In recent years, coconut oil has gained popularity and is used in both cosmetics and food. It comes from the pulp (white flesh) of the coconut. It is found in many processed food products, and sometimes appears as copra oil in the ingredients list.

Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat, which is considered harmful to heart health. However, most of its saturated fat is linoleic acid, which has little effect on blood cholesterol. Because of its high saturated fat content, coconut oil solidifies at room temperature and can replace butter or margarine in some recipes.

Coconut oil is sold as virgin or refined. Virgin coconut oil has a distinctly coconut taste, which complements certain types of pastries and Asian dishes. It also contains several antioxidants. Its smoke point* is low (between 140° C and 175° C, or 285° F and 350° F), like butter (150° C or 300° F), so cook with it on low or medium heat. The taste of refined coconut oil is neutral and its smoke point is slightly higher (185 ° C or 375 ° F).

Studies suggest that virgin coconut oil is better for your cardiovascular health than other sources of saturated fat. However, sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil, are still your best heart-healthy choices.

In summary, if you want to use coconut oil to add a tropical taste to your dishes, use it sparingly and only occasionally.


Research and writing: Diabetes Québec team of health care professionals

Adapted from: Julie St-Jean (Summer 2015), “Huile de noix de coco, à mettre au menu?” Plein Soleil, Diabète Québec, p. 18.

May 2017 (updated on July 2018)