Search IconSearch

Olive Oil vs. Coconut Oil: Which Is Heart-Healthier?

Learn the differences between these two popular cooking oils

olive oil vs coconut oil

You’re trying to follow a diet that’s heart-healthy. You’re eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and nuts (go you!). But you’re not sure what the best choice is when it comes to cooking oils.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

You might have read that olive oil and coconut oil are good for your heart health. But is that true, and if so, which is better? Registered dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, sets the record straight.

Fat matters

With a quick look at the nutrition label, you might think that these two kinds of oils are very similar. Both olive oil and coconut oil have about the same number of calories (120 per tablespoon) and grams of fat (14 per tablespoon). But not all fat is created equal.

Breaking down the types of fat in these two oils paints a better picture of why olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which is regarded as the heart-healthiest diet, while coconut oil is not.

Unsaturated fat

When you dress a green salad in extra virgin olive oil, you’re getting mostly unsaturated fat – the kind you’ve probably heard called “good” or “healthy” fat. It’s the kind you also get from eating avocados and nuts.

Research links eating unsaturated fat to a number of heart benefits, including some protection against inflammation, lower levels of LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, and reduced blood pressure when they’re eaten in place of saturated fats.

There are two types of unsaturated fat: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fat (about 10 or 11 grams per tablespoon, compared to coconut oil’s 1 gram per tablespoon).

Polyunsaturated fats – which includes omega-3 and certain omega-6 fatty acids – are also beneficial for your heart. You’ll find these in fish, walnuts and flaxseeds.

Saturated fat

Coconut oil is much higher in saturated fat – one tablespoon has about 13 grams of saturated fat, compared to olive oil’s 1 gram.

Saturated fat is not linked with heart health benefits. In fact, studies show that it may contribute to an increase in LD cholesterol, which ups your risk for heart disease.

Some argue that saturated fat has also been shown to raise HDL (good) cholesterol, which maintains the right ratio of cholesterol levels. More research is needed.

“We don’t recommend completely avoiding saturated fat, but we do recommend swapping them out for mono- or polyunsaturated fats when you can,” Patton says.

Opt for less-processed oils

With so many options on the grocery store shelf, it can be hard to know what’s best to buy. Generally, extra virgin or unrefined oils are the least processed and pack the most benefits.


Extra virgin olive oil, for example, has more beneficial antioxidants than regular or light olive oil and is best used in dressings, dips and marinades. Be sure to keep it away from heat, light and air to preserve its quality. Refined olive oil has a more neutral flavor and makes for a better all-purpose cooking oil, but it contains fewer antioxidants.

Coconut oil also comes in refined and unrefined varieties. Unrefined, or virgin, coconut oil has more antioxidants and a stronger coconut flavor than refined coconut oil, which undergoes more processing to neutralize the taste and make it more suitable for high-temperature cooking.

Watch how much oil you’re consuming

Remember, many of the other foods we eat have fat in them, so it’s important to control our intake of added fats like oils. “Even healthier oils like olive oil can add up quickly,” Patton says.

Aim to keep your fat intake between 25%-35% of you daily calories, and to prioritize healthy unsaturated fats.

It’s recommended that saturated fat – which comes not just from coconut oil but also from foods like meat, cheese and other dairy products – account for no more than 10% of your daily calories (or 6% if you have high cholesterol). That’s about 22 grams of saturated fat a day (or 13 grams, if you have high cholesterol) for someone who eats about 2,000 calories per day.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Four pieces of cooked chicken in an air fryer
January 22, 2024/Nutrition
Are Air Fryers Healthy?

The popular cooking method can help you cut down on fat without losing the flavor and texture of your favorite foods

assorted vessels of olive oil on a wooden table with olives in spoon
January 16, 2024/Nutrition
6 Major Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

EVOO is full of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, both of which aid your body in multiple ways

person at grocery store reading oil label
October 3, 2023/Nutrition
Seed Oils: Are They Actually Toxic?

Often found in ultra-processed foods, these oils can cause inflammation and diseases

Closeup of a lunch box with potato chips and a donut, food with transfat content.
June 5, 2023/Nutrition
Trans Fat Has Been Banned, but That Doesn’t Mean You’re Free From It

Trace amounts of trans fat can still lurk in your foods, and they can add up

Rosemary oil in an essentials oil vial with rosemary clippings in the background.
March 30, 2023/Skin Care & Beauty
Growth Market: How Rosemary Oil Can Help Your Hair

Studies show that the herby oil can lead to longer, healthier hair

Cooking oil being poured.
January 17, 2023/Nutrition
Choosing and Using Cooking Oils: What To Use and When

The best cooking oils contain healthier fats, and EVOO wins best in show

Variety of cheese.
January 3, 2023/Nutrition
Is Cheese Good for You?

Moderation is key: A good source of calcium and protein, but it’s also high in calories and sodium

Black seed of cumin in a scoop on tabletop sitting by a vial of oil with dropper suspended above.
November 29, 2022/Nutrition
What Is Black Seed Oil?

An extract from seeds produced by the fruit of an ancient plant

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims