What Is MCT Oil? (+ 6 Ways MCT Oil Benefits Your Health)
Today I want to talk with you about the healthiest oil on earth: MCT oil. Derived from one of the oldest "health foods" on the planet (the coconut), MCT oil is packed full of essential fatty acids that your body not only needs but also secretly craves! I use it every day as part of my health regimen and have found that MCT oil benefits are so fast that my entire family uses it regularly, too!
But what does MCT oil do to your body, and what are all the ways in which MCT oil benefits your health? Let’s take a deep dive into this phenomenal fat and cover everything about it—from what is MCT oil to how it works, why it's so beneficial for our health, and even popular uses. Then you’ll discover some fun suggestions on ways to incorporate it into your diet so you can reap all the benefits and take your health journey to the next level.
What Is MCT Oil?
So, what is MCT oil, exactly? MCT oil is oil sourced from a type of fat known as “medium chain triglycerides,” which are often referred to by the acronym MCTs. And, as noted above, coconut is the most popular source of MCTs. But in order to fully understand how MCT oil benefits your health, let’s take a deeper look at MCTs themselves.
MCT is a form of saturated fatty acid named for the length of its chain. That’s why you may also see MCTs referred to as MCFAs (medium-chain fatty acids).
Now, triglycerides are transported into your cells and burned for energy or stored as body fat. And all triglycerides are made up of a glycerol backbone and three fatty acids that form short, medium, or long chains, and their names are dependent upon their length. For example, MCTs have six to 12 carbon atoms in their tails. There are four main types of MCTs, and the difference is the amount of carbon atoms contained in the fatty acid. The types are caproic acid (C6), caprylic acid (C8), capric acid (C10), and lauric acid (C12), with the number reflecting the amount of carbon atoms each contains.
The next thing to note is that their medium-length chains allow MCTs to be broken down and absorbed very quickly—and it’s the quick breakdown and absorption rates that provide the major health benefits we see from MCTs. In fact, unlike long-chain fatty acids, or LCTs, MCTs go straight to the liver, whereas long-chain fat absorption is a more complicated process and takes longer to metabolize because there are many potential nutritional roadblocks to burning fat, such as micronutrient deficiencies, low cholesterol, a sluggish liver, or problems making the compound carnitine. And each of these roadblocks can prevent your body’s ability to use long-chain fatty acids for energy.
The good news is that your body handles MCTs differently because the enzymes in the small intestine that digest triglycerides are much more efficient in digesting MCTs. The result is a cascading effect that helps MCT virtually sail through each and every potential roadblock and provide an almost immediate source of energy along with other substantial health benefits.
But before we launch into the many ways MCT oil benefits your health, you may be wondering the following: Is MCT oil just coconut oil, or is there is a difference between MCT oil vs. coconut oil? The answer is that they aren’t the same.
While you will certainly find MCTs in coconut oil, MCT oil is actually a supplement that contains a higher concentration of MCTs than coconut oil. It generally contains either 100 percent caprylic acid (C8) or 100 percent capric acid (C10) or a combination of the two. And some people argue that MCT oil is actually preferable to coconut oil because C8 and C10 are thought to be more rapidly absorbed and processed for energy than lauric acid (C12). As a result, consuming MCT oil in addition to a diet high in healthy fats can actually provide more health benefits than simply using coconut oil.
6 Ways MCT Oil Benefits Your Health
Now that you know all about what is MCT oil made of and how it’s different from coconut oil, let’s take a look at the many health benefits of MCT oil.
1. Helps supercharge fat loss
One of the most common questions I receive about MCT oil benefits is this: “How can MCT oil help you lose weight?” In short, MCT oil benefits healthy weight management and body composition in a few ways. First, it’s known to go hand-in-hand with the keto diet because it can be quickly converted into ketones, which helps your body burn both consumed and even stored fat for fuel.
Second, due to the efficient conversion of MCTs into energy and the direct pathway of MCT oil to the mitochondria (your body’s power plants), your metabolism increases with MCT oil consumption. Additionally, research has shown that consuming a diet rich in MCTs resulted in greater fat loss than a diet high in LCTs. So, if you’ve been wondering what is MCT oil used for, the most popular use is to supercharge fat loss!
2. Enhances mental focus
Consuming MCT oil benefits your brain health as well. Here’s why: Simply put, the brain actually prefers to be fueled by fats over glucose! As a result, the consistent source of energy from MCTs may help combat brain fog.
Remember, MCTs are easily converted into ketones, which are known to cross the blood-brain barrier to provide fuel to the brain, rather than rely on glucose. Accordingly, some research has shown that supplementing with anywhere from 20 to 70 grams of MCT oil that includes caprylic acid or capric acid may help improve the symptoms of age-related cognitive decline. Researchers surmised that this may work through the ketones that are known to help block the protein receptors that cause memory loss.
3. Fights harmful inflammation
Another one of the great benefits of MCT oil is that it’s been shown to help fight the dangerous chronic inflammation associated with so many of our modern-day ailments. But how does it work? You may be surprised to learn that MCTs contain antioxidant properties, which help to propel these inflammation-cooling benefits, especially for those with joint pain due to chronic inflammation.
Additionally, research has shown that dietary fats help stimulate digestion more than carbohydrates and can even help decrease intestinal inflammation, which may result in an improved gut microbiome.
4. Boosts energy
Because of the way it’s metabolized, MCT oil benefits your energy levels by serving as an immediate source of energy. Remember, unlike LCTs, MCTs go straight to your liver from your bloodstream. In this process, they can get shuttled into your cells’ power plants, called the mitochondria, where they are used for fuel and provide an almost instant boost in energy levels.
