MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil: Differences, Uses & Benefits
As people have started to learn the fact that fat isn’t the main culprit in their foods as previously thought to be, it has made various high fat diets such as Keto more famous. This, in turn, has increased the popularity of MCT (Medium-chain triglyceride) oil and coconut oil, both of which have been deemed healthy sources of fat.
However, is that really true? And is one better than the other? Read on to find out.
Although there is a slight overlap between the characteristics these two oils, both are made up of different compounds which give each a unique set of uses and benefits.
What Are MCTs?
To understand both of these oils, it is important to first understand what MCTs are. Medium-chain triglycerides are a type of saturated fat. They occur as a natural component in many foods such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil, as well as dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt.
Three fatty acids and a glycerol molecule make up a triglyceride. These fatty acids are made up of carbon atoms that are linked together in chains at varied lengths.
Most fatty acids that are found in dietary triglyceride contain more than 12 carbon atoms; making them long-chain triglyceride (LCTs). In contrast, the fatty acids found in MCTs contain 6-12 carbon atoms; making them medium-length triglyceride.
It’s this difference in the chain length of fatty acids that make MCTs unique. Most common dietary sources of fat, such as olive oil, fish, seeds, nuts, avocado, etc. are comprised of LCTs.
However, unlike LCTs, MCTs do not require enzymes of bile acids for digestion and absorption. This makes it possible for MCTs to go straight to the liver, where they can be rapidly digested and absorbed for either a quick dose of energy or to be turned into ketones.
Ketones are compounds that are produced by your liver when it breaks down a lot of fat. These compounds can be used by your body for energy instead of glucose or sugar. To add to that, it is less likely for MCTs to be stored as fat in the body, which may help promote weight loss better than other fatty acids.
There are four types of MCTs:
- caproic acid — 6 carbon atoms
- caprylic acid — 8 carbon atoms
- capric acid — 10 carbon atoms
- lauric acid — 12 carbon atoms
However, some experts state MCT fatty acids as those which have a length of 6-10 atoms instead of 12. This is because lauric acid is digested and absorbed much slower than the other MCTs, and is often classified as an LCT because of it.
MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil
While both of these oils can be considered similar, there are some significant differences between them as well. Most importantly, the proportion and types of MCT molecules that they contain.
Coconut oil is one of the most versatile oils available. It can be used in everything from salad dressings to soup and baked goods, as well as coffee. Extracted from the kernel or meat of the coconut, coconut oil has many benefits that plenty of cultures have been learning on some level for centuries. There are various methods of extracting coconut oil, including unrefined and refined methods.
It is packed with healthy fats, more than 50% of which are MCTs. However, the ratio of MCTs in coconut oil is comprised highly of lauric acid, which places it on the tangent of LCTs. Nevertheless, it also gives it some powerful antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
Even though people are still skeptical about saturated fats, newer studies have shown that not only is coconut oil safe for us to consume, it can also be very healthy if used correctly.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
Some of the basic benefits of coconut oil include:
- The main fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which has anti bacterial properties. This acid can also kill deadly bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus.
- Additionally, it can kill the various other harmful bacteria and pathogens in the body.
- It also promotes heart health. In traditional Polynesian culture, the consumption of coconut products was associated with improved health which included significantly lower rates of heart disease.
- Although coconut oil is rich in saturated fats, it helps increase the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. This also contributes to the elimination of the “bad” LDL cholesterol from the body.
- Due to its antimicrobial properties, it can help prevent the spread of diseases, bacteria and even some viruses.
- Candida albicans, which is a fungus linked with yeast infection, can also be killed by lauric acid.
- Regular consumption of coconut oil can aid weight loss, especially targeting the fat around the waistline.
- When used topically, it can promote skin health by blocking out UV light and helping protect the skin from skin damage. However, it is still important to apply sunscreen while going out.
- Coconut oil can also be used to alleviate the symptoms of eczema. Since it is a great moisturizer, it can soothe dry and irritated skin conditions.
- Applying coconut oil to the hair can also result in shinier and healthier hair in the long run.
MCT oil is the purified extraction of coconut oil. The process of extracting this oil ensures that it contains a higher concentration of diverse MCTS (such as C8 and C10) compared to coconut oil. This concentrated form of fatty acids is a highly efficient source of energy.
