Fats have made a recent comeback, and we have options. Among the many healthy fats, coconut oil and ghee have gained some of the most popularity, but which is the superior fat? Get the scoop in this article and decide for yourself.
For years now I have been consuming both high-quality coconut oil and ghee, as well as many other nourishing fats. Of the many healthy fats I enjoy, coconut oil and ghee are the two most common I recommend to friends and clients.
While both of these elite foods provide incredible health benefits, there are definite differences between them, so let’s take a look at exactly what those differences are. Then from there, you can decide for yourself which is the best choice for you – or, why choose when you can have both?
The Benefits of Coconut Oil
One of the reasons coconut is so great is that we are very accustomed to it. Coconuts are a very old food that we have been consuming for ages. Often, food allergies are a result of us not having enough of a particular food, so the immune system is not used to it and therefore has no immunity to it. This is probably why most people digest coconut well.
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Coconut is a survival food and everything about it is good: the meat, the fat, the water, and even the husks, which can be used for charcoal or fires! Not only is this functional food a source of calories, it has many healing and medicinal properties:
- Anti-Fungal (Anti-Candida) (1)
- Anti-Inflammatory (2)
- Promotes Healthy Hair (3)
- Improves Energy (4)
- Weight Loss (5)
Just to name a few…
Aside from its many positive influences on our health, coconut oil is excellent for cooking. It tolerates high heat much better than butter, olive oil and other low-smoke point oils. This is great because the fat in coconut oil is much less likely to go rancid.
Coconut oil is also very digestible. It’s primarily composed of medium-chain triglycerides, whereas most other saturated fats are long-chain triglycerides. MCTs require little to no work from the digestive system to break down into energy. Just a small bit of bile from the gallbladder and a tiny amount of digestive enzymes are all it takes to break down these fats for energy.
This makes coconut oil a fantastic source of fat for those with no gallbladder, poor digestion or who are intentionally keeping their digestive load light to reserve energy.
Reasons to Avoid Coconut Oil
Perhaps the only real downside to coconut oil is that it is not very rich in fat-soluble Vitamins A, D and K that we will find in ghee.
Also, for some, the taste of fresh coconut oil might take a bit of getting used to. Coconut oil has a bit of a natural sweetness, which might not pair with some foods according to some people’s palates.
While coconut oil is a perfectly healthy fat, each individual has a unique metabolism. In the case you tend to be underweight or anxious, experiment with removing coconut oil from your diet. It is digested and absorbed quickly and might further speed up an already fast metabolism, making you a bit more energetic than you’d like.
While it is good to have abundant energy, remember that health is a balance and too much stimulation can overactivate our sympathetic nervous system, leading to imbalances.
The Benefits of Ghee
The reason so many are intolerant to dairy is because it’s a relatively new food compared to coconut oil – our systems simply aren’t used to it. Humans did not start consuming dairy until the domestication of animals. Through the process, people soon learned that fresh milk from sheep, goats, and yaks had some benefits.
There is even speculation that the consumption of raw, fermented milk dates back to biblical times. The fermentation of milk makes it easier to digest, and still to this day, it is ideal to consume fermented dairy.
In the big picture of human evolution, 13,000 years isn’t much time at all. Milk and other dairy products still aren’t very popular in some parts of the globe. This would explain why many people are still intolerant to it.
Studies show that throughout the world, dairy is more or less tolerable. It is said that dairy intolerance is most common in Finland where 1 in 60,000 newborns are dairy intolerant. However, in Northern Europe only 5% of people are intolerant.
While the ability to digest dairy fluctuates due to genetics and other factors, it is common for 65% of people to lose their ability to digest dairy after infancy. However, a good portion of people (such as Northern Europeans) are able to digest dairy just fine. (6) When it comes to dairy, it’s best to see how your body responds to it and go from there.
The Demand for Fat
You might be wondering, if dairy is not well-tolerated by humans, why would we go out of our way to produce ghee? There are many reasons, actually. It turns out that butter fat is exceptionally rich in Vitamins A, D and K (IF pasture-raised). If it’s high-quality butter you’re getting, then you’ll be getting a party of brilliant nutritional goodness.
What’s great about ghee is that it is pure butter fat. All of the sugar and proteins are cooked out, leaving behind an easy-to-digest liquid gold that is grass-fed butter fat.
Essentially, ghee is just butter that has had the moisture, proteins and sugars cooked out. Aside from ghee’s delicious creaminess and subtle sweetness, ghee makes an exceptional cooking fat. Because it lacks any water, it doesn’t spatter when used for pan cooking. Also, because it lacks any sugar and protein, it has a very high smoke point.
For these reasons alone, ghee is superior to butter. The only time I would say butter has the upper hand is if it were of outstanding quality and also raw and cultured. Raw butter is also very easy to digest, since it contains the enzymes to aid the digestive process. In addition, raw butter contains healthy bacteria to support gut health. If you do not have access to raw, cultured butter, though, ghee is comparable if not just as good. [tweet_quote]One job of the immune system is to identify foreign proteins, like viruses and bacteria, and remove them from the body. [/tweet_quote] However, it will also attack any protein in food it considers an invader. This is what happens when we eat a protein our body doesn’t agree with (like casein from dairy) and there is an immune response.
Here’s the deal: the immune system will not attack fat. Because ghee has no casein and is pure fat, typically people who are very dairy sensitive can consume ghee liberally and have no symptoms or immune response.
Which Is Better?
Looking at the details, it’s easy to see that both coconut oil and ghee are wonderful foods. When deciding between the two, the choice would ultimately boil down to what you are looking for in a food. While they have their differences, the main deciding factors would be:
- Weight: If you’re trying to lose weight, then go for coconut oil. If you’re looking to add some weight, then ghee is your best bet!
- Nutrition: Ghee is more nutritious according to the nutritional analysis. If you are trying to get a healthy dose of fat-soluble vitamins, then ghee is going to provide more nutrition. If you want something strictly anti-fungal, then coconut oil may be better.
- Taste: Coconut oil tends to have a somewhat strong taste; some people may dislike that about coconut oil. On the other hand, ghee is more neutral and versatile in its application to dishes.
Aside from these few details, I say they’re both keepers. The best decision would be to first know what function you are looking in the fat. Then, rotate them to meet those specific needs. You could even make a mixture of half ghee, half coconut oil and experience the best of both worlds. This is a great combo in coffee, as well. I also recommend trying different brands, as I have noticed that some are tastier.
(Read This Next: The Benefits of MCT Oil vs Coconut Oil)