Coconut oil is a highly saturated vegetable fat that has a very good smoke point profile. This means that coconut oil can handle much higher heat than other oils. This is important because it is the oxidative changes from high heat that makes many oils bad for us. As a rule of thumb, if an oil is smoking in the pan the heat is too high. Recent studies on olive oil indicate that the beneficial poly-phenols in olive oil begin to get destroyed even below the smoke point. In a recent study from Barcelona in the journal of antioxidants, the effects of heat on extra virgin olive oil was studied. They found that at 120 Celsius 40 percent of the polyphenols were destroyed and data showed that at 170 Celsius up to 70 private percent of the polyphenols were degraded.
The results of the study showed that during the process of sautéing, there was a definite degradation of the polyphenols of EVOO. Time also played a role, the researchers found. It affected some of the phenols such as hydroxytyrosol, but the overall content of polyphenols was unaltered with the long term heat exposure to the oil. The team noted that at 120°C there was a 40 percent decline in the polyphenol content and a 75 percent decline at 170°C when compared to unheated raw EVOO. The team wrote in conclusion; however, “Cooked EVOO still meets the parameters of the EU’s health claim.”
Coconut Oil and Cholesterol
One problem with coconut oil though is that can raise cholesterol. It will typically raise both the good and the bad cholesterol but sometimes the bad LDL cholesterol seems to go up more. Organic coconut oil is good for your immune system, is antiviral, is a good alternative to butter, and handles high heat very well because it oxidizes at a higher temperature than most fats. So how does it compare to butter or lard? Because coconut oil is from a vegetable source it does not contain arachidonic acid. Arachidonic is a pro-inflammatory fatty acid. The classic anti-inflammatory diet which is mainly vegetarian is a low arachidonic acid diet.
Coconut Oil: Good or Bad?
So is coconut oil good for you or bad for you? It is a better alternative to lard or butter for frying in cooking at higher heat. It is not pro-inflammatory. I do not believe it is a health food though and unlike some proponents I do not think people should go out of their way to eat it, but instead use it as an alternative to butter and cook with it. Another great oil is avocado oil as it has a very high smoke point and has less effect on LDL and is better at raising your good HDL cholesterol. Avocado oil should be your first choice.
Domestic Sautéing with EVOO: Change in the Phenolic Profile, Julián Lozano-Castellón, Anna Vallverdú-Queralt, José Fernando Rinaldi de Alvarenga, Montserrat Illán, Xavier Torrado-Prat and Rosa Maria Lamuela-Raventós, Antioxidants 2020, 9(1), 77;