Medium-chain triglycerides – also commonly known as MCTs - have gained a lot of popularity recently. But navigating this potential all-rounder, practical supplement can sometimes be tough.
In this article, we’ll break down the facts behind the hype and explain all the hows and whys for an MCT beginner.
So, why exactly should I be adding MCTs into my diet?
There are many reasons why you should incorporate MCTs into your daily routine:
- They act as brain fuel; assisting with cognitive performance, memory and overall brain health.
- They increase long-lasting energy . MCTs are turned into ketones, so they are absorbed by the liver instantly without giving you short bursts of energy. They encourage the body to use the ketones instead of glucose and can help assist muscle growth.
- MCTs help physical performance when exercising and can act as a pre-workout.
- Assists in weight loss, MCTs are absorbed instantly and don’t get stored as fat. They also make you feel fuller for longer. They have about 10% fewer calories than other healthy fats such as avocados and nuts.
- They help stop sugar cravings.
- They have antioxidant properties that help speed up metabolism.
- They support gut health.
- Some research suggests they can prevent cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and can help treat diabetes .
That sounds great, but what exactly are Medium-chain triglycerides?
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a form of fatty acids that can be added to your diet as a health supplement, like a fish oil or omega 3 tablet.
Triglycerides are the technical term for fat, which can either be turned into fat when consumed or burned as energy. The ‘chain’ refers to the length of carbon atoms, or ‘fractions’ in fatty acids. There are short, medium and long-chain triglycerides .
Is the length of the chain important?
You may have been told to add more foods rich in ‘healthy fats’ in your diet or replace unhealthy saturated fats with healthy unsaturated fats in your cooking. What makes a healthy fat comes down to the number of carbon atoms on the chain.
Long-chain fatty acids are the unsaturated fats commonly found in our western diets. These fatty acids contain around 13-21 carbon atoms. MCTs are medium-chain fatty acids that stop the fat sorting process due to its shorter chain of carbon atoms. They contain around 6-12 carbon atoms.
This means MCT carbon atoms are broken down quickly , and go through the gut wall and into the liver without stopping along the way. MCTs produce energy molecules of ketones rather than glucose, making them a healthy fat and a better energy source.
How can I get these healthy Medium-chain triglycerides?
The best way to consume medium-chain triglycerides is through oil or oil powder. MCT oil is usually tasteless and can be consumed in many ways such as added to coffee or smoothies, salad dressings, or even straight from a tablespoon.
You can find a high percentage of MCTs in coconut and palm oil, and small amounts in other foods.
Does it make a difference whether my MCTs are from coconut or palm oil?
Functionally, no. But palm oil is not great for our health or the environment.
It the least sustainable oil out there and we use it daily. According to the WWF, it is used in at least half the planets packaged products.
Some palm oil harvesting destroys rainforests and is responsible for the loss of species like elephants, orangutans, rhinos and tigers. Some indigenous peoples have also been forced to leave their land due to deforestation.
Can I just eat coconut oil I have in my pantry to get my MCTs?
Yes, but it’s not that cut and dry.
The main difference between coconut oil and the MCT oil derived from coconut comes down to the way it is processed in the body. MCTs make up 55%- 65% of a coconut and the rest of the oil is a combination of saturated and unsaturated fats. The two types of MCT carbon atoms commonly extracted from coconut oil for MCT oil are C8 caprylic and C10 capric carbon atoms, or fatty acids.
You can consume coconut oil for MCT benefits, however, you will need to increase your intake of coconut oil to get the same benefits as a small amount of MCT oil. The recommended dose of MCT oil is 1 to 4 tablespoons a day, so you will be consuming more unnecessary saturated fat with coconut oil.
Coconut oil is better for traditional uses, such as cooking. You get the rich coconut taste, as well as the added benefit of using quality, healthy fat. It is also great for body care.
So, it is worth investing in an MCT oil if you are looking to gain its extensive list of health benefits without feeling unsure about the added fats. It all comes down to how your body uses energy.
What should I look for when buying an MCT oil?
Most MCT oils are made from coconut oil and you will find plenty on the market that all have similar ingredients and claim to perform the same. There are a few differences so here’s what to look for:
- Most MCT products use C8 caprylic C10 capric fatty acids, however some brands fail to separate these two effective carbon atoms from the unnecessary carbon atoms. Look for brands that only use C8 and C10 for maximum benefits.
- Look for products that come from 100% coconut oil. Coconut oil is the best source of MCT and is the healthiest fat that produce MCTs.
- The final step to finding the perfect MCT oil is to check how the coconuts are harvested. Unfortunately, many brands will use words like ‘organic’ and ‘clean’ when describing their oil. The reality is their coconuts come from large corporations that unethically harvest coconuts. From the working conditions of the farmers to destroying rainforests.
What about Niulife's MCT oil?
Niulife’s MCT oil range goes beyond using ethically sourced coconut oil. The oil is 100% derived from coconuts, meaning it is fair on small farmers, the environment and protects wildlife. 100% of all profits from Niulife products go straight back to the communities in the Pacific Islands. They go towards erasing poverty, bringing hope and changing lives. The range is also paleo, vegan, gluten free and dairy free. They also include other energy boosting ingredients, such as chia oil and flax oil.