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Coconut oil vs. Butter

by (1665)
Updated about 17 hours ago
Created February 23, 2010 at 3:26 PM

I saw tubs of coconut oil going really cheap the other day. I'm pretty sure it is refined, but not hydrogenated. As it's cheaper than the homemade ghee I've been using, I thought I would buy some.

I have two questions though:

  1. Is refined coconut oil bad for you, as opposed to virgin coconut oil?
  2. Does coconut oil have a more paleo fatty-acid profile than butter? Why do people use it instead of butter, when it is usually more expensive?

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78417 · March 05, 2011 at 6:20 AM

Oops I don't know why I typed extra virgin olive oil, I meant extra virgin coconut oil lol.

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25467 · February 19, 2011 at 6:04 AM

butyric acids in butter do get converted to omega 3's and that is only if you have the correct microfilm and flora in your gut first. Once your leaky gut is corrected butter is tolerated well..........but in the beginning you'd do well to stay clear of it.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
25467 · February 19, 2011 at 6:02 AM

rhe above comment is spot on.....i tell all my patients to try to avoid butter but if the must go with ghee or pastured butter. Coconut oil is the perfect paleo oil. Palm oil behind it then ghee.......good quality with all casein and whey removed. EVOO is not one I recommend either. Low smoke point and too many omega six's for my taste......Macademia nut oil is really better but expensive and hard to find......but you cant cook with it.

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2399 · February 15, 2011 at 9:48 AM

Well since you mentioned it. Studies ?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094
78417 · February 14, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Butter does contain significant casein. It's interesting to note that all dairy products except ghee contain casomorphines which are addicting. Some people are more addicted to casomorphines than others. And this is why I avoid all dairy. Gluten has addictive opiods in it too and you don't see anyone paleo eating that! I think Extra Virgin Olive Oil is much better. No addiction, it's actually paleo, doesn't cover up taste of foods, gives better energy and health benefits than butter.

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393 · February 03, 2011 at 7:34 PM

I checked again, and the difference between coconut oil and butter is not so big even in non pastured butter because butter is mostly saturated fat and has relatively little polyunsaturated fats like omega 6. however, this is for quantities like a tablespoon or two. Anything more and the contribution to your fatty acid balance will be significant.

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393 · February 03, 2011 at 7:31 PM

Another reason why some Paleos avoid butter is because it is usually extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids and low on omega 3 ones. Butter coming from exclusively grassfed cows may have a better balance of these fats, but I haven't seen the numbers.

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2633 · February 25, 2010 at 8:30 PM

So Jon, um, where did you get it and is there any left?

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1972 · February 25, 2010 at 2:45 AM

thanks for the correction! Amazing that they saturate the last 8% of unsaturated coconut oil.

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1665 · February 24, 2010 at 11:44 PM

I did a heat test once I'd bought it. It starts melting below 30 degrees centigrade, so not hydrogenated :-)

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1665 · February 24, 2010 at 9:21 PM

Thanks for your comment, it was very informative. It is however possible to hydrogenate coconut oil, due to the small amount of UFAs in it. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_oil#Hydrogenated.

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399 · February 24, 2010 at 6:30 PM

Coconut oil is only about 90% saturated fat.

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1972 · February 24, 2010 at 6:12 PM

I don't think you can hydrogenate a saturated fat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_fat For coconut oil, it seems people are looking for ones made with the least amount of heat so that non of the oil or nutrients are denatured.

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6
1665 · February 24, 2010 at 1:45 AM

Thanks, I checked with the importer, which is a margarine producer. Basically they're selling what they overstocked. They use it in their non-transfat margarine, and are adamant that it contains no transfat. They get it refined so that the taste won't shine through their margarine.

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2485 · February 23, 2010 at 7:15 PM

From what I can gather, some Paleos prefer to avoid butter due to the dairy association. In my opinion, this is somewhat misguided given that the problem with dairy is the lactose (and possibly casein protein). Butter, by definition, is milk fat with all but trace amounts of lactose and protein removed. I imagine that clarified butter has even less lactose and protein since it's made by separating out the butter fat from the remaining milk solids.

For me, I use coconut oil as a convenience and for variety. Whenever I try to saute with unclarified butter, I usually end up burning it and I don't like the flavor that results. I've never gotten around to clarifying a large batch of butter to keep around or I'd probably use that instead. Also, to my tastes, coconut oil has less of a flavor than butter. I like the flavor of butter but it's nice to some times let the natural flavor of the food being cooked stand out and I find that coconut oil is better for this.

Here are links to the nutrition data for unsalted butter versus coconut oil. Nothing stands out to me in this data to favor one over the other but this data is a little incomplete and I imagine varies drastically based on specific preparations (for example, what's the omega 6:3 profile for butter from grass fed cattle?).

The paleolithic landscape was a lot different from the modern landscape but I have a hard time imagining that my paleolithic ancestors were chomping on any coconuts given the locations where modern coconuts are indigenous. With both butter and coconut oil, you're talking about foods that weren't available to my ancestors until neolithic times and in both cases the fat is obtained by separating out the sugar content. It's hard for me to see a compelling argument for one versus the other but I'm open-minded on the issue!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094
78417 · March 05, 2011 at 6:20 AM

Oops I don't know why I typed extra virgin olive oil, I meant extra virgin coconut oil lol.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
25467 · February 19, 2011 at 6:02 AM

rhe above comment is spot on.....i tell all my patients to try to avoid butter but if the must go with ghee or pastured butter. Coconut oil is the perfect paleo oil. Palm oil behind it then ghee.......good quality with all casein and whey removed. EVOO is not one I recommend either. Low smoke point and too many omega six's for my taste......Macademia nut oil is really better but expensive and hard to find......but you cant cook with it.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094
78417 · February 14, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Butter does contain significant casein. It's interesting to note that all dairy products except ghee contain casomorphines which are addicting. Some people are more addicted to casomorphines than others. And this is why I avoid all dairy. Gluten has addictive opiods in it too and you don't see anyone paleo eating that! I think Extra Virgin Olive Oil is much better. No addiction, it's actually paleo, doesn't cover up taste of foods, gives better energy and health benefits than butter.

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393 · February 03, 2011 at 7:34 PM

I checked again, and the difference between coconut oil and butter is not so big even in non pastured butter because butter is mostly saturated fat and has relatively little polyunsaturated fats like omega 6. however, this is for quantities like a tablespoon or two. Anything more and the contribution to your fatty acid balance will be significant.

8f08fb03fc5c2f44b7d5357e8a3ab1c5
393 · February 03, 2011 at 7:31 PM

Another reason why some Paleos avoid butter is because it is usually extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids and low on omega 3 ones. Butter coming from exclusively grassfed cows may have a better balance of these fats, but I haven't seen the numbers.

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18412 · February 14, 2011 at 4:53 PM

I use both virgin coconut oil and ghee (clarified butter fat) for cooking. Both have fantastic nutritional benefits, so I like to mix it up as much as I can.

Coconut oil is available as virgin or refined. I use the unrefined virgin oil. It retains the natural nutrients and taste fantastic, even right off of the spoon. One of the benefits of refined coconut oil is that it has a slightly higher smoke point since many of the 'impurities' (if that's what they wanna call it) have been removed. I find that interesting, because all the brands of virgin coconut oil I have used taste perfectly pure and melt to a crystal clear water appearance. You would think that cooking in coconut oil would taint the food too much with flavor. Surprisingly, it doesn't. Eggs taste amazing in virgin coconut oil. So do vegetables and meats. To answer the question directly though, refined is not bad for you. But unrefined has many additional benefits that you wouldn???t want to miss out on.

Butter is ok to cook in, but as mentioned in other comments already, the smoke point is lower because of the milk solids. For low to med heat, butter is fine, but you can't cook with it for long periods of time on high heat, or it will eventually burn. This is where ghee comes into play. What a Godsend! Homemade ghee is extremely easy to make, and the cost is cheaper than a quality virgin coconut oil. It is literally just the cost of butter. Personally, I'll go buy 2 pounds of grass fed pasture butter for $10 specifically to make ghee. All you do is melt it in a sauce pan over low-med heat. It takes about 15 minutes before the milk solids completely separate and rise to the top. Scoop off the foamy solids with a spoon and discard it. Do this until all you have is the oil in the pan with some solids at the bottom. It will be bubbling. Let it simmer on low until the bubbling subsides a bit. Turn off the heat and let cool. Pour through a strainer or cheesecloth into a jar and voila! Homemade grass fed ghee! What are the benefits? A very high cooking temp smoke point. You can literally fry things in ghee and take comfort in the fact that the oil is nutritious butter fat and a highly stable saturated fat. The ghee flavor is much more subtle than butter, but still very delicious. Also, ghee doesn???t splatter as much as other oils. It doesn???t make a big mess on your stove or in your oven.

