What’s the Difference Between Coconut Oil and MCT Oil?

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Much like bacon, avocados, eggs, and grass-fed beef, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil has transitioned from fad to fact in terms of what’s required of most modern primal lifestyles. For example, MCT oil is used daily in bulletproof coffee recipes, smoothies, and salad dressings.

So What is MCT Oil?

First, let’s get things straight. MCT oil is not found in raw nature–at least not without a little processing. It’s created through a man-made process called fractionation that involves extracting MCTs from coconut or palm kernel oil. This process results in a highly concentrated source of MCTs in the form of oil. MCT oil is a noncarbohydrate alternative to conventional long-chain triglyceride (LCT) oils such as soy, corn, safflower and sunflower seed oils. Unlike conventional oils, MCT oils are easily oxidized and absorbed as fuel with little tendency to deposit as body fat. MCT’s require a minimal reaction from the liver to convert directly into fuel in the form of ketones, one of the brain’s two main fuel sources. MCTs are also an outstanding source of quick, high energy and have been effective in the treatment of various medical conditions in infants and small children including epilepsy and cystic fibrosis.

For the primal community or anyone on a ketogenic or low-carb diet, a 1-2 tablespoon daily dose of MCT oil is an ideal source of energy that assists in the regulation of blood sugar and insulin and can be a fast and gut-friendly way to get an extra dose of healthy fat into your body.

What About Coconut Oil?

Trace amounts of MCTs can be found in butter, but the richest source is coconut oil, and to a lesser extent, palm kernel oil. However, most coconut oils only contain about 5-6% of useful shorter chain MCT’s (C8 and C10), along with an abundant amount (50+%) of C12 or lauric acid. Lauric acid is a healthy fuel source but acts more like an LCT in the way it is metabolized by the body. Lauric acid gets processed by your liver, which results in a slower conversion to ketones that can be used for energy. Shorter chain MCT’s, on the other hand, are converted into energy very quickly.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for the quickest way to fuel your brain and body and reduce cravings, look for pure MCT oil with the shortest chains (C8 and C10). These are great supplements for coffee, smoothies, dressings, and unheated sauces, but should not be used for cooking due to their relatively low boiling points. Here are three great options:

If you’re looking for similar metabolic benefits without the fast energy and immediate cognitive gains -or- if you’re in the hunt for a healthy cooking oil to support your primal lifestyle or low-carb diet needs, go for 100% pure coconut oil. When buying coconut oil, aim for extra virgin, cold-pressed, and/or organic and keep in mind that “unrefined” oil will have a stronger coconut taste and lower boiling point. “Refined” coconut oil is often flavorless, odorless and will hold up better with sautees and high-heat cooking. Some of the best coconut oil options include:

What’s your go-to MCT oil? Share it in the comments below.

About the author: A few years back, I was living the primal life. Three kids later, I slipped off track. Follow my journey back to a healthy, happy, primal lifestyle.

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