The popularity of MCT oil and coconut oil is skyrocketing these days. All the hype surrounding these oils has also confused some people, especially when they discover that both oils are made up of MCTs. People want to know how these two oils differ from one another.
What is the difference between MCT oil and coconut oil? The main factor that distinguishes these two oils is fatty acid composition. While coconut oil is a mixture of both medium-chain and long-chain fatty acids, MCT oil is made purely of medium-chain fatty acids.
A lot of misinformation exists regarding the differences between the two oils. To use these oils to their full capacity, it is important to steer clear of such myths. This article will explain the true differences between MCT oil and coconut oil as well as their respective uses in detail.
What is the Difference Between MCT Oil and Coconut Oil?
Simply put, coconut oil is made up of 60 percent MCTs in the following composition:
- 45% of lauric acid
- 6% of capric acid
- 7% of caprylic acid
While coconut oil is a mixture of both medium-chain and long-chain fatty acids, MCT oil purely consists of MCTs. MCT oil is an artificially produced product which is a derivative of coconut oil.
While coconut oil exists naturally, MCT oil is created by subjecting palm kernel oil or coconut oil to a procedure known as fractionation.
What is Fractionation for MCT Oil?
In the process of fractionation, different chemicals and filters are used to separate various fatty acids. The end product is a colorless, flavorless, and odorless oil known as MCT oil.
The primary goal of fractionation is simple: to keep smaller MCTs while getting rid of larger ones. This is why the large-sized triglycerides such as lauric acid (with 12 carbon chains) are filtered out while the smaller ones like caprylic acid (with 8 carbon chains) and caproic acid (with 6 carbon chains) persist.
Lauric acid, a type of fatty acid found in both MCT oil and coconut oil, is difficult for the body to absorb and to use for energy. Most of the time, the body is unable to break it down and instead stores it in the form of body fat. Therefore, MCT oil is preferred over coconut oil as a better source of energy.
What are MCTs?
If the difference between coconut oil and MCT oil lies in their concentration of MCTs, what specifically are MCTs?
MCTs, refer to the medium-chain triglycerides also known as medium-chain fatty acids. The word medium refers to the length of the chains present in the fatty acids. There are three different lengths of fatty acid chains: small, medium, and long. Most types of oils contain a mixture of all three types of fatty acids.
Medium-chain fatty acids are characterized by 6 to 12 chains of carbons which may include:
- C6: Caproic acid
- C8: Caprylic acid
- C10: Capric acid
- C12: Lauric acid
C12 is the most important fatty acid present in coconut oil. While C6 to C10 are also present in coconut oil, they are more predominant in other items like goat milk.
Which Oil Should I Use?
It is extremely beneficial to use both MCT oil and coconut oil. The MCTs provided by both these oils can be digested to support metabolism due to their heat-building or thermogenic effect.
The perks exclusive to coconut oil include its high smoke point (approximately 350 degrees Fahrenheit.) With its unique flavor and long shelf life, it is a perfect option for baking and cooking.
It works well in baked goods, creamy soups, and stir-fries. You may also add coconut oil to your daily coffee or smoothies. Coconut oil is also excellent for greasing pans.
The benefits and perks offered by coconut oil extend beyond the kitchen. Coconut oil is a great product for skin care and beauty. It is often used as a makeup remover or a moisturizer to rejuvenate dry skin.
MCT oil, on the other hand, does not share all of these properties. It has been specially manufactured for diet-related uses. It is designed to increase the amount of the fastest-absorbing fatty acids. What makes MCT oil less convenient than coconut oil is its high cost. If you are looking to get the most MCTs while staying within your budget, buying MCT oil might not be a good idea.
MCT Oil Versus Coconut Oil: Which One is the Best for the Keto Diet?
Even though MCT oil and coconut oil are not the same, a slight crossover still exists between them. To know which oil to use for keto, it is important to recall the basic differences between them.
For starters, MCT oil contains the purest forms of medium-chain triglycerides that get transferred to the liver as soon as they enter your body. Because they usually bypass the gallbladder, MCTs are considered an ideal source to get instant energy for both the brain and the body.
Coconut oil is also a rich source of MCTs but it has a tiny amount of long-chain triglycerides. These triglycerides take longer for the body to digest. One of the MCTs, lauric acid, is found in abundance in coconut oil. Despite being an MCT, lauric acid acts like a long-chain fatty acid which makes it difficult for the body to absorb coconut oil.
If you are looking for a quick energy boost for exercise, coconut oil is not the ideal option to choose. With large amounts of lauric acid and long-chain fatty acids, it may take this oil a long time to induce ketosis in your body.
Many experts suggest using coconut oil after completing a workout. Before beginning a workout, your body requires instant energy which is better supplied by MCT oil.
MCT oil is also a preferred choice for people following a keto diet mainly because it triggers ketosis at a faster rate than coconut oil.
Moreover, it is odorless and does not change the taste of your meals when added to foods and beverages. You can easily add it to your coffee, desserts, and even sushi. It is possible to consume some of the MCT oil directly from its jar because it has no smell and taste.
You may come across evidence that supports the use of lauric acid as the body absorbs it more rapidly than the long-chain fatty acids (LCTs.) However, keep in mind that lauric acid (C12) is awfully close to LCTs (13.) It becomes pretty clear why coconut oil might be less efficient when compared to MCT oil.
In short, MCT oil must be your oil of choice while following a ketogenic diet. It will not only fill the energy requirements of your body, but it will also ensure you achieve ketosis and maintain it successfully.
How do I use MCT Oil?
Because MCT oil is odorless and flavorless, you can incorporate it into your daily meal plans. You can add it in coffee, smoothies, or shakes, drizzle it on your salad at lunch, or coat your fish with it at dinner. If you like, you can also have a spoonful of it on its own.
Can I use MCT oil in place of coconut oil in cooking and baking?
While you can easily use coconut oil to cook or bake, this may not be possible with MCT oil. This is because MCT oil is a refined oil with a relatively low smoking point i.e. 284 degrees.
You may not be able to use it in all dishes, but it is safe to use in low-heat recipes such as marinades, oatmeal, or salad dressings. You can also add it to smoothies or coffee which require no heating. Remember that this oil will not add any additional flavor to your food.
Are coconut oil and MCT oil stored the same way?
Yes, both coconut oil and MCT oil are stored the same way. Keep them in a cool, dry place where there is no direct sunlight. Both types of oil do not require any refrigeration.
Both MCT oil and coconut oil possess many benefits. However, if you wish to speed up weight loss or gain lean mass benefits, MCT oil is preferred. This oil is your top pick if you are currently doing a keto diet or if you are looking to start keto.
You may still use coconut oil in your diet especially if you are a fan of its taste and aroma.
Remember that there are no disadvantages or dangers of using either type of oil as long as you are using them in the correct amounts and at the right times.