Coconut Oil

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

For part of the 20th century, coconut oil was the most important vegetable oil in the world. It can be produced in large quantities, is very stable, and has a melting point similar to that of milk fat. But the very quality that makes it stable and versatile also made it appear to be nutritionally undesirable. The fats that make up coconut oil are nearly 90% saturated (15% caprylic and capric, 45% lauric, 18% myristic, 10% palmitic, and just 8% monounsaturated oleic), which means that they raise blood cholesterol levels. During the 1970s and ’80s, manufacturers of processed foods therefore replaced coconut oil with less saturated, partly hydrogenated seed oils—which now turn out to contain undesirable trans fatty acids.