Coconut Oil vs. MCT Oil & the Benefits of Each

Coconut Oil vs. MCT Oil & the Benefits of Each


Coconut oil and MCT oil have been at the forefront of health discussions for some time now. 

As we all aim to make healthier choices in life, understanding the nature, benefits, and potential differences between these two popular oils becomes necessary. It’s not just a battle of popularity, but rather a comparison to help you make an informed decision about which oil best suits your lifestyle and health needs.

Coconut oil, treasured for its myriad health benefits, has been a staple in many cultures for centuries. On the other hand, MCT oil, often considered the concentrated form of certain beneficial components of coconut oil, has been gaining traction for its role in energy production and potential neurological benefits. 

In this article, we aim to dissect the characteristics of these two oils, their benefits, and how they compare against each other.

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of mature coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. It's been extensively used in tropical regions, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, not just for culinary purposes, but also for its medicinal properties

What Are the Benefits of Coconut Oil?

The oil is well known for its high saturated fat content, almost 80 to 90 percent, which is predominantly made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) — about 54% MCTs. It's this high concentration of MCT that’s put coconut oil in the limelight.

But what's so great about MCTs? Unlike long-chain triglycerides, MCTs are easier to digest and are rapidly absorbed by your body. As a result, they’re quickly converted into energy instead of being stored as fat, making coconut oil a favorite among athletes and people following a ketogenic diet.

Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, a type of MCT known for its immune-supporting properties. Lauric acid may help support your cells during exposure to bacteria, thereby supporting your immune function. Coconut oil has been linked to improved heart health due to its potential to maintain HDL cholesterol levels already within a healthy range.

In skincare, coconut oil is highly valued for its moisturizing effects. Its rich content of fatty acids allows it to penetrate the skin deeply, providing hydration and supporting skin elasticity.

Moreover, coconut oil's potential benefits extend to brain health. Some research suggests that MCTs can support the proper production of ketones, which serve as an alternate energy source for the brain, thereby promoting positive brain health and cognitive function. 

What Is MCT Oil?

MCT oil is a supplement made from a type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides. While coconut oil provides a large amount of MCTs, MCT oil is much more concentrated with these fats. While coconut oil usually contains around 54% MCTS, fractionated coconut oil (also called MCT oil), can contain up to 100% MCTS.

In fact, most MCT oils are actually made from coconut oil. Producing MCT oil involves extracting the MCTs from coconut or palm kernel oil through a process known as fractionation.This procedure isolates the medium-chain triglycerides, leaving behind the long-chain triglycerides found in greater quantities in natural oils. 

The result is a pure, concentrated source of MCTs, primarily caprylic and capric acids. These are more efficiently metabolized in the body than other types of fats, providing quick energy and potentially aiding in weight management.

What Are the Benefits of MCT Oil?

One of the key benefits of MCT oil is its role in energy production. Because MCTs are rapidly absorbed and transported to the liver, they can be quickly converted into ketones, a preferred energy source for both the brain and muscles. As such, MCT oil has become a very popular supplement among athletes and those following a ketogenic diet.

In addition to providing quick energy, MCT oil has also been suggested to support gut health. It may help maintain balance in the gut microbiota, supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Since gut health plays such a crucial role in overall well-being, MCT oil could be a very effective way to support your broader health goals. 

How Does the Composition of Coconut Oil Compare to MCT Oil?

Coconut Oil vs. MCT Oil & the Benefits of Each

As we know now, both coconut oil and MCT oil contain an abundance of medium-chain triglycerides. However, the composition and concentration of these fats differ significantly.

Coconut oil is approximately 50 percent lauric acid, a 12-carbon MCT, while the remainder is a combination of other MCTs and a few long-chain triglycerides. While lauric acid is technically an MCT, it behaves more like a long-chain fatty acid in the body due to its longer carbon chain. That means it's digested and absorbed more slowly than the shorter-chain MCTs.

On the other hand, MCT oil is a more concentrated source of caprylic and capric acids, both 8- and 10-carbon MCTs, respectively. These MCTs are metabolized more rapidly than lauric acid, providing quicker energy and potentially more efficient fat burning. So in this sense, MCT oil can be seen as a more targeted approach to reaping the benefits of MCTs.

In short: while coconut oil offers the benefits of lauric acid alongside other components, MCT oil provides a concentrated source of the quickest, most efficiently metabolized MCTs. 

Is There a Clear Winner Between Coconut Oil and MCT Oil?

When comparing coconut oil to MCT oil, it's essential to remember that each brings its unique benefits and uses, depending on your health goals.

Coconut oil, with its high concentration of lauric acid, offers slower-burning, sustained energy. It's also heat stable, making it an excellent option for cooking. The diverse fatty acid composition of coconut oil can contribute to a balanced diet, and it’s a natural, whole food that’s easily accessible and affordable.

MCT oil, on the other hand, stands out for its concentration of rapidly metabolized MCTs. It provides quick energy, making it an ideal supplement for those who need a fast energy source, like athletes or people following a ketogenic diet. Additionally, it may offer specific benefits for gut health and cognitive function. However, MCT oil is not suitable for cooking due to its low smoke point.

So, is there a clear winner? 

The answer truly depends on your individual needs and goals. Both oils offer significant health benefits and can have a place in a balanced diet. The key lies in understanding what each oil offers and choosing according to your personal health goals and lifestyle needs.

Incorporating Healthy Fats With iwi life

At iwi life, we believe in the power of nature and its potent ingredients in promoting wellness. This belief aligns perfectly with the benefits offered by healthy oils like coconut and MCT oil.

Just as these oils can contribute to well-being, so can our plant-based omega-3 supplements. Our algae-derived products, high in DHA and EPA, support various health aspects, including brain function, eye health,joint support, and heart health, while also supporting a sustainable lifestyle. They provide a great source of omega-3s for those aiming to maintain balanced nutrition, just like the beneficial fats found in coconut and MCT oils.

By understanding the unique health benefits of different food sources and selecting those that suit our individual needs, we can all achieve a more balanced and healthier lifestyle. That's the core philosophy at iwi life – to support your wellness journey in the most natural and sustainable way possible.

Coconut vs. MCT: Which Reigns Supreme?

In the great debate between coconut oil and MCT oil, the verdict isn't as straightforward as declaring a single victor. Both oils have unique benefits and uses, and they can both contribute positively to your health in different ways.

Coconut oil offers the benefits of a diverse fatty acid profile, including lauric acid, which is known to offer sustained energy. On the other hand, MCT oil is a quick source of energy, a potential aid for weight management, and may support gut health and brain function.

In the end, your individual health goals, lifestyle, and dietary needs should dictate which oil you choose to incorporate into your regimen. As always, balance is key.

And remember, if you're looking to enhance your diet even further, consider adding iwi life's plant-based omega-3 supplements to your routine. Our sustainably farmed, algae-derived supplements complement a diet that can include beneficial oils, offering support for your overall health and wellness. 

Start your wellness journey with iwi life today!


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Lauric Acid | C12H24O2 | CID 3893 | NCBI Bookshelf

Ketogenesis | NCBI Bookshelf

Fractionation | ScienceDirect Topics

Medium Chain Triglycerides Enhances Exercise Endurance Through the Increased Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Metabolism | PMC

Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals | NCBI Bookshelf

The Dietary Food Components Capric Acid and Caprylic Acid Inhibit Virulence Factors in Candida albicans Through Multitargeting | Pubmed

Everything You Need To Know About Cooking With Coconut Oil | Today

A Review of Ketogenic Diet and Lifestyle | PMC

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