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4 Benefits Of MCT Oil (+ How To Use It)

For your health and longevity, it’s so important to become metabolically flexible. This means that your body can easily shift from burning carbs to burning fat for energy. Incorporating MCT oil into your regimen is one way to help achieve this flexibility.

MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, a type of dietary fat that provides some amazing health benefits. Most of the fats we eat are long-chain triglycerides that take a long time to digest. MCT, on the other hand, has a shorter chemical structure. As a result, MCT oil absorbs more quickly into the bloodstream and provides faster energy.

You can find MCT oil on its own as a supplement, as a functional ingredient in other supplements (like in my All-In-One Shakes), or in coconut, where it’s typically derived from. Coconut is a great, natural source of MCTs—and do be mindful of the source. There are products using MCTs that come from palm oil. This type is highly unsustainable, so I suggest avoiding it at all costs.

But isn’t coconut oil a saturated fat? It is! But 60% of its fat content actually comes from these medium-chain fatty acids.

“While it's important to limit saturated fats, it's equally important that you replace them with good fats—the unsaturated ones—and not refined carbohydrates,” says Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, in Eat Your Vitamins. “MCTs are healthier than other saturated fats and may even help with weight loss, satiety, inflammation, and more.”

Whether you've been using MCT oils for years or you're curious about incorporating them into your plan, here are 4 ways that using it can benefit your health.

Benefit 1: MCT oil helps you manage your weight

MCT oil has been found to help reduce body weight, waist circumference, and insulin resistance.1,2 It has a higher thermic effect than long-chain fatty acids do (just like protein), so your body works harder to digest it—burning more calories in the process.

Fat helps keep you full and blood sugar stable, so adding it to your smoothies or dropping a spoonful into your coffee can increase your satiety level. Coconut oil provides benefits in this context, but more concentrated MCT oil is even more effective.

The Second Meal Phenomenon is at work here, too—one study showed that adding 2 tbsp of MCT oil to your breakfast can reduce the amount that you eat at lunch.3

MCT oil increases ketone levels in the body as well (whether you’re following a keto diet or not), which turns off hunger and dials down cravings dramatically.4

Eating meals that actually keep you full for hours, avoiding snacking in between, and adding the metabolic boost from MCTs helps keep your blood sugar stable, reduces inflammation, and raises your metabolic rate to promote weight loss.

Not bad for a simple twist to your morning cup of joe!

 Benefit 2: MCT oil improves heart health

Years of misguided dietary advice may have you doing a double-take—yes, it’s true, fat is good for your heart!

Studies have found that MCTs in particular help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke by preventing the hardening and narrowing of arteries (also known as atherosclerosis).5

Research also shows that it’s effective at lowering total cholesterol—reducing it by 12.5% (compared to less than 5% with olive oil)— and LDL cholesterol.6 Not all LDL is bad, but we do want this number to be on the lower end, while HDL is the one we want to be higher. Good news, MCT oil supports that, too! 7

Benefit 3: MCT oil protects the brain

Did you know MCