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MCT oil vs coconut oil and olive oil: which is better for your health?

There’s been a lot of buzz around which oils you should consume. Is coconut oil really good for you, or is it MCT oil that you should be choosing? And what about the old favourite olive oil, should you simply stick to adding that to your meals instead of following the trends? 

Amy, Head of the DNAfit Wellness Team, explains that: “the type of fat we favour in our diet is dependent on the type of diet we choose to follow, if you are on a ketogenic diet then using more MCT oil and coconut oil would be suggested, not to say that you would need to omit olive oil though.”

You should always keep in mind that, for all oils, they are the most calorie dense food in the world, which means that you need to consume them in moderation if your goals are to lose weight or maintain general health. All oils will make you feel fuller for longer due to their high calorie content but should be consumed as part of a balanced diet, and not added on to it. This requires you to always keep note of how much oil you are adding to your meals.

Oils also have other uses outside of being eaten. Due to their nature, many people use, for example, olive and coconut oil topically to improve the condition of their hair and skin.

To understand the difference between MCT, coconut and olive oil, you should get a basic idea of what fats are and why they are classified the way they are. There are three types “lengths” fats can be; either short, medium, or long. 

Short chain fatty acid or SCFA are made up of four to six carbons. Due to their short length these fats are absorbed in the small intestine and do not have to go to the liver to be used for energy. They are also fermented in the intestine to make vitamin K.

Medium chain fatty acid (MCFA) on the other hand are made up of a few more carbons, eight to ten to be exact. As with short chain fatty acids, these fats are absorbed in the small intestine and also do not have to travel to the liver to be used for energy.

Long chain fatty acid (LCFA) in comparison consist of a chain of more than fourteen carbons. Since they are so long in length they are not easily absorbed in the small intestine and have to go to the liver where they can be used for energy.

Fats can all be classed according to how tightly they are bound and how easily the body can break them down. They can either be saturated or unsaturated. Saturated fats are very tightly packed together, solid at room temperature, and often harder for the body to break down. In comparison Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are less tightly packed and thus less likely to clog your arteries.

Fats in nature can contain long, medium and short chain fatty acids, as well as saturated and unsaturated fats. How they are classified depends on which chain length and degree of saturation make up the biggest component of the fat.

Below we take a closer look at common competing fats (coconut, MCT and olive oil), to give you a science based opinion of what these fats are made of and why they have received so much attention in the past.


Final thoughts on which oil is the healthiest for you

What you should always keep in mind is that oil (of any kind) is high in both calories and fat. So, depending on your health goals, whether they are to lose weight or maintain general health and wellness, you should never over consume oils, as they account for many of the calories you intend to eat during the day.

As stated before, choose an oil in line with not only your goals but the diet you are on and use it in conjunction with a healthy balanced diet.

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