Article at a Glance
- Ghee and coconut oil share some similarities, but also have distinct nutrient profiles.
- Both ghee and coconut oil have saturated fats, which can help improve brain function, digestion, and metabolic function.
- The decision whether to us ghee versus coconut oil depends on your health goals, your genetic makeup and more.
With the surge in popularity of the ketogenic and other high fat, low carb diets, some fats have gotten a lot of attention lately. Let’s look at two of the most popular fats: ghee and coconut oil. What are the similarities and differences between ghee and coconut oil? Is one better than the other? Any concerns about ghee and coconut oil? Read on to find out.
Ghee and Coconut Oil Share Similarities, But Have Distinct Nutrient Profiles
Also known as clarified butter, ghee is made by heating butter and removing the milk solid portions from the fat (which is the ghee). Ghee is better tolerated than butter due to its scant quantities of lactose and casein, and it can generally be safely consumed by those who have sensitivities to butter or other dairy products.
In terms of fat content, it is about 50% saturated fats [R]. Coconut oil, however, is about 90% saturated fats [R]. The most common form of coconut oil available on the market is virgin coconut oil derived from expeller-pressing the oil from dried coconut.
One tablespoon of ghee contains approximately 112 calories and total fat content of 12.7 grams (7.9 g saturated and 4.2 g unsaturated), as well as 32.6 milligrams of cholesterol.
Ghee contains some omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (which are unsaturated fats) and has no trans fats. Ghee contains virtually no carbs, no fibers, and no proteins. Unlike coconut oil, ghee has some micronutrients, including vitamins A, E, and K along with choline [R].
One tablespoon of coconut oil contains approximately 116 calories and 13.5 grams of fat (11.7 g saturated fat and 1 g unsaturated).
Coconut oil has some omega 6 fatty acids, but no omega 3 fatty acids and no trans fats. Coconut oil does not contain cholesterol, but has instead phytosterols (11.6 milligrams) Phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, are a family of molecules related to cholesterol. Coconut oil contains virtually no carbs, no fibers, and no proteins. And with the exception of tiny amounts of vitamin K, coconut oil has no vitamins or minerals [R].
The Skinny on Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are the key ingredients in both ghee and coconut oil. Saturated fats are either short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) or medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Short Chain Fatty Acids
Butyric acid is the key SCF which is abundant in ghee [R, R]. Butyric acid plays a key role in digestive health. It has been found to improve digestion, decrease inflammation, having the potential to improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and insulin resistance.
Coconut oil, by contrast, does not contain butyric acid [R].
Medium Chain Triglycerides
MCTs are easily digested and transported straight to the liver where they are quickly metabolized and used as an energy source. If you follow a keto diet, you already know that MCTs can help you get you into ketosis faster by increasing the ketone bodies [R, R].
MCTs are well known for improving brain health, especially by boosting cognitive function. By decreasing insulin resistance and inflammation and promoting weight loss, MCTs may help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune conditions and cancer [R, R, R].
MCTs have a positive impact on gut microbiome, helping improve the absorption of nutrients from the foods you eat, while fighting the overgrowth of various unhealthy bacteria in the gut. As a result, MCTs can improve digestive issues such as candida or food poisoning [R].
Coconut oil contains about 60% MCTs and ghee is about 25% MCTs.
Which One is Better: Ghee or Coconut Oil?
The answer depends on your goals. If you are focused more on brain health, use coconut oil, or its refined form, MCT oil. Are you looking to improve digestive health? Consider ghee first.
You can also combine ghee with coconut to get the benefits of both MCTs and SCFs. After all, the gut and brain are very much connected. This combination is already available in some health food stores.
We all have unique dietary needs and not everyone will benefit from coconut oil and/or ghee. Consider the following scenarios:
2. If you are not on a low carb diet, you should be careful with saturated fats. Consuming saturated fats and carbs in the same meal leads to increased secretion of insulin for the same amount of carbs [R].
3. If you have abnormal cholesterol levels or liver diseases, use coconut oil and ghee in limited amounts. Coconut oil can raise LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, although it does boost the good (HDL) cholesterol, according to some studies. One study found a correlation between increased consumption of saturated fats (coconut oil, butter, and cheese) and fatty liver [R, R]. Although other studies found saturated fats beneficial for liver diseases.
4. Do you have digestive problems such as food sensitivities, IBS, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)? You may not properly digest these fats.
Saturated fats from ghee and coconut oil can help improve your health. However, it’s imperative to ensure that saturated fats are right for you. To find an integrative physician near you who can help you incorporate coconut oil and ghee in your diet, if appropriate, visit our directory.
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