut-based or plant-based, and you could be allergic to them. Oils that are taken orally may not taste good to you. Reading the label is a smart move—as long as you know what you’re looking for.
This article explains the purpose of carrier oils and the possible side effects. It also describes the six carrier oils you’re likely to see in stores and online, including their advantages and drawbacks.
Marketing Outpaces Science
CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol. It’s one of 100-plus chemicals in the cannabis plant that may have health benefits. It’s widely assumed that CBD oil can relieve arthritis pain, chronic pain, and chronic nerve pain as well as reduce inflammation, ease anxiety, and improve sleep. Researchers are actively studying other uses for CBD oil, particularly in terms of slowing cancer cell growth.
Purpose of CBD Carrier Oils
CBD products use different carrier oils, sometimes alone and sometimes in combinations. They serve several important functions:
One key reason for using a carrier oil is that it improves bioavailability, which means it helps your body absorb CBD oil. CBD is fat-soluble, which means that it dissolves in oil rather than water. Fat-soluble substances are better absorbed when digested along with fat, even in small amounts.
When you digest water-soluble substances, like sugar or many vitamins and minerals, your digestive tract sends them directly into your bloodstream (because blood is a water-based liquid).
Fat-soluble substances can’t be absorbed this way. Instead, your digestive tract sends them into fatty tissues and they’re distributed through your body by the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. Any excess is stored in your liver and fatty tissues for later use.
All carrier oils are fat-soluble, which means CBD dissolves in it. Then the oil carries the CBD into the proper tissues so they’re more accessible by your body.
Know Your Tinctures
CBD products have introduced consumers to a new lexicon. For example, concentrated CBD oil usually taken through a dropper is known as a tincture.
CBD is a potent chemical, which means you don’t need much of it for a medicinal effect. However, this poses a problem when it comes to dosing. To deliver accurate and consistent doses, it’s easier to measure out a dropperful of CBD-infused oil than a tiny amount of crystalline isolate (which is CBD in pure form).
Added Health Benefits
Carrier oils sometimes include health benefits all on their own. For example, olive oil has gotten a lot of attention for its heart-healthy benefits.
If there’s an oil you’d like to get more of in your diet, adding it to your CBD regimen is one way to get it. (This said, it remains debatable whether one or two droppers of carrier oil a day is enough to have any tangible effect on your health. This is another CBD-related topic that falls under the category of “more research is required.”)
CBD Products Come From Hemp
CBD products almost always are derived from hemp, which is botanically and legally different from the marijuana plant. By law, CBD products can’t contain more than 0.3% THC (short for delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol ), which is the chemical in marijuana that creates a high.
Side Effects and Precautions
Most people don’t have side effects from common carrier oils. Some oils, though, may not be right for people with certain illnesses or who take certain medications. Always check with your healthcare provider before adding anything to your dietary regimen—even a “natural” product like CBD in a carrier oil. Natural doesn’t always mean safe.
If you have tree-nut allergies or other food allergies, be especially diligent about selecting CBD products with carrier oils you know are safe for you. All ingredients should be specified on the label.
For topical preparations, know that some carrier oils or other added ingredients may cause an itchy, red rash called allergic contact dermatitis. Others may cause a skin reaction after sun exposure. Be sure you’re familiar with the potential side effects of whatever products you’re using. And play it safe by testing a miniscule amount of topical oil on an obscure patch of skin to see if you develop a reaction.
What About Essential Oils?
Carrier oils aren’t the same thing as essential oils used for aromatherapy. Essential oils are highly concentrated, which is why they have a strong fragrance. Many essential oils can cause poisoning when ingested or absorbed through the skin, even in small amounts. This is true even if the oil comes from something that is normally safe to ingest, such as nutmeg.
Essential oils are often used topically (on the skin) after being diluted by a carrier oil. Essential oils themselves, however, should never be used as a carrier oil. Some topical CBD formulations may include essential oils such as lavender or eucalyptus oils because of their purported health benefits.
Before using these products, be sure you’re familiar with the ingredients and that you’re not allergic to any of them. Watch also for side effects, which can occur soon after using them.
Common Carrier Oils
Some CBD oils may contain one or more carrier oils. Some common carrier oils are:
- Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
MCT oil is the most common carrier oil for CBD products. It can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil, but coconut is the most common source. On labels, it’s sometimes listed as fractionated coconut oil, which means it contains more liquid than solid compared to normal coconut oil, thanks to fatty acids.
Medium-chain triglycerides are a type of fatty acid that your body can quickly absorb because it doesn’t have to break it down via digestion before sending it off to the lymph system. It also absorbs easily through the skin.
Long-chain triglycerides require more digestion time. Short-chain triglycerides are often consumed by gut bacteria before they’ve had time to be absorbed. So MCTs are the most useful.
