Whether you’re into a full-blown keto lifestyle or just like the idea of Bulletproof Coffee, you’ve probably heard of MCTs (short for medium-chain triglycerides) and seen various MCT oil products lining the shelves of health stores.
There are a whole lot of MCT oils out there, but not all are created equal. If you’re considering incorporating MCT oil into your daily routine, keep the following tips top-of-mind.
What Exactly Are MCTs, Again?
“As the name suggests, MCT molecules are shorter than long-chain triglycerides but longer than short-chain fatty acids,” explains dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller, R.D., L.D.N., nutrition adviser for Smart Healthy Living. (MCT molecules contain between six and 12 carbon atoms; long-chain fatty acids contain more; short-chain fatty acids contain less.)
The perk of these particular types of fats: “MCTs tend to be readily digestible and absorbed quickly into the body to form ketones,” she says. Basically, your body can convert MCTs into a usable form of fat-derived energy, and put it to work. (That’s a huge plus for ketogenic diet-followers, who rely on fat for all of their fuel.)
Early animal research (like this 2018 PLoS One study) shows that MCTs can increase exercise endurance. Experts also believe that MCTs may support fat loss, satiety, healthy cholesterol and blood sugar, and memory, says Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N., dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe.
“Many consumers add MCTs to their morning keto coffee,” says Pamela Nisevich Bede M.S., R.D., L.D. author of Sweat. Eat. Repeat. and owner of SwimBikeRunEat. “When in this fasted state—or in ketosis—the brain can rely on MCTs for fuel, thus helping with cognition.”
Are Certain Types Of MCT Products Better Than Others?
Different types of MCTs may work slightly differently in the body, depending on the number of carbons a particular MCT fat contains.
“In general, the shorter the chain, the faster your body can utilize the fat for energy,” says Blakely. “Therefore, C6 will be converted to energy quicker than C10.”
Furthermore, some experts believe that the MCT C12 (known as lauric acid) functions more like a long-chain triglyceride than a MCT. (If lauric acid rings a bell, that’s because it’s the main fatty acid in coconut oil.)
Read More: 5 Tips For Easing Into The Keto Diet
Still, you may benefit from incorporating C12—and a breadth of the other MCTs—into your diet. “Like most things in life, I recommend a variety of sources,” says Nisevich Bede. “Aim to take in a variety of C6 to C12 MCTs throughout the day, in supplement and food form.”
Other MCT Considerations To Keep In Mind
Specific types of MCTs aside, there are a few other factors to keep in mind when hunting for an MCT oil.
Read More: 3 Easy Ways To Add MCT Oil To Your Diet
“Choose a 100 percent MCT oil that is organic and a sustainably-sourced,” suggests Nisevich Bede, who personally loves the Nutiva brand. Most MCT oils are made from coconut or palm, which some experts believe contribute to deforestation. (Palm is especially suspect.) Opting for an organic, sustainable MCT oil helps ensure your product is good for you (think no pesticides) and the planet (think healthier farming practices).
Lastly, if you’d rather not drink your MCT in a coffee or smoothie, Blakely recommends looking for MCT soft gels. (Try Now Sports MCT Oil 1000 mg.) And if you’re sticking to a strict keto diet, avoid MCT powder, says Nisevich Bede. Many powders are cut with maltodextrin, which may impact your blood sugar, and other additives.
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