What Is MCT Oil And What Are Its Health Benefits?

A kind of ‘natural fuel’ for the body and brain, MCT oil is a great source of healthy fats that can help improve sports performance, cognitive ability, weight management, gut and heart health.

MCTs or medium chain triglycerides are a type of dietary fat most commonly found in coconut and palm oils. They are rarer and notably different in their chemical makeup in that they contain between six and 12 carbon chains, compared to the long chain triglycerides (LCTs) containing more than 12 carbon chains found in most other dietary fats. For this reason, MCTs are more effectively absorbed and utilised to provide immediate energy instead of being stored as fat in the body. 

MCTs and ketosis

Instead of requiring pancreatic enzymes and bile to be digested for absorption (as needed for LCTs), MCTs are absorbed directly through the gut, into the blood stream and sent straight to the liver. Here, MCTs are converted to ketone bodies – the by-product of fat being utilised for energy, which can be used by the brain, heart and other muscles.

MCTs also allow our bodies to reach ketosis (the process of burning fat for energy) faster and more easily, and because they do not store as fat in the body, can also help with weight management, endurance and physical performance.

Types of MCTs

MCTs are found in a number of foods, including coconut oil, and have between 6-12 chains of carbons (noted as C6-C12 on food labels). To keep it simple, the shorter the carbon chain, the more efficiently the MCT will be turned into ketones for energy. 

As a guide, C6 and C8 are best for faster, more instant energy, C10 and C12 are best for endurance energy and mental performance, and anywhere in between (usually C8 and C10) is great for every day health benefits. For best results choose an MCT made from coconut oil instead of palm oil.

How to use MCTs

MCTs are practically tasteless, which makes them easy to include in your diet. Start by taking a tablespoon a day and build up to two or three tablespoons per day for best results. Do not cook with MCT oils as they have a low smoke point and their chemical structure changes when exposed to heat. Instead, add MCT to your morning tea or coffee, smoothie, breakfast cereals or oats (after cooking) and salad dressings. And did you know that adding healthy fats to a meal improves the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (such as A, D, E and K) and some antioxidants found in fruit and veggies?

FYI: MCT oils are not recommended for use by pregnant women or people with diabetes or liver problems.

Chelsea’s favourite ways to use MCT oils

Smoothies: add 1-2tbsp to a green smoothie made from almond milk, raw protein powder, coconut yoghurt, spinach or slightly steamed silver beet, spirulina and frozen blueberries.

Salad dressing: mix MCT oil with tahini, tamari, nutritional yeast and cumin for a hearty, earthy flavour

You can get your hands on some here.

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