- Quick absorption due to molecular structure
- 90% saturated fat, which also aids absorption
- Light, thin oil
- Almost flavorless
- Doesn’t require chemical processing
- Less expensive than some carrier oils
- Slow to break down and go rancid
- Temporary digestive side effects (nausea, gas, diarrhea, vomiting) in some people
- Possible excessive build-up of ketones in the body (dangerous with poorly controlled diabetes)
- Not recommended for people with liver disease
- May interact with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs
Additional Health Claims
Some scientific evidence suggests that MCT oil may:
- Help with weight loss by reducing your appetite, increasing metabolism, and making your body burn calories faster
- Have benefits for people with autism, epilepsy, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease
- Activate the immune system to fight yeast and bacterial overgrowth
While promising, much of this research is preliminary. More research is needed before MCT oil can be recommended for these uses.
Scrutinize Coconut Oil Labels
If the label of a CBD product says “coconut oil,” it’s likely regular coconut oil and not MCT. While perfectly fine as a carrier oil, regular coconut oil may not have all of the same benefits of an MCT.
Hemp Seed Oil
It may come from the same plant, but hemp seed oil (sometimes called hemp oil) and CBD oil aren’t the same thing. CBD comes from the flower while hemp seed oil comes from the seeds. The seeds contain fewer beneficial chemicals (cannabinoids and terpenes) than the flower and in much lower concentrations. However, they do contain some hemp phytochemicals that aren’t present in the flowers.
Using hemp seed oil as a carrier oil for CBD may contribute to what’s called the “entourage effect,” which basically means that combining parts of the plant may make each component more effective than it would be alone.
This quality makes hemp seed oil a popular choice for “full-spectrum” products, which contain all of the component chemicals of the hemp plant rather than just CBD.
- Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower inflammation
- Ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids
- High antioxidant levels
- Good source of fiber
- Contains magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc
- Possible entourage effect
- Lower solvency than MCT oil, meaning it can’t hold as much CBD
- Higher priced than MCT oil
- Flavor (sometimes described as “sharp” or “herby”) may clash with some palates
- Side effects may include diarrhea, nausea, throat irritation, slow heart rate, high blood pressure
Some companies try to pass off hemp seed oil as CBD oil. Be sure to check the ingredients and amount of CBD a product contains before you buy it. All reputable companies should provide this information on their labels and websites.
Additional Health Claims
Hemp seed has been used medicinally for a wide array of conditions, most of which have not been researched enough to say for sure whether they’re safe and effective. The conditions include:
, for its anti-inflammatory properties and blood pressure and other conditions involving skin inflammation
Olive oil is probably the carrier oil you’re most familiar with. It’s certainly the best researched. It’s become one of the most commonly used cooking oils because of its many well-established health benefits:
- High in iron, vitamin K, vitamin E
- Rich in antioxidants
- Highly trusted
- Absorbed by the skin even faster than MCT
- Its long-chain triglycerides are slower to absorb than MCT (but may absorb more efficiently)
- Lower solvency than MCT, meaning it can’t hold as much CBD
- Thicker than most other carrier oils, which may be unpleasant
- Flavor is relatively strong and may be distasteful to some people
Additional Health Claims
Thanks to a significant amount of research, olive oil is known to:
- Boost immunity
- Reduce inflammation
- Increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol
- Prevent blood platelet clumping, which can cause heart attacks
- Aid in blood clotting
- Improve gut-bacteria balance
- Support proper nerve function
- Prevent cognitive decline
- Protect bones from thinning (osteoporosis)
Avocado oil has become more popular for a variety of uses, including cooking, as researchers have learned about its health benefits. As a CBD carrier oil, it’s used most often in topical products, but you can also find it in products that are meant to be ingested.
- Quickly and easily absorbed by your skin and digestive tract
- Nutty flavor may be more pleasant than some alternatives
- Especially good for topical uses
- Rich in antioxidants
- High in vitamins A, B, D, and E
- Much thicker than most carrier oils, which may be unpleasant
- Significantly more expensive than many carrier oils
- Higher allergy risk than many carrier oils
Additional Health Claims
Most of the research into avocado oil has been performed on animals, not people. Until researchers take this next step, preliminary evidence suggests that avocado oil may:
- Lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, which decreases the risk of heart disease
- Improve glucose tolerance and reduce insulin resistance, providing protection from diabetes
- Improve metabolic markers
Avocado oil is less likely than many oils to clog your pores, so it’s popular for topical use. Plus, its slow drying time may help it last longer than some topical preparations.
Avocado allergies are possible. If you experience itching in your mouth after ingesting avocados or avocado oil, don’t ingest any more before talking with your healthcare provider about it. Some allergies tend to occur together. People with avocado allergies may be especially sensitive to:
- Other fruits and vegetables
If you have an allergic reaction to any of these things, you should be tested for a reaction to the others as well.
Extreme Symptoms Are Possible
Extreme allergy symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, are uncommon (but possible) with avocados because digestive enzymes tend to break down the allergen before it’s absorbed into your body. Get emergency medical attention if you experience these symptoms.
Carrier oils are important to CBD because they help dissolve the cannabinoid’s molecules so they can be absorbed by the body. Many carrier oils are similar, but they may have differences that could be important to you for various health reasons. One key reason for using a carrier oil is that it improves bioavailability, which means it helps your body absorb CBD oil. Besides, to deliver accurate and consistent doses, it’s easier to measure out a dropperful of CBD-infused oil than a tiny amount of crystalline isolate (which is CBD in pure form). Carrier oils also may have health benefits all on their own. Four common carrier oils are medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, hemp seed oil, olive oil, and avocado oil.
A Word From Verywell
Many people are quick to ask: “Which CBD carrier oil is the best?” Now you know that the answer depends on several factors, including the type and uses of the CBD product, whether you have allergies or certain health conditions, and your personal preferences. So look at it this way: If you try one oil and don’t like it, you can always try a different one. Meanwhile, be sure to ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for advice along the way.
Is Coconut Oil Healthy or Not?
Coconut oil isn’t healthy — never was and never will be. That headline practically broke the internet last month, after the American Heart Association called out coconut oil specifically as a troubling source of saturated fat. In its updated advisory, AHA noted that coconut oil is 82 percent saturated fat (by comparison, canola oil is just 7 percent) and that it elevates LDL cholesterol as much as butter or beef fat.
The announcement caused an uproar because, despite coconut oil’s sky-high saturated fat content, it has gotten a good-for-you rap in recent years. Paleo and Bulletproof diet devotees are all about it — and they’re not all wrong about its beneficial qualities.
First off, coconut oil is natural and plant-based, appealing attributes if you’re trying to eat a less-processed diet. Secondly, some of the fatty acids in this oil are medium-chain triglycerides, thought to elevate HDL cholesterol (the good kind), important for staving off heart disease. MCTs may also rev metabolism, theoretically leading to weight loss.
MORE: Is It Time to Ditch Your Whole30 Diet?
However, the studies of the early 2000s that brought the benefits of MCTs to light have been wildly misinterpreted and used to trumpet coconut oil as a superfood. Those researchers used a specially designed 100 percent MCT oil — not coconut oil, which has a much lower percentage of MCTs. As TIME reported, they do not think coconut oil belongs in the pantheon of healthy foods.
Many doctors and nutritionists agree. “AHA got this right,” says Dr. Dennis Goodman, a board-certified cardiologist and lipidologist and director of integrative medicine at New York University. “Yes, there are good-for-you things in coconut oil, but they’re not enough to make it healthy. AHA is just now highlighting the fact that coconut oil has a very high saturated fat content, and we know saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol, which isn’t good for your heart. Even though coconut oil has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol, that’s not going to stop LDL cholesterol from going up.”
Goodman is actually a big proponent of dietary fat, even some saturated sources like grass-fed beef. He says 5 to 10 percent of your diet should, in fact, be fat. “Fats are very important for the body—for making hormones, which make cells,” he says. “If you consume no fat, you’ll be at risk for all sorts of health issues. But if you have a choice, you are much better off with unsaturated fats because they don’t raise LDL.” He suggests nuts, avocados, and wild-caught salmon as solid sources of unsaturated fats.
ALSO: Is the Paleo Diet for You?
Still, some experts believe AHA has gone overboard in vilifying saturated fat. “The demonization of both saturated fat and sugar was dependent on the opinions of a few, and both of these recommendations misrepresented the data,” says Dr. James DiNicolantonio, cardiovascular researcher at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, and author of The Salt Fix. “In other words, there was never proof that cutting saturated fat or salt in the diet would reduce cardiovascular events. That said, it’s still important to eat an overall well-balanced diet focused on whole foods, and I do think overconsuming foods high in saturated fat can negatively impact health.”
DiNicolantonio does not recommend eating coconut oil, for the same reasons Goodman gives, but he’s worried about what we’re choosing instead, namely omega-6-rich seed oils like canola. “As I’ve written about in BMJ, there seems to be harm — an increase in cardiovascular and all-cause mortality — if industrial omega-6 seed oils replace saturated fat,” he says. “So why AHA would focus on demonizing saturated fat and not omega-6 seeds oils makes little sense to me.”
It’s also important to view saturated fat within the context of the overall diet, DiNicolantonio believes, because what you eat along with saturated fat may matter. “The literature suggests that saturated fat is only particularly harmful if consumed on top of a diet high in refined carbohydrates,” he says. “This doesn’t mean you can cut the refined carbs and eat as many high-saturated-fat foods as you want. But it also means you shouldn’t fear these types of foods, especially if they are found as close to nature as possible, from pastured and organic sources.”
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