What’s the Best MCT Oil? Oil vs. Powder vs. Capsules
Due to the popularity of MCT oil among everyone from integrative doctors to DIY biohackers, there are hundreds of MCT oil brands and products on the market today. It can be confusing to search for the best MCT oil, or even know what that product should include.
So how can you choose the best MCT oil? Does premium MCT oil need to be from organic coconuts? What should you look for in the best MCT oil product, and what are the benefits of taking it? In this article, we’ll explore the answers to these questions to help you determine whether MCT oil is right for you.
MCT Oil Background and Benefits
Not all that long ago, fat was demonized as the opposite of a healthy diet. With the increasingly popular keto diet and further research on the role that essential fatty acids play in our health and nutrition, we’ve come a long way from the “all fat is bad” viewpoint. We now know that dietary fat (as opposed to glucose) can be a powerful energy source, and it is an essential nutrient from the systemic all the way down to the cellular membrane level.
Still, many people are not getting enough healthy fats in their diet, whether due to fat digestion and absorption issues or simply not eating enough. This is where MCT oil can become a helpful dietary ally.
As a quick overview, MCT oil:
- Is widely regarded as a healthy fat source
- Contains medium-chain fatty acids, which can provide easy and quick energy for the body
- Supports cognition for those with Alzheimer’s disease [1, 2]
- Can increase glucose metabolism by up to 30% [3, 4]
- Promotes ketone production and modest body fat loss [5, 6]
MCT oil is one of the few plant-based saturated fats. It also doesn’t have to be broken down in the body by digestive enzymes or bile acids, making it easily absorbed by the liver. This allows MCT oil to be used for quick energy and brain fuel .
MCT oil — or medium-chain triglycerides oil — is derived from coconut oil or palm kernel oil. It is flavorless and can be added to a variety of dishes to increase healthy fat content.
Medium-chain triglycerides are one of three main types of fatty acids: short-chain triglycerides, medium-chain triglycerides, and long-chain triglycerides. MCT oil contains only medium-chain triglycerides, while coconut oil contains both medium and long-chain triglycerides.
The power of MCT oil lies in its different types of medium-chain fatty acids:
- Caprylic acid (C8 MCT oil)
- Capric acid (C10 MCT oil)
Most MCT oil contains a combination of 50%-80% caprylic acid and 20%-50% capric acid . There are two other types of MCTs: caproic acid (C6 MCT oil) and lauric acid (C12 MCT oil), but these are not usually included in MCT oil or are only present in very small amounts.
Is There a Best MCT Oil?
When purchasing any new product or supplement, you want to be mindful of the ingredients. However, there’s no need to stress over finding the best MCT oil. The main thing to look out for on the label is that it is pure MCT oil, free from any extra fillers, solvents, and additives. It’s also a sign of high quality when the label lists the percentages of caprylic and capric acid. Depending on your preferences, you may also want to choose an MCT oil that is organic and/or non-GMO, but don’t worry if these varieties are difficult to find.
You may also want to be mindful of whether your MCT oil is sourced from palm oil, the farming of which has contributed to deforestation . In that case, simply look for an MCT oil that is only sourced from coconuts.
That being said, one of the few drawbacks of MCT oil is, like many oils, it can get a bit messy, leak out of the bottle, and stick to surfaces like your kitchen countertops. Luckily, now you can also find MCT oil powder, which can be easier to add to your morning coffee, a smoothie, or meal replacement shake. Of course, there are still situations where a liquid makes more sense, such as making a salad dressing.
Things to look for in the best MCT oil products:
- One ingredient: MCT oil
- Free from extra fillers, solvents, and additives
- Lists the percentages of caprylic (between 50-80%) and capric acid (between 20-50%)
- Organic (optional)
- Non-GMO (optional)
- Sourced from coconuts instead of palm oil (optional)
Benefits of MCT Oil
MCT oil has many diverse health benefits, including brain health, satiety, gut health, and support for getting into and staying in ketosis (burning fat as fuel).
Because medium-chain fatty acids are so easily absorbed and do not need to be broken down in the digestive system first, they can cross the blood-brain barrier. That means they can become fuel for the brain . Many people report a boost in brain function after taking MCT oil. This is also one of the reported main benefits of the “bulletproof coffee” trend.
We don’t have a lot of studies on the effects of MCT oil on brain function, but two studies showed that MCT oil somewhat improved cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients [1, 2]. Another showed a greater benefit in cognitive ability for type 1 diabetic patients .
Many people report weight loss as a benefit of adding MCT oil to a healthy diet.
MCT oil may also help you burn fat and lose weight by modulating ghrelin levels, increasing satiety (feeling full) .
Digestion and Gut Health
If your gut motility is on the slow side, MCT oil may support digestion by increasing your healthy fat intake and providing more lubrication in the digestive tract as a result. However, if you already experience faster motility or have any gut problems, you may experience issues with MCT oil like upset stomach, diarrhea, cramping, or bloating .
However, digestive side effects can be minimized by simply adding MCT oil to your diet slowly over time. While supplementary MCT oil is recommended at doses of 15-20 ml per meal (about 1 tablespoon) you could start with as little as 1 teaspoon and work your way up from there [14, 15].
MCT Oil for Keto Diets
MCT oil is well known for helping to sustain ketosis, the state of burning fat for energy instead of glucose. Many people have used the ketogenic diet to lose weight, improve cognitive function, and increase energy levels. The keto diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and low-carb.
MCT oil directly facilitates production of ketones, the energy source that comes from being in a state of ketosis .
However, MCT oil can be a helpful partner in other, less restrictive therapeutic diets as well, such as the Paleo diet.
How to Use MCT Oil
There are many ways you can incorporate MCT oil into your diet. MCT oil is great to add to:
- Elemental shakes
- Salad dressings
- Coffee and tea
When cooking, only use MCT oil at a low heat, if you use it at all. As a medium-chain fatty acid, MCT oil has a low smoke point at 302°F (150°C) . As long as you keep the temperature below this point, like with light to medium-heat sautéing, you won’t oxidize the oil, which can make it toxic and produce free radicals. But typically, you would want to go with an oil that has a higher smoke point and is heat-stable for cooking, like coconut oil (350.6°F) or olive oil (374°F) [16, 17].
Use MCT Oil If It’s Right for You
Whether you choose a high-quality liquid, powder or MCT oil capsules, the best MCT oil is the one that suits your needs and benefits you. Start slowly to avoid any digestive issues, and increase your intake to a level that you can maintain and feels good to you.
If you want more guidance on how to incorporate MCT oil and other nutritional supports into a healthy diet, reach out to schedule a consultation with us at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine.