In today's wellness world, health trends continue to evolve and some of what is popular today, you likely never would have believed 5 or 10 years ago; like the concept of skipping breakfast while you intermittently fast or putting butter into your morning coffee! You've likely heard a little (or maybe now know a lot) about the most current high-fat diet trend and its benefits. And because of it, foods like butter and oil are now having a moment, showing up in more than just our baked goods.
The theory behind it? A diet high in fat, moderate in protein and very low in carbohydrates (classified as the Ketogenic or Keto diet) shifts your body to use fat as its primary energy source, helping regulate blood sugar levels, boost metabolism, and burn stores more efficiently. One of the fats that has been quickly gaining in popularity and touted as a beneficial ingredient to start incorporating into your daily regimen is MCT oil.
Here's the scoop if you're considering starting to follow a higher fat diet or just curious what it's all about.
What Exactly Is MCT Oil?
MCT is short for "medium chain triglyceride", which specifically is a classification of fat. Triglycerides are fat molecules composed of a fatty acid and an alcohol (glycerol). Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat, classified by the number of carbon atoms on the "tail" of the structure. This "tail", referred to as a chain, can be either short, medium or long. The structure of these fats affects how our body processes them.
Medium chain triglycerides are the types of saturated fatty acids specifically digested more easily than other fats. They are more quickly broken down by the body and utilized by the liver for fuel and energy. These fats are found in highest concentration in coconut oil & MCT oil, which is why both have suddenly gained popularity. MCT oil is most often derived from coconut oil but also can be found in lower amounts in palm oil.
Key Benefits For You
MCTs get their popularity thanks to the science-backed fact that they are easily digested fats that have a number of potential benefits for your body. This includes helping to regulate hunger and reaching or maintaining optimal weight, enhancing cognitive function (think food for your brain), and supporting your gut microbiome. And, if that isn't enough, if you workout, they have also been shown to increase endurance as well. Below you'll find a few more details on each.
1. Weight Loss
There are more and more clinical studies coming out that are showing how MCTs are a great tool in supporting weight loss
. How? MCTs are shown to help your body feel satisfied
and therefore reduce the overall total calories you consume in a day. Beyond just eating less, MCTs also increase thermogenesis in your body
, meaning they boost your metabolism and help you to more easily burn fat in the body for energy.
2. Quick Energy Source
As mentioned, MCTs are easily digested. Specifically, MCTs are absorbed and digested more rapidly than other types of fats
. They travel directly to the liver from your gut where they are then most likely used as fuel, especially if there are fewer carbohydrates present in your body. This type of rapid use by the body has also been linked to increased energy output in endurance athletes
, meaning you can go harder in your workout for a longer period of time.
3. Brain Power
When your body digests fats and uses it for energy, a chemical called "ketones" are released in the body. Ketones are chemicals that the brain can use immediately for energy. When we take MCTs, especially when eaten before carbohydrates, they are converted into ketones giving your brain an instant boost of clarity. Beyond that, clinical studies are showing that this alternative fuel for our brain can help support neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers
4. Gut Health
We are learning that MCTs are also quite beneficial to the health of your gut
, promoting growth of good bacteria in your gut as well as healing the lining of your gut when needed. This means that MCTs can be quite therapeutic for those suffering from GI issues such as inflammatory bowel disease.
When Buying MCT Oil Look For This
As with all supplements, look for an ingredient list that is as short and clean as possible. It's not uncommon to see extra fillers (such as maltodextrin) to be included in powdered MCT products. You can also look at the percentage of MCT within the oil, which will help you to ensure you're getting an oil not comprised of fillers and other additives. High quality products typically will make a note of this percentage somewhere on the bottle (look for something over 65%). Finally, ensure your MCT product is sustainably sourced.
Adding It Into Your Day
There are some really simple and easy ways you can start incorporating MCT oil into your day. Perhaps most popular is including it into your morning coffee. Many people like doing a type of "keto coffee" using a combination of MCT oil, grass-fed butter or ghee and collagen. Beyond coffee you can easily incorporate MCT oil into other foods. A fun breakfast addition is adding it into collagen protein pancakes
or your smoothie
. You can also even use as part of a salad dressing or in a homemade dessert
. The bottom line, when used in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet, MCTs have the potential to offer your body a number of benefits. Have you given MCTs a try yet