What is MCT Oil?
You may have heard of MCT oil, particularly in relation to the keto diet. But what is MCT oil exactly, and what are its benefits? Today I will try and present the low-down and give you all you need to know about MCT oil and the role it plays in ketosis.
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides – it is a type of fat which is low in our diets, and which has had a lot of interest in recent years.
MCT oil can be produced from coconuts or palm oil. Palm oil is often the cheapest option, but palm oil production is strongly linked to the destruction of the rainforests. This means that coconut-sourced MCT is the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly option when choosing your MCT oil products.
What Are The Benefits Of MCT Oil?
Research has indicated several different potential benefits associated with MCT oil. The initial interest in this oil was sparked by claims that it could be useful in supporting memory, as the brain uses MCT’s to provide energy. Published clinical trials have indicated that supplementing MCT oils will provide the brain with the fuel it requires and could be a useful addition to regimes aimed at memory problems. (1)
However, MCT oil has become most well-known for its popularity with followers and advocates of the keto diet.
What is the Keto Diet?
Keto is short for ketosis, a state where the body is burning fat for energy instead of sugar. The whole goal of the keto diet is to keep the body in a state of ketosis, so that fat is burned effectively.
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
The body has two main sources of energy:
- Glucose – which comes from breaking down carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, pasta, potato and of course sugar, cakes, and biscuits.
- Ketones – which come from fats.
The body will always choose to use glucose first, as it is the easiest way for it to access energy. When glucose supply is limited however, the liver will start to break down fats to produce the ketones that provide the energy the body needs.
This is where MCT oil comes in, as Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) are the type of fats the body prefers to use to produce ketones. The keto diet is therefore designed to provide foods which are low in glucose (carbohydrates) but rich in MCT’s (fats) so that the body is forced into ketosis. (2)
What Can You Eat On a Keto Diet?
Keto diet is not about counting calories, and many things may seem at odds with the rules people may be used to from following more traditional diet regimes. Suitable foods include:
- Meat, fish and seafood – these are all good sources of protein. However, the keto diet does not increase the amount that would normally be eaten.
- Eggs – a great staple of this diet, often used to replace bread in omelette wraps and to make savoury ‘muffins’, which contain no flour.
- Vegetables from above the ground – these are used in abundance to add flavour and variety. They are also used to replace carbs with things like cauliflower mash, cauliflower rice and courgette spaghetti.
- Full-fat dairy – including cream, full-fat Greek yoghurt and cream. Remember fat is your friend on keto!
- Nuts – can be used as a snack, the best are said to be pecan and macadamia.
What To Drink On the Keto Diet
- Water, tea and herbal teas are all good choices, as it is important to stay hydrated when following a keto diet.
- Coffee – black or with cream. Many people also add MCT Oil to their coffee to promote ketosis.
What Should You Avoid On The Keto Diet?
- Carbs – no sugar, cakes, biscuits or simple ‘white’ carbohydrates are allowed. A small amount of complex ‘wholegrain’ carbohydrate is permitted, but it is suggested that total carbohydrate intake is kept below 100g per day.
- Fruits – a small amount of berries may be used, but apart from this fruit is high in simple sugars.
- Vegetables from below the ground – potato, carrot, sweet potato, parsnips all contain a relatively high level of carbohydrate, so are kept limited on a keto regime.
What Are The Benefits Of Keto?
Fans of the keto diet plan claim that it leads to effective and long-term weight loss, without any loss of muscle mass. It is also claimed that the state of ketosis provides much more sustained and reliable energy levels, rather than the peaks and troughs often suffered when the body is using glucose for energy.
How To Use MCT Oil For Weight Loss
If you do want to try MCT for weight loss, there are a few ways you can incorporate it into your daily routine.
In general, MCT Oil is added to the diet either in coffee or smoothies, but it can also be found in capsules. Many advocates of MCT oil suggest adding it to black coffee and potentially even adding a spoonful of grass-fed butter! MCT Oil is often added to coffee because caffeine stimulates energy production, so providing caffeine at the same time as the MCT means that the body is more likely to be forced into ketosis – assuming there is no glucose in the system. For this reason, MCT is often taken in the morning, before any food.
How Much MCT Oil For Ketosis?
If you are using an MCT Oil and adding it to coffee or smoothies, then the suggested level to take daily is one tablespoon (15ml). However, be warned, some people may feel a little nauseous starting at this level, especially when taking it on an empty stomach. Therefore, you may wish instead to start with a teaspoon full (5ml) and slowly increase daily, until you are at 15ml.
If you are choosing the convenience of a capsule, you will most likely need to take up to 6 capsules per day.
Why You Should Look For The Vegan Logo
Aside from avoiding MCT oil derived from palm oil, there is another ethical element to consider. Some coconut sourced MCT oils use coconuts which have been harvested by monkeys because monkeys are more efficient at picking than humans. However, the monkeys used are being exploited and are kept in captivity.
A vegan certified MCT oil will have been able to prove that no monkeys were used in the harvesting of their coconuts. So, be sure to look for a vegan certified, 100% coconut-sourced MCT, and you can play your part in caring for the planet and animal welfare!
(1) HOW MCT HELPS THE BRAIN
Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during ageing? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease; Cunnane SC et al; Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016 Mar
(2) MCT FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Assunção ML et al; Lipids. 2009 Jul
Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men. St-Onge MP et al; Obes Res. 2003 Mar
Impact of medium and long-chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men. Marie-Pierre St-Onge; Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014
Written By Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a Nutritional Therapist who has worked with clients in Health Foods Stores and Private Clinics for over 20 years.)