From coffee to salad dressings, it seems like countless ketogenic diet recipes call for coconut oil or MCT oil. But what’s the difference? Is one any better than the other?
Both coconut oil and MCT oil are oils derived from coconuts, yet they have different consistencies and uses. If you take a little time to understand the properties of these oils and how they’re made, you’ll have a much clearer idea of when to use which product.
The Keto Diet and Medium-chain Triglycerides
The keto diet is all about hitting the state of ketosis in which the body uses ketones rather than glucose as energy. If you consume medium-chain triglycerides (a specific type of fat) in the absence of carbohydrates, your body will convert the MCTs into ketones and use them as fuel. Because of this process and the unique properties of MCTs, increasing intake potentially:
- Increases energy
- Sharpens mental clarity
- Increases metabolism
- Helps keep the gut healthy
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels
Coconuts, as well as palm kernels, naturally contain an abundance of MCTs. In turn, many keto recipes call for coconut oil or MCT oil to promote ketosis.
How the Oils are Made
As mentioned earlier, there are some similarities between coconut oil and MCT oil, but they’re made through different processes.
- Coconut oil is an oil made from the meat of a coconut. The meat of a coconut is one of the best sources for MCTs, being around 54 percent MCT fat. Coconut oil also contains LCTs, or long-chain triglycerides; these fats take more time to break down, and the effects of these oils tend to take more time to affect the body.
- MCT oil is a fully concentrated form of MCTs that comes from coconut oil and palm kernel oil. The producers refine the raw oils and extract the pure MCTs, leaving behind the other compounds like LCTs. The refined oil doesn’t harden the same way that coconut oil does, and while both coconut and MCT oil have significant benefits for the body, MCT oil tends to be the most versatile. MCT oil contains smaller fatty acids than what is in unrefined coconut oil, so the oil affects the body much quicker.
When to Use Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has a variety of uses, from cooking to cosmetic purposes. When cooking, you can substitute your cooking oils for coconut oil. Coconut oil can be used when frying foods and even baking. This oil is incredibly versatile in the kitchen, making it an excellent addition to your diet. While not in a concentrated form, coconut oil has MCTs in it, meaning you’ll still experience many of the benefits.
Coconut oil can also be used to make skin creams for moisturizing your skin. You can use it in your hair to promote healthy hair growth, to make deodorant, and much more. Coconut oil is a tremendously versatile oil that is great when you need something with a bit more texture. Coconut oil hardens at room temperature, making it ideal for uses when you want to make a firmer cream.
When to Use MCT Oil
MCT oil is odorless and tasteless, so you can add it to virtually anything. One thing to be mindful of is that MCT oil has a low smoke point and does not do well when frying or sauteing foods; it’s best to add MCT oil to a sauteed meal after cooking.
MCT oil is an excellent addition to morning coffee and smoothies, easy to add to any beverage, and will give you quick benefits that truly help to kick start your day. In the afternoon, adding over your salad or vegetables is another way to get all the significant effects of MCT.
Using MCT to make a tincture is another common use of the oil. As MCT oil is odorless and flavorless, it makes an excellent carrier oil for many herbal remedies. It has grown popular for those who seek the benefits of CBD, as the MCT oil helps improve the overall effects of the CBD tincture.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
If you’re still wondering which option, coconut oil or MCT oil, is healthier, the truth is there’s no clear answer. Both products contain a plethora of MCTs, making them useful for hitting ketosis. At the end of the day, it all comes down to your personal preferences and how you intend to use the oil. While MCT oil is more concentrated with MCTs, coconut oil has a thick texture that’s desired for many applications.