A “good fat” is fat that nourishes the very core of your cells. Comprised of fat, the cellular membrane of your cells is designed to protect health and fight disease. You’re probably already familiar with omega-3s found in fatty fish, monounsaturated fats in avocados, and medium-chain triglycerides in coconuts—all good fats that nourish your body and health in so many beneficial ways.
But, let’s focus on medium-chain triglycerides, also known as medium-chain fatty acids or MCTs. MCTs are a type of fat that supports cognitive function, a strong immune system, heart health, and even weight loss through ketone production. Coconuts are the richest natural source of MCTs, and MCT oil is quickly becoming a must-have food staple for millions of people who are following a ketogenic diet. Why? Because of its ability to deliver immediate energy, boost brain function, and burn body fat.
High demand = more shortcuts
MCT oil is derived from coconut oil. Aside from coconut oil, smaller amounts of MCTs can also be found in other foods including grass-fed butter, palm oil, and whole-fat dairy like milk and yogurt.
Coconut oil is also a powerful source of Caprylic acid, and actually the richest source naturally available. This converts to a substance called monolaurin in the body—the same found in abundance in human breast milk, part of Mother Nature’s immune support that is passed from mother to child.
As keto lifestyles, built on high dietary healthy fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb eating, hit mainstream popularity, the number of MCT oils on the market has skyrocketed to meet demand.
The rush of smooth, sustainable energy when your body converts the medium-chain fatty acids directly into ketones that burn fat instead of sugar… it’s a lifesaver for many people who suffer from health conditions, or foggy brain, or those who haven’t been able to lose weight.
“Ketones are a fourth macronutrient and have the ability to revolutionize human nutrition and provide “super fuel” that can help to energize our hearts and brains,” says Dominic D’Agostino, Ph.D., neuroscience, molecular pharmacology, and physiology researcher at the University of South Florida, Tampa.
With the growing popularity of healthy MCT oil, you would expect that products on the market are pure, fresh and free of unnatural and even dangerous ingredients, like solvents, mold or impurities.
However, a whopping 80% of MCT oils on the market are what’s called conventionally grown and processed, meaning they have a lower standard of quality, purity, and safety. And with this fat being highly digestible in the body and easily and quickly absorbed into your body’s bloodstream, it’s essential for the MCT oil you chose meets the highest standard of quality and safety.
To reiterate – MCT oils, hence, are not created equal and range in potency, purity, processing, and packaging—the 4 Ps of MCTs. The quality you get is a direct result of the attention given to these components:
- Potency – The manner in which coconuts are grown—organic or non-organic—can increase or decrease the nutritional value of the fruit.
- Purity – Many MCT oils on the market are processed with chemical solvents like hexane and do not undergo mold testing
- Processing – 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.
- Packaging – Freshness, and flavor can be affected by the package. Glass bottles or a PET bottle (this type of bottle resists chemical degradation, is BPA free and recyclable) are considered the best way to preserve maximum quality.
If you’re interested in experiencing the power of MCTs for your own health or want to know where the MCT oil you use stands, it’s important for you to understand what to look for in a product.
How to choose an MCT oil
1: The quality of the ingredient source
Just about every corner of our country is the best at growing something— blueberries from Maine, avocados from California, oranges from Florida…
Seeds, soil, climate, cultivation, harvesting—all these things affect the quality and purity of a plant ingredient. And I’ve found in my personal and professional experience that quality and purity are rooted in these factors.
I have long been an advocate of non-GMO and organic foods, and, so it’s no different from coconuts. Always in search of the very best research, I utilize leading science to explore the specific health benefits of an ingredient, and I also visit the source, to see first-hand where and how it’s grown to establish the level of purity.
In the largest study ever on the nutritional profile of organic foods, the Quality Low Input Food (QLIF) project reported that organic produce may contain up to 40% more antioxidants than non-organic fruits and vegetables.
And so another advantage of buying MCT oil made from organic coconuts is that you eliminate the risk of being exposed to unregulated pesticides, which are often used in countries where the use of pesticides is not closely monitored.
2: Method used to extract oil (enzyme or chemical)
As with good healthy fats and bad fats, there are good and bad ways to extract oil from coconuts and other sources like olives, avocados, and seeds. How it’s done contributes to whether the oil is “refined” or “virgin.”
Typically, refined coconut oils, for example, first dry the coconut meat before separating the oil by using chemicals, such as hexane. This is a solvent distilled from petroleum—PETROLEUM! — used to release the oil from the meat.
Now, the correct way.
Cold-pressed extraction uses a steel-press force to “press” the oil from raw coconut meat gently, without compromising the nutritional value of the fatty acids. By pressing freshly cut, raw coconuts, you get the purest oil possible from which to extract MCTs.
The key to MCT extraction is a process I like to call the “Spark of Life.” It’s a process that uses lipase, a natural enzyme found in nature to separate the lauric acid leaving only medium-chain fatty acids, the most valuable substance in coconuts.
If you buy MCT oil, look for products that are made from “cold-pressed” or “unrefined” or “virgin” organic coconut oil.
3: How oil is cleaned and treated
For safety purposes, ingredients must undergo a process of cleansing or “purification” that removes impurities that may have made their way into the ingredient during handling and extraction to make it safe for human consumption.
A dirty little secret within the industry is that “purification” doesn’t mean “pure.” Refined oils may be bleached, deodorized and chemically rid of impurities, in addition to being subjected to high heat affecting the efficacy of the oil.
According to trusted scientific advisor, Tom Brenna, Ph.D., Professor at the University of Texas’s Dell Medical School Department of Pediatrics, high heat and harsh chemicals are enemies of coconut-derived oils, including MCTs.
“When coconut oil is extracted and purified without high heat and harsh chemicals, micronutrients are preserved, and the natural fat is not damaged,” Brenna says.
4: Testing for mold and toxins
Coconuts thrive in tropical climates where the moist, dense soil provides steady nutrients for growth. Given the damp climate, it’s not hard to imagine that coconuts are:
- Prone to mold, and
- Have a short shelf life (3-5 days after harvest at ambient conditions).
Ideally, to preserve maximum freshness, potency and purity, coconuts ought to be processed close to the source as every day they sit can lead to a greater risk of mold, mycotoxins and bacteria growth.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization stated, “most mycotoxins are chemically stable and survive food processing.” Sadly, despite the risks, most refined oils are NOT tested for mold exposing consumers to these such mycotoxins that can have serious adverse effects on our health.
You may have to do some digging into your favorite brand. Go to the website and learn about how the MCT oil you have selected is processed and what measures they took to keep you healthy and safe.
I hope you found this week’s information about how to choose a good fat product like MCT oil, or how to vet the one you use against others. Medium-chain fats are coconuts’ precious gifts to us. It’s only right that as a consumer you have access to the same playing field as everyone else to help you make an informed decision about what you bring into your home.