Lauric acid is a medium chain triglyceride – MCT for short. MCTs are a type of fat that our bodies can quickly digest, giving a spike of energy, without impacting blood sugar levels.
Coconut oil is the most common source of lauric acid, but it isn’t the only option. There are other foods to turn to, which have their own advantages.
What is Lauric Acid?
To put it simply, lauric acid is a type of saturated fat. You’ll sometimes see it written as C12 or 12:0. The 12 is a reference to the number of carbon atoms in the fatty acid chain.
With a chain length of 12, lauric acid is the longest MCT. Some people even call it a long chain fatty acid instead (like Anna from Healthline).
Many of the benefits of coconut oil are directly related to lauric acid, which makes it a particularly important fatty acid (1). This includes significant antimicrobial activity and the ability to reduce inflammation (2).
Lauric Acid vs MCTs
You’ll sometimes hear people say that lauric acid isn’t a true MCT. This is why many MCT oils don’t contain lauric acid at all (although some do).
This perspective does have merit. Lauric acid behaves differently than other MCTs. This can mean it offers fewer ketosis benefits. It’s also not processed as quickly.
The Best Lauric Acid Foods
There are many myths surrounding lauric acid in foods. For example:
- You won’t find the fatty acid in olive oil (5), despite claims to the contrary.
- There is some lauric acid in meat, but the amounts are very small (less than 0.5% of the fat content). The same is true for egg yolks.
- You’ll find some lauric acid in coconut milk, but the amounts are fairly low. Levels in coconut water are lower still. Any lauric acid present in coconut water probably wouldn’t be usable anyway, as the fat isn’t water soluble.
You can check the full nutritional profiles on the USDA database for any specific food. Look for 12:0 under lipids. Or, you can just look at the list below for some of the best lauric acid options.
Between 45% and 53% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are lauric acid, making it a powerful choice (6). Coconut oil is also versatile. It’s often used for cooking, in skincare recipes and as an addition to coffee. You can even deep fry with coconut oil.
Coconut oil is also high in saturated fat. This is one reason that it is such a good source of lauric acid. Recent research shows that saturated fat doesn’t contribute to heart disease risk (7), making coconut oil a healthy fat to rely on.
Despite the controversy around dairy, it remains a good source of nutrients, including lauric acid. For milk, roughly 3.6% of the fat is lauric acid. The percentage is higher in sheep and goat milk, although the difference between types isn’t dramatic (8).
Milk is also a versatile ingredient, one that we use in many different recipes. You’ll also see milk used in various other ways, like in smoothies and protein shakes, as a type of coffee creamer and with cereal. With so many uses, milk ends up being a significant lauric acid source.
To get the most benefits, stick to full-fat milk. Lauric acid is a type of fat. Anything that decreases fat content will also lower the amount of lauric acid.
Butter is another good choice, with roughly 4.5% of the fat being lauric acid (9). This makes it a better lauric acid source than cow’s milk, although you probably won’t use as much at a time.
Interestingly, the lauric acid total seems to be similar regardless of whether the animal is grass fed or corn fed. There is typically more variation between individual batches of butter than between the types. Nevertheless, grass fed butter is still a better choice overall.
Ghee is basically clarified butter, so it acts as another lauric acid food. This type the lauric acid percentage is around 6.2% (10). That’s not surprising, as ghee is a more concentrated source of many nutrients compared to butter. It has a more intense flavor as well.
The percentage varies depending on the type of animal and the method of making ghee. For example, direct cream ghee has a lower lauric acid percentage than creamery butter ghee (11).
You can also get lauric acid from some types of cheese. The percentage varies dramatically depending on the cheese and how it is made. Common percentages are listed below.
These percentages are just a rough guide, as there will be variations from one manufacturer to the next.
Yogurt is another dairy-based food, so it contains lauric acid (16). There are considerable differences in how yogurt is made, so the lauric acid content will vary as well. For example:
The end result is that you’ll get some lauric acid in yogurt, but the percentage will be unpredictable.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that may help to promote gut health and even weight loss. Research shows that the length of fermentation and source of the kefir grains can change the fatty acid ratios.
For example, a 14-day fermentation with one particular strain produces 1.88 g/100g of lauric acid, while a 24-hour fermentation gives 7.45 g/100g (18).
Many people will make their own kefir. When doing so, the lauric acid percentage is likely to vary from batch-to-batch.
You can check out the video below if you’re considering making kefir yourself.
Lauric acid is also present in many types of palm oil, including the following.
While it’s a particularly good lauric acid source, many people stay away from palm oil. The oil’s production has devastating environmental impacts. Coconut oil is more practical to use anyway.
Lauric Acid Supplements
Lauric acid isn’t normally available as a supplement, but there are some supplement-like approaches.
You can also consider MCT oil powder or capsules. These offer the same advantages, just in a different form. You’ll have to choose carefully, as most don’t include lauric acid.
You can also look for coconut oil supplements. These contain only coconut oil, often as a soft gel capsule (similar to fish oil or vitamin D supplements). Because they’re a source of coconut oil, they’ll always have lauric acid.
Lauric acid is mostly found in dairy products, along with coconut oil and palm oil. Many factors influence the percentage of this fat, making it difficult to estimate total intake. Thankfully, the various foods are all part of a healthy diet and offer beneficial nutrients.
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