Lauric acid is a type of fatty acid found in only a handful of common oils and is valued for both its health benefits and its convenient melting point properties. This medium-chain compound is solid at room temperature but has a low melting point, making it useful in the food industry. As for health benefits, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin in the body, which has antivirus, antifungal and antibacterial qualities. In research studies, It is even showing the potential to treat AIDS/HIV patients.
The most plentiful source of lauric acid is coconut oil; 48 percent of its saturated fat content is lauric acid. Coconut oil is found in the fruit itself, in coconut milk and in a variety of grocery products, such as coconut macaroons and coconut candy bars.
Palm Kernel Oil
Palm kernel oil has nearly the same lauric acid content as coconut oil, but it is more unsaturated than coconut oil, making it more useful in cooking. This type of oil comes from the kernel at the center of the palm fruit and has a very different chemical composition from palm oil. The latter comes from the fleshy part of the fruit that surrounds the kernel. The top producers of palm kernel oil are Malaysia and Indonesia. Combined, they account for 80 percent of the world's palm kernel oil production. This source of lauric acid is often used in margarine, cake icings, biscuit dough, pastry creams and non-dairy creamers.
Although used only sparingly in cooking because its strength is so concentrated, cinnamon oil has an extremely high lauric acid content, contributing about 80 to 90 percent of its fat composition. Cinnamon oil adds flavor to apple butter, cinnamon candies and baked goods, but should be used cautiously and only in small quantities because the oil can cause allergic reactions.
Both cow's milk and goat's milk also contain lauric acid, though not nearly as much as the aforementioned sources. Goat's milk has about twice as much lauric acid as cow's milk, averaging about 4.5 percent compared to 2.2 percent in cow's milk.