What’s the Difference Between Coconut Oil and Coconut Butter

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Coconut oil has been consumed in diet, and has been used as a health and beauty solution for thousands of years. It has antimicrobial properties, and it provides the body with essential fatty acids that it needs for good health.

The type of fat in coconut oil is the fatty acid lauric acid, which has many health benefits, including killing bacteria and fungi.

The fatty acids in the oil are easily used and digested by the body. They are known as medium chain fatty acids, and these are more easily converted into energy by the liver rather than being stored like other fats. It does not have a negative effect on your blood sugar, so you can use it as a healthy energy boost. You can eat a spoonful or add it to tea or coffee. It can be used in baking, as high heat does not affect its structure as can happen with other fats.

The health benefits of Coconut oil

It’s great for overall health

As well as being a potent antimicrobial, coconut oil is known to be beneficial for heart health, thyroid function, brain function, and the immune system. The healthy fats are an excellent fuel for your body and they can aid weight loss.

It’s an excellent addition to any beauty and body care routine

Coconut oil makes a great makeup remover, facial cleanser, shaving lotion, face and body moisturiser, eye cream, deodorant, bath soak, soap, and insect repellent. Yes, all in one product! This could equal money and bathroom shelf space saved!

It’s great for hair

Coconut oil makes a great pre-shampoo conditioner, anti-frizz treatment and dandruff treatment.

It’s good for a healthy mouth

It makes a great toothpaste when mixed with baking soda, and it can be used for oil pulling, which is a good technique for reducing plaque build up.

It makes a good medicine

Because of its antimicrobial and antiviral properties, coconut oil may be helpful for treating ear infections, skin rashes, fungal infections, yeast infections, insect bites and stings, and cold sores.

Besides its usefulness in the kitchen and bathroom, coconut oil deserves a place in your medicine.

It combats head lice

According to research, a combination of coconut oil and anise was twice as effective against head lice as a commonly prescribed lotion.

100 participants were either given a coconut oil and anise spray, or permethrin lotion, and had to use their given product 9 days apart. The coconut oil spray cured 82% of people of headlice compared with only 42% who had used the medicated lotion.

It’s great for use around the home

If you aren’t keen on using chemicals around your home, look no further than coconut oil. It’s great for sanitising kitchen utensils, especially wooden ones, it makes a good polish for metal, it’s a great moisturiser for leather products, it’s excellent for getting rid of soap scum from your shower, and it can even remove chewing gum from upholstery and carpets!

Coconut butter

The copra, or fleshy part of a coconut is blended to make coconut butter

The copra, or fleshy part of a coconut is blended to make coconut butter. Some people think that coconut oil and coconut butter are the same thing, but they aren’t. When the coconut oil cools and hardens, it can appear a little like butter, but true coconut butter will usually contain pieces of the coconut meat. It is widely used in cuisine, as well as beauty products, and it brings with it a fair share of health benefits, including helping with weight loss and reducing the frequency of yeast infections in the body.

How coconut butter is made

To make coconut butter, small pieces of dried coconut meat are blended or crushed until they come together to form a creamy paste. This can be done on an industrial scale or at home in a food processor or blender. You just have to blend the dried coconut pieces for about 20 to 30 minutes until they break down and come together. Homemade butter is more likely to contain more meat pieces than commercial products as commercial equipment and processes are more sophisticated.  Whether it is commercially made or homemade, the butter should be refrigerated, and if stored correctly, it can usually last between 2 and 3 years. When it’s stored, the oil tends to separate and go to the top of the butter, so it needs to be stirred before use.

The health benefits of coconut butter

Coconut-based products can give the user a lot of health benefits. Coconut contains lauric acid, which is responsible for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Coconut butter contains fatty acids which have been linked in studies to weight loss and fat burning. They are easy for the body to digest too, as they don’t need to be broken down in the digestive system. This means that the benefits are readily available.

It is used in cooking

Coconut butter can be used in many dishes where the recipes asks for coconut milk or oil. The butter can also be used as a condiment or spread. Like most dairy-based butters, you will most likely need to melt it a little before it becomes spreadable enough. Some people prefer to eat it on its own, or to mix a few spoonfuls of the butter with a complementary flavouring like vanilla. It’s also commonly used as a substitute for dairy-based butter in baking, although it’s important to note that it can make baked goods dry, so you might need to add a fruit puree or something like applesauce to keep your baked goods moist.

It can be used in hair and body care products

The high fat content of coconut butter means it is a good emollient so it’s an ideal moisturiser or hair conditioner. Remember that the butter can have pieces of coconut meat in it though so be sure to rinse hair properly if you use it. You can mix the butter with other butters such as shea butter to make an ultra- moisturising treat if you have dry skin. You will find both coconut butter and shea butter in a lot of body care products.

It’s good for the heart

Research has found that the healthy facts in coconut can reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol.

It can aid weight loss

Coconut butter contains fats which the body can use, so they are not as likely as saturated fats to be stored.

A study found that farmers who fed their cattle coconut butter to fatten them up, they actually lost weight! Coconut butter contains fats which the body can use, so they are not as likely as saturated fats to be stored. Plus, coconut butter can help to stimulate the metabolism, and keep you feeling fuller for longer. So you are burning more calories and consuming less, so you lose weight and body fat.

Coconut butter is rich in lauric acid

Coconut butter is rich in lauric acid, which boosts immunity and destroys harmful bacteria and viruses.

Research carried out in the Philippines looked at the effects of coconut oil and lauric acid on patients with the HIV virus that causes Aids. Most of the Aids patients showed a significant reduction in the HIV virus count, in some cases the virus was even undetectable. While more research is needed, there is certainly evidence to suggest that people with this virus would benefit from a diet rich in coconut butter or oil.

Coconut butter can get rid of yeast infections

Coconut butter has been shown to kill the Candida yeast, which can overgrow in the body because of antibiotics, birth control pills, and a high sugar diet.

Many sufferers of yeast infections have claimed that their health has dramatically improved when using coconut products. This could be due to the fact that coconuts are a rich source of caprylic acid, which has anti-fungal properties.

Healthy Skin

Coconut butter has youth enhancing properties for the skin. It is very moisturising and promotes skin elasticity.

How is coconut butter different from coconut oil?

What’s the difference between Coconut oil and Coconut butter

Coconut oil and butter are usually mentioned as though they are one and the same, but there are differences, both in their nutritional content, and how they are cooked and prepared.

Coconut oil is basically pure fat. It is usually solid, because it is made of almost 100% saturated fats, which solidify at room temperature.

It’s different from other oils because less than 60 percent of the fats in coconut oil are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), compared to longer-chain fatty acids that make up olive oil or fish oil. MCTs are unique in structure, as they are so easily absorbed in your digestive tract (unlike other fats which requires special transport/absorption) and therefore they are much more easily used as energy by the body. These fats have been the subject of much research and this is continuing. There is much more to be discovered.

Coconut butter, on the other hand, contains similar nutritional characteristics, but since it is comprised of pureed, raw coconut meat, not just the oil, it is not totally comprised of fat. One tablespoon of coconut butter provides 2 grams of fibre as well as small amounts of potassium, magnesium, and iron.

You wouldn’t use peanut butter and peanut oil the same way in cooking, so you wouldn’t use coconut butter and coconut oil in the same way either.

Coconut oil is great for using in sautés and stir-fries, since its high saturated fat content makes it suitable for cooking at high temperatures. However, coconut butter is thicker in texture, so it is more suited to being used as a spread just as you would with regular butter. You can also use it in smoothies or as a topping for fruit in place of yoghurt.

Both coconut oil and butter are regarded as healthy foods, so many people view their fatty acids as a health wonder. While their fats are of the healthier variety, they are still both high in calories. Coconut oil contains around 130 calories per tablespoon and the butter contains around 100 calories, so you can’t use either excessively, especially if you are watching your weight.

Practical ways to use coconut oil and butter

Makeup remover

Dip a cotton ball in the oil and wipe your make up off effortlessly. Rinse the skin with warm water and pat dry.

Facial cleanser

Facial toner

Massage some coconut oil onto your face and neck. Wash off with a wet washcloth and pat your skin dry.

Body scrub

Mix equal parts coconut oil with some organic cane sugar in a glass jar. Use the scrub on dry skin prior to your shower or bath, rubbing it into skin in a circular motion.

Facial scrub

Instead of using sugar, mix coconut oil with baking soda, or oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon, for a gentle facial scrub. Sugar is too abrasive for use on the face.

Shaving lotion

Apply a thin layer of coconut oil on area you want to shave, and shave as normal. The lauric acid in the coconut oil acts as an antiseptic for cuts that result from shaving. It can also help to give you a closer shave, nourishes the skin, and prevents ingrown hairs.

Face and body moisturiser

You can use it either by itself, or add your favourite essential oil to make a scented lotion. If you use an electric mixer, you can make a mousse which will stay nice and soft. Just make sure you keep it in the fridge.

When applied topically, coconut oil helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by helping to keep your connective tissues strong and supple, and it also helps to exfoliate the outer layer of dead skin cells, making your skin feel and look smoother and more radiant.

Eye cream

Apply a thin layer of coconut oil around your eyes to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and to counteract thinning, sagging skin which is a problem in this delicate area.

Cuticle cream

Simply rub a small amount of coconut oil around your cuticles to soften dry areas and stimulate healthy nail growth.

Deodorant

Applying a small amount of coconut oil directly onto your armpits can help keep nasty whiffs away. The oil has antibacterial properties, and it’s the bacteria that cause odour. If you prefer, you can add a small amount of baking soda, or make a homemade deodorant using coconut oil, baking soda and arrowroot powder.

Bath soak

Adding coconut oil to your bath can help to moisturise dry skin, but be sure to clean your bath afterwards as the oil can leave a slippery film behind!

Soap

Coconut oil pleasant scent and emollient properties make it an ideal ingredient in soap.

Lip balm

You can simply apply a small amount of coconut oil straight on your lips, but the challenge will be to see if you can refrain from licking it off constantly.

Toothpaste

When mixed with baking soda, coconut oil can replace your regular toothpaste. The baking soda will gently cleanse and buff the teeth clean, while the coconut oil’s antibacterial action can help keep harmful bacteria in check.

Insect repellent

Mix coconut oil with essential oils and it may just help to keep insects at bay when applied to exposed skin. Good insect-repelling choices include: peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, tea tree oil, neem, citronella, geraniol, catnip oil or clear vanilla oil

Final thoughts

Medium chain fatty acids, like those that are found in coconut oil and butter are different though

Fat has long been demonised in the world of health and nutrition, but it seems that this is no longer the case. Research has shown that it’s the type of fats that we consume that is important. We all know that the saturated fats in animal products, processed foods and baked goods are bad for us. They clog our arteries, and they are more likely to be stored in the body if they are eaten in excess.

Medium chain fatty acids, like those that are found in coconut oil and butter are different though. They can be absorbed by the body very easily, and are less likely to be stored. They also bring with them a whole host of health benefits and practical applications.

These healthy fats are good for the heart, great for the hair and skin, they keep illness at bay by killing bacteria, and they can help us to lose weight.

Coconut oil is having a bit of a heyday and it is being used in everything from beauty products to cooking; you can even put it in tea and coffee!

Two forms of these healthy fats are currently in the spotlight; coconut oil and coconut butter. Many people will class them as being one and the same, but they are quite different. Coconut oil is pure fat, whereas coconut butter tends to contain pieces of coconut meat, even when it has been pureed. Coconut butter can be used in cooking, but like other butters, it’s more suitable for spreading, whereas coconut oil is mainly saturated fat, so it can be cooked at high temperatures.

Remember that they are both high in calories however, and even they are healthy, you need to be aware of this if you are watching your weight.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.