Since MCT oil bypasses the normal process of fat digestion, it heads straight to the liver where it can be metabolized by the body quickly and converted into energy.
MCT oil has a far more discrete taste, which makes it a perfect addition to any sauces, soups, smoothies, salad dressings, pasta and even baked goods. People have lately started adding it to their teas and coffees to help stave off cravings and promote weight loss.
Benefits of MCT Oil
Some of the main benefits of MCT oil include:
- MCT oil can keep you feeling full better than coconut oil. The reason it is such a great way of supporting weight loss is because it is very satiating. So consuming MCT oil can help you consume lesser calories throughout the day.
- Studies show that MCT oil may be able to accelerate metabolism which can help the body burn fat for energy much more efficiently.
- It is a great addition to the early days of keto diets. Since it requires you to drastically reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume so that your body can start the process of burning ketones instead of carbs for energy, it can be very difficult to reach your required calorie and fat intake. Consuming MCT oil can help speed up this process by increasing the level of ketones in your blood, making the transition into ketosis much easier.
- It can also give you the much required boost of energy in your initial keto days when you feel a little sluggish.
- MCT oil may also help in improving cognitive function. The brain is mostly comprised of fats. So naturally, it is essential for you to consume healthy fats to perform at your optimal cognitive function. This makes MCT oil one of the best sources of brain-healthy food. Additionally, MCT supplementation can also help individuals with Alzheimer’s disease improve their memory to a certain extent; or slow down the onset of their condition.
- It also boosts your physical performance, making exercise much more easy and beneficial. This is due to the fact that the C8 and C10 MCTs are mainly used for energy. Since MCTs are an instant doze of energy, it makes perfect sense that they can help enhance your workout session and make you exercise for a longer period of time. It also significantly lowers bloods lactate, which causes muscle fatigue and perceived exertion in athletes.
- It is a common misconception that the primary cause of heart diseases is fat, but that isn’t true. Research suggests that MCT oil increases the size of LDL particles which improves cholesterol level. This further reduces the risk of heart disease.
- It can improve the regulation of blood sugar level and improve insulin sensitivity. Since obesity is one of the main reasons behind disrupted blood sugar levels, regular consumption of MCT oil can also help combat that.
Choosing Between MCT Oil & Coconut Oil?
Learning all the benefits may have made you even more confused about what fat to opt for, and that is fine. You don’t actually have to pick one and stick to it.
Both, MCT oil and coconut oil, have their own set of benefits and uses, and can be added to a balanced diet.
When to Pick MCT Oil?
MCT oil is more commonly known for its benefits in ketone production and weight loss. So if your main purpose is to lose weight by healthy means, then MCT oil is your best bet. This is especially true if you are opting for a low carb diet, as it will help you accomplish your calorie quota for the day. However, it can be a healthy addition to any kind of eating lifestyle that you may opt for. It can be mixed into a variety of food and beverages including hot cereals, soups, smoothies, sauces, pasta and even tea or coffee.
When to Pick Coconut Oil?
While coconut oil may not have the same weight loss benefits as MCT oil, it is still a healthy addition to your diet. Coconut oil has a high smoke point which makes it the ideal cooking oil for pan-frying and stir-frying. Overall, coconut oil is a much better option for cooking as it is healthy and can be used in all kinds of dishes while leaving traces of its own unique flavor in them.
Another fantastic use of coconut oil can be using it in beauty and skin care products. The strong antibacterial properties in lauric acid have been shown to help with the treatment of acne in human cells. In fact, extra-virgin coconut oil is a great moisturizer that can be applied directly to the skin on a regular basis.
However, whenever applying anything on your skin, make sure to do a patch test to check if it has any negative effects on the skin. If not, it is a great way to add hydration to your skin.
The bottom line is that MCT oil and coconut oil can both prove to be very beneficial for various purposes. However, the important part is to make sure you are aware of which oil has better use for what purpose.
Being a concentrated source of 100% MCT, MCT oil is a better option to add to your diet if your main goal is to boost energy and lose weight.
Whereas coconut oil consists of about 54% of MCT content and is best used for the purpose of cooking as well as beauty and skin care.
So just educate yourself on the benefits of both these oils, and learn to use them accordingly.