I switch back and forth between coconut oil and ghee, and use only these oils exclusively to cook with.

Cheers,

Jack Kronk

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1972 · February 24, 2010 at 6:30 PM

I think we can risk over-simplifying things by giving the impression that they are nutritionally the same. Their fatty acid profile is very different even if they are both highly saturated. Coconut oil has lots of MCTs, butter is a high source of butyrate, etc. Favoring one over the other would depend on an individual's requirements.

Even if butter wasn't available in paleo times the question still arises as to how similar it is to other animal fats. Then the next question would be: did non-paleo healthy cultures eat large amounts of either fat, and the answer from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (and elsewhere) appears to be yes.

Refined: clarified butter, or ghee, would be refined also. You can't hydrogenate a saturated fat. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_fat. Trans fats took off in part because everyone was scared of saturated. For coconut oil, it seems people are looking for ones made with the least amount of heat so that non of the oil or nutrients are denatured. This seems like a generally good approach to processed food, but I have no idea how important it really is.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
25467 · February 19, 2011 at 6:04 AM

butyric acids in butter do get converted to omega 3's and that is only if you have the correct microfilm and flora in your gut first. Once your leaky gut is corrected butter is tolerated well..........but in the beginning you'd do well to stay clear of it.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9
1972 · February 25, 2010 at 2:45 AM

thanks for the correction! Amazing that they saturate the last 8% of unsaturated coconut oil.

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1665 · February 24, 2010 at 9:21 PM

Thanks for your comment, it was very informative. It is however possible to hydrogenate coconut oil, due to the small amount of UFAs in it. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_oil#Hydrogenated.

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399 · February 23, 2010 at 11:19 PM

Refining usually implies hydrogenation for coconut oil. Check the label for trans fat before using it.

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2633 · February 25, 2010 at 8:30 PM

So Jon, um, where did you get it and is there any left?

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1665 · February 24, 2010 at 11:44 PM

I did a heat test once I'd bought it. It starts melting below 30 degrees centigrade, so not hydrogenated :-)

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399 · February 24, 2010 at 6:30 PM

Coconut oil is only about 90% saturated fat.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9
1972 · February 24, 2010 at 6:12 PM

I don't think you can hydrogenate a saturated fat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_fat For coconut oil, it seems people are looking for ones made with the least amount of heat so that non of the oil or nutrients are denatured.

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6
1665 · February 24, 2010 at 1:45 AM

Thanks, I checked with the importer, which is a margarine producer. Basically they're selling what they overstocked. They use it in their non-transfat margarine, and are adamant that it contains no transfat. They get it refined so that the taste won't shine through their margarine.

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20 · February 14, 2011 at 4:26 PM

You really do want to choose virgin coconut oil over refined coconut oil - there are number of scientific studies documenting substantial compromise of the healthful qualities that virgin coconut oil has to offer when it is refined. BTW - refined is NOT the same as hydrogenation - hydrogenation is the process of forcing a polyunsaturated fatty acid molecule into becoming a saturated fatty acid molecule, a.k.a. a fake, synthetic saturated fat that the body is incapable of breaking down or using nutritionally (unlike organic, natural sources of saturated fats). Since coconut oil has very little polyunsaturated fat content (its like less that 2% of the fatty acid profile), it is not commonly hydrogenated - oils high in polyunsaturates like soybean, safflower, canola oil are commonly hydrogenated and should be eliminated from the food supply. I love virgin coconut oil - it was instrumental in helping me survive a restricted diet resulting from a bunch of digestive disorders. It regulated my whacked out blood sugar and was supportive in the healing process. FYI - There is one butter substitute on the market that features virgin coconut oil as the first ingredient - ???Melt??? is the only butter substitute I eat ??? it???s really rich and creamy, organic with a great oil blend, and doesn???t have artificial colors, weird chemicals, or garbage oils. It???s the real deal for great taste and optimal nutrition in dietary fat. You can check them out at www.meltbutteryspread.com.

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2399 · February 15, 2011 at 9:48 AM

Well since you mentioned it. Studies ?

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0 · July 17, 2012 at 11:35 PM

References to virgin over refined coconut oil, Cygnia?

And the ingredients in Melt include, and I quote directly from their website: "...Organic canola oil, Organic Hi-Oleic sunflower oil..." With those ingredients, I will guarantee you that even refined coconut oil is a hell of a lot better for you than Melt.

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