Every morning, Avigdor Miriam, co-founder of a health and wellness digital marketing agency, starts off his day off like many of us: with a cup of coffee. But Avigdor enjoys his coffee with a twist — he adds one teaspoon of MCT oil to his drink, giving him the kick-start he needs to run a business with his wife and business partner, Linda Miriam. “The oil gives Avigdor the laser-beam focus he needs to get tasks done for work, and even boosts his creativity,” she says.
Before discovering MCT oil, Avigdor was taking medication to help him focus, but it came with a heap of unwanted side effects, including headaches. All that changed when he and Linda discovered MCT oil. Now they have the energy and focus to run their business and feel their best, too.
Sounds great, right? But what exactly is MCT oil, and how does it work?
What Is MCT Oil?
MCTs — medium-chain triglycerides — are a unique form of dietary fat. Most of the fats found in the standard American diet — such as olive oil — are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) — also called long-chain fatty acids. MCTs (medium-chain fatty acids) are more easily absorbed and digested by the body because of their shorter chain length.
Throughout most of history, you could only get MCTs from natural foods such as coconuts, palm oil, goat milk, and breast milk. Today, you can buy it as a dietary supplement; most MCT oil supplements are made from coconuts, but sometimes they use palm oil. We recommend you avoid palm-derived MCT because of the environmental damage caused by palm plantations.
MCT oil is made by fractionating — extracting — the oil from the source to remove longer-chain fatty acids and keeping the medium-chain ones. Some coconut-based MCT oils remove lauric acid, which has 12 carbons and is on the cusp between medium and long-chain.
Available in oil, powder, and capsule forms, this supplement offers an impressive number of health benefits, including improved memory and focus, increased energy, and blood sugar control.
Sounds Great, but is MCT Oil Good for You?
Experts say yes. “MCT oil has many health benefits,” says Julie Michelson, a functional medicine health coach. “It is helpful for energy production, brain function, memory, weight loss, and blood sugar control.”
MCT oil is growing in popularity, but there’s good reason behind the buzz.
“It is an easy and helpful way to consume healthy fats,” adds Michelson. This supports a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle — also known as the “keto” or ketogenic diet. In a nutshell, MCTs provide a quick source of energy, boost fat-burning, and reduce appetite.
Top Health Benefits of MCT Oil
It’s easy to forget that oils and fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. MCT oil is loaded with health benefits, including the following.
Boosts Weight Loss
Though it may seem counterintuitive to consume fats to lose weight, you can use MCT oil without worrying about expanding your waistline. MCTs are easily digested and rarely stored as fat in the body.
MCTs may actually suppress the accumulation of body fat in healthy women and men. People who consume MCTs may end up with lower body weight compared to those eating foods with long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).
Most of us know that we need to maintain a healthy diet and exercise to lose weight, but sometimes the temptation to snack on unhealthy foods in between meals can thwart our efforts. MCTs not only give you a boost of energy; they help curb your appetite and reduce food intake, too!
Improves Gut Health
Your gut health affects more than just your digestion — it affects nearly every aspect of your physical and mental health.
The antimicrobial properties of MCTs help the body maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the GI tract. Specifically, they boost levels of probiotics in the gut — aka “good” bacteria — to keep you healthy.
MCT oil can boost the absorption of healthy fats; your body absorbs MCTs more easily than other lipids which tend to get stored, rather than used. MCTs may improve the nutrition and health of individuals with gastrointestinal disorders.
May Improve Brain Health
Whether you want to sharpen your focus or protect your brain against age-related cognitive decline, MCT oil is an excellent choice. These oils may increase your body’s ketones — chemicals that build up when you start burning fat for energy. This is helpful because ketones are a neuroprotective antioxidant beneficial to brain health.
MCTs can even protect against age-related cognitive decline by improving brain cell function and growth. This keeps your brain healthy, no matter your age.
MCT oil may even improve your mood!
Burns Fat and Increases Athletic Performance
Early evidence shows MCT supplementation may lead to better athletic performance. MCTs have gained popularity in recent years with athletes who want to increase their energy levels and endurance.
But you don’t need to be a professional athlete to benefit from the improved endurance MCT oil provides.
People who work out recreationally and supplement with MCT oil for two weeks may end up with better endurance for their moderate and high-intensity exercise.[12, 13]
Promotes Normal Cholesterol Levels
If lowering your cholesterol and balancing your blood sugar levels are a concern, there’s evidence to suggest that MCT oil may help maintain healthy levels of both.
MCTs promote normal levels of LDL — aka “bad” cholesterol — thus improving heart health. When overweight men took MCT combined with flaxseed oil for 29 days, their total cholesterol was reduced by an impressive 12.5 percent.
That’s not all. MCT oil also promotes normal levels of HDL — “good” cholesterol — which works to prevent plaque build-up in the heart and arteries.
Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Balance
Whether your blood sugar levels are a concern or you just want to avoid a post-lunch energy crash, MCT oil can help.
Dietary MCT may promote normal blood sugar and glucose tolerance. Glucose tolerance refers to how quickly glucose is cleared from your bloodstream.[17, 18]
Anytime your body can better handle its blood sugar levels, you have a healthier life. Stable blood sugar means steadier energy levels, versus sugar highs and lows.
How to Use MCT Oil
There are a few ways you can start incorporating MCTs into your daily routine, depending on your lifestyle and personal preference. If you’re new to MCT oil, start with smaller amounts to get your body accustomed to it.
MCT should be added to a diet slowly. Even the highest quality MCT oil can take the intestines some getting used to. It is best to start adding it in the morning for energy with a half teaspoon or less, increasing every few days as tolerated, up to two tablespoons a day, max.
Supplements: MCT oil supplements come in a pure oil form as well as powders and capsules. Most people take it as an oil.
Meals and drinks: Add it to your smoothies, salad dressings, or pre-workout shakes. It’s become popular to add MCT oil to coffee — sometimes called bulletproof coffee. It is nearly flavorless, so you don’t need to worry about it changing the taste of your food and drink!
A Solvent in Fat-Soluble Supplements: Certain fat-soluble supplements use MCT oil as a solvent, such as Global Healing’s Organic Hemp Extract. MCT oil increases the bioavailability of the fat-soluble cannabinoids in hemp, helping more to bypass the digestion process — which allows more to reach the bloodstream.
Points to Remember
MCT oil comes with a wide range of health benefits, including improved focus, weight loss, increased energy and endurance, balanced gut health, and improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Overall, MCT is a versatile, safe supplement to incorporate in your diet. MCT oil generally doesn’t have adverse effects, though newbies to the supplement may experience some gastrointestinal discomfort if you begin taking too much, too soon.
You can add MCT oil to almost any food or beverage. Popular on the keto diet, many people add it to their morning coffee, tea, or smoothie to kick start their day. Others prefer to use MCT powder or capsules.
No matter how you choose to consume MCT, be sure to look for organically sourced products that use only coconuts (no palm oil!) when selecting your supplement. You may also find MCT in fat-soluble nutritional supplements, such as hemp extract or CBD.