5. Promotes satiety
Since MCTs are more readily utilized for energy than most food sources, they are able to help your body maintain a consistent level of energy, which can help to support healthy and stable blood sugar levels. The result? You can experience a reduction in cravings as an added benefit!
In fact, studies have shown that consuming MCT oil helps reduce cravings between meals and can even decrease food intake at the following meal. And remember our MCT oil vs. coconut oil discussion above? One study showed that those who consumed two tablespoons of MCT oil as part of their breakfast ate less food for lunch compared to those taking coconut oil!
As you may expect with this mechanism of action, studies in both animals and humans show greater energy expenditure with less body weight gain and decreased fat storage after months of consuming MCTs. Even more intriguing, MCTs replacing LCTs in the human diet may result in faster satiety and better metabolic health than a diet rich in LCT fats alone.
6. Supports healthy cholesterol levels
Finally, taking MCT oil is also associated with an increased ability to maintain both overall cardiovascular health and healthy cholesterol levels in particular. Here’s why: Healthy fats, such as those found in avocado and coconut (including MCTs), assist with raising your HDL levels (good cholesterol) and can help improve your overall lipid profile.
Not only do studies show that MCTs help to cool harmful inflammation, which is known to increase the risk of heart-related issues, but one study showed that taking MCTs decreased both total cholesterol concentration and LDL cholesterol levels while raising HDL cholesterol, improving that important ratio for heart health.
How to Choose Your MCT Oil
Now that you know the many ways MCT oil benefits your health, let’s discuss how to choose your MCT oil. First, always choose a high-quality, organic MCT oil. Approximately 80 percent of all MCT oil available for purchase is grown and processed via conventional methods—meaning they likely have traces of toxins, mold, or heavy metals due to chemical extraction or lack of safety testing.
So, make sure to find out where your MCT oil is sourced, manufactured, and how it is processed. You’ll want to look for pure, cold-pressed, and non-GMO coconut-based MCT oil that is extracted and purified with enzymes, not harsh chemicals. After all, you don’t want to introduce toxins into your system that rob your body of health instead of supporting it.
With that in mind, as you’re sourcing your MCT oil, keep these four must-haves in mind—the 4 Ps of MCTs:
- The manner in which coconuts are grown—organic or non-organic—can increase or decrease the nutritional value of the fruit.
- Many MCT oils on the market are processed with chemical solvents such as hexane and do not undergo mold testing.
- How quickly fruit is processed after picking, oil extraction methods, and whether it is purified enzymatically or chemically are key steps in determining the quality of the final product.
- Freshness and flavor can be affected by the package. Glass bottles or a PET bottle are considered the best way to preserve maximum potency and freshness.
How to Take MCT Oil
You can take liquid MCT oil by the spoonful for quick, reliable energy, or you can easily mix it into smoothies, shakes, sauces, teas or coffee, or bake it into delicious fat-friendly cookies for a less intense, longer duration spike in ketone production. Many studies show positive effects of MCT oil consumption at 30 grams per day, which is about six teaspoons at 5 grams each. As with all metabolic adjustments to your diet, though, start low, go slow, and note how you feel as you increase.
MCT supplements are also available in powder form that can easily be added to a variety of food, smoothies, or other drinks. But whether you choose a liquid or powder, you’re giving yourself better gut health, improved mental focus, a boost of energy and greater potential for weight loss. And that’s a great way to start any day!
Products Featuring MCT Oil & Popular Uses
As discussed above, there are some fun ways to take advantage of the many ways MCT oil benefits your health. Here are a few of my favorites.
Creamy MCT Vanilla Coconut Swirl: Consider using a teaspoon of Creamy MCT Vanilla Coconut Swirl in your coffee to make it a keto coffee! Unlike regular MCT oil, which separates when mixed with water, creamy MCT oil is water soluble and mixes easily into both hot and cold liquids. Plus, it still has all the same nutritional properties of regular MCT oil but features the added benefit of being easier to digest. And if you’re looking for a fun twist, try it in my recipe for Peppermint Mocha MCT Keto Coffee.
Organic MCT Oil: Some people like to lean on olive oil, but adding organic MCT oil to your salad dressings is an easy way to sneak in more of these healthy fats. You can also use it in recipes such as this Asparagus, Pea and Broccoli Salad with Wild Salmon or in shakes or smoothies for a quick energy boost, too!
Creamy MCT Oil Powder: Finally, a high-quality MCT oil powder is a bit lighter and gentler on the stomach, making it an idea choice if you’re trying MCT oil for the first time. The Creamy MCT Oil Powder can be mixed into water or used in baked goods, protein shakes, smoothies, and even ice cream!
When it comes to MCT oil side effects, keep in mind that high doses of MCTs can increase amounts of fats in the liver. As a result, make sure to consult with your physician on your personal health situation before deciding on the best way to use MCT oil.
- Derived from one of the oldest "health foods" on the planet (the coconut), MCT oil is packed full of essential fatty acids that your body not only needs but also secretly craves!
- MCT oil is oil sourced from a type of fat known as “medium chain triglycerides,” which a form of saturated fatty acid.
- Their medium-length chains allow MCTs to be broken down and absorbed very quickly—and it’s the quick breakdown and absorption rates that provide the major health benefits we see from MCTs.
- The major health benefits of MCT oil include: helping to supercharge fat loss, promote satiety, enhance mental focus, fighting inflammation, boost energy, and support healthy cholesterol levels.
- When choosing an MCT oil, look for a pure, cold-pressed, and non-GMO coconut-based MCT oil that is extracted and purified with enzymes, not harsh chemicals.