MCT is one of the most bioavailable sources of energy. It’s made by extracting medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) either from coconut or palm kernel oil.
While on the ketogenic diet, MCT oil is a source of fat that can quickly boost energy levels by effectively increasing ketone production and promoting fat loss. Unlike other fatty acids, MCTs don’t get stored as body fat. Here’s your guide to MCT oil benefits.
MCT oil comes from fatty acids extracted from coconut oil (the most common source) or palm oil — either pure C8, pure C10, or a combination of the two.
They’re known for being quickly absorbed by your body and metabolized into energy in the liver. MCTs are considered the most efficient saturated fats in terms of energy production.
The main function of MCTs is to create ketones. These energy molecules are generally considered a better source of energy for your body in comparison to glucose.
There are four MCTs found in food.
#1: Caproic Acid
Caproic acid is the compound that gives MCT oil its particular taste and tingle-in-your-throat feeling. This type of fatty acid makes up only 1% of MCTs in coconut oil and is the quickest to be converted into ketones.
#2: Caprylic Acid
Caprylic acid makes up 12% of the MCTs in coconut oil.
This type of MCT helps you maintain a healthy gut thanks to its strong antimicrobial and antibacterial properties[*][*]. This is the most efficient fatty acid after caproic acid because it converts rapidly into ketones in your liver. That’s the reason why it’s the main fatty acid present in MCT oil.
#3: Capric Acid
Capric acid is a little slower than caprylic acid when it comes to ketone creation and it usually makes up 10% of MCTs in coconut oil.
#4: Lauric Acid
Lauric acid makes up 77% of MCTs in coconut oil. Like its fellow MCTs, lauric acid has antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties — it kills microorganisms or stops their growth[*][*]. However, unlike the previous two fatty acids mentioned, lauric acid has a slower metabolization process.
Lauric acid is the most inefficient of all the MCTs because it can’t be turned into energy as quickly as the others. Because of this, you won’t find it in a high-quality MCT oil.
Aside from medium-chain triglycerides, there are also long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) or long chain fatty-acids, which have 13 carbons or more. LCTs require much more work by the body to process than MCTs because of their size.
There are 17 recognized LCTs, including: myristic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, arachidonic acid, oleic acid, eicosenoic acid, erucic acid, nervonic acid, omega 3, omega 6, omega 9 fatty acids.
In coconut oil, the main LCTs are:
- Stearic acid (C18)
- Oleic acid (C18:1)
- Linoleic acid (18:2)
While MCTs get to the liver in no time, LCTs require a bit more work. Due to their carbon size, they are not easily absorbed by the body and require pancreatic enzymes to break them down.
After they’re broken down and absorbed, they are delivered to the lymphatic system and then transported to the liver, where they will finally become oxidized and available for energy.
On the other hand, MCTs don’t need to be broken down at all. MCTs are transported directly to the liver where they are used immediately by the mitochondria and oxidized for energy.
MCTs are often compared with other types of fatty acids. Here’s a closer look to help you compare and understand the superior benefits of MCT oil in a keto lifestyle.
MCTs vs. Long-Chain Fatty Acids
Aside from medium-chain triglycerides, there are also long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) or long-chain fatty acids. LCTs require much more work by the body to be processed than MCTs because of their size.
Due to their high carbon content, they’re not easily absorbed by the body and require pancreatic enzymes to break them down.
After being broken down and absorbed, they’re delivered to the lymphatic system and then transported to the liver, where they’ll finally become oxidized and available for energy.
On the other hand, MCTs don’t need to be broken down at all. MCTs are transported directly to the liver where they’re used immediately by the mitochondria and turned into energy.
MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil
The main difference between MCT oil and coconut oil is their MCT content.
Coconut oil is 55% MCTs, while MCT oil is made of 100% MCTs.
Furthermore, coconut oil contains all 4 medium-chain fatty acids, including large quantities of lauric acid, the least efficient MCT. MCT oil only uses the two most efficient MCTs for energy: caprylic and capric acid.
if you’re looking to stay healthy and simply add more MTCs to your diet, coconut oil is enough. However, if you want to gain all the advantages of pure medium-chain triglycerides and fuel your body with ketones, MCT oil is the best choice.
MCT oil or MCT oil powder is perfect in your morning coffee, salads or added into protein shakes. Just one tablespoon contains about 100 calories and 14 grams of fat.
The amount and types of MCTs present in whole foods are highly variable. Generally, coconut oil, coconut-derived products, and palm oil have higher concentrations of lauric acid than capric or caprylic acid, while dairy products have relatively low concentrations of lauric acid and more capric and caprylic acid.
MCTs in Food
Most whole foods have a combination of all four types of MCTs in varying degrees.
Below is the total amount of MCTs present in fatty foods:
Source: USDA Food Composition Databases
- Coconut oil (55%)
- Palm oil (53%)
- Coconut meat (37%)
- Coconut cream (20%)
- Coconut milk (14%)
- Butter* (8%)
- Goat cheese (6%)
- Feta cheese* (4%)
- Gouda cheese* (3%)
- Heavy cream* (3%)
- Cream cheese * (3%)
- Gruyere cheese* (3%)
- Cheddar cheese* (3%)
- Parmesan cheese* (3%)
- Swiss cheese* (3%)
- Romano cheese* (2%)
- Mozzarella cheese* (2%)
- White cheese* (2%)
- Dry milk* (2%)
- Plain yogurt* (0.3%)
(* dairy is best from grass-fed cows)
While both coconut oil and palm oil contain high levels of MCTs, the main fatty acid present in both is lauric acid, the slowest to be metabolized and converted into ketogenic energy.
One of the main advantages of supplementing with MCT oil is that you get a high concentrated dose of MCTs that convert quickly to ketones, without having to eat big quantities of any particular food to get the same benefits.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re considering adding MCT oil to your diet.
Dosage and Safety
If you’re new to MCT oil, start off with small amounts. Begin with a teaspoon a day and slowly increase your intake to get your body accustomed.
Once your body begins to adjust to the metabolization process, you can then increase to a tablespoon a day or however much you prefer. MCT oil is generally safe and doesn’t have adverse effects.
Some people report having diarrhea when starting to consume MCT oil, so it’s important you begin with a small dose and test how your body responds to it.
You can also reap MCT oil benefits by using the powder form instead. This can be easier on the stomach. MCT oil shouldn’t affect your digestion or have any side effects, but if you have a sensitive stomach it’s important to be cautious.
You can use MCT oil or MCT oil powder as a supplement by adding it to your regular meals and drinks:
- Coffee and other warm drinks: MCT oil is great to take before you need your brain to be at its optimal level. Adding it to your boosted coffee in the morning not only guarantees your intake of healthy fats, but it also provides the ultimate energy for your body and brain to start the day. Try it in the Perfect Keto Frappuccino.
- Smoothies: Add 1 tbsp of MCT oil to your daily smoothie for a boost of healthy fats. Try this low-carb acai almond butter smoothie.
- Pre-workout and post-workout shakes: Don’t feel like you have to restrict your MCTs to the mornings — they also provide an amazing source of energy for workouts, especially high-intensity training. Supplementing your pre- or post-workout meal with a tablespoon of MCT oil can help improve both training intensity and recovery. MCT oil as a pre-workout supplement can be great for those just starting their keto diet who usually increase their carb intake around their workout times for sufficient energy.
You may be wondering if you can use MCT oil for cooking. You can, as long as you’re cooking at a low temperature or making raw snacks.
Because it has a low smoking point, MCT oil should not be heated to temperatures above 300-320°F. High temperatures will oxidize and breakdown the oil. The smoking point of MCT oil is similar to the one of extra-virgin olive oil (320-370°F), so treat it the same when cooking.
This means it can’t be used for deep frying, but here’s how it can be used instead:
- Replace olive oil with MCT oil when making pesto.
- Use it in salads. Unlike coconut oil, MCT oil is liquid at room temperature and has no taste. This makes it perfect to add to salad dressings.
- Add it to dips.
- Use it in marinades and sauces.
- Mix it with cacao powder to make a quick chocolate sauce that you can drizzle over snacks and berries.
MCT oil can be found in two ways: oil and powder. The powder is more practical and even less detectable than MCTs in oil form.
Why Choose MCT Oil Powder?
There are a number of reasons why MCT oil is a good idea in powder form:
- It’s easier on the digestive system.
- Raises ketone levels more effectively.
- It’s easier to mix in baking recipes because of its dry texture.
- Leaves no oily residue.
- Travels easier through airport security checks.
- It can be easily packed when going camping or on road trips.
MCT Oil Benefits: The Ultimate Keto Supplement
To incorporate MCT oil in your diet, try anti-inflammatory MCT fat bombs. They’re a great snack to grab on the go with a prep time of less than five minutes. If you’re looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, these mocha fat bombs are another option that is fulfilling and will soothe the chocolate lover in you.
Whether it’s in oil form or powder form, the benefits of MCT oil make it the ultimate addition to any meal any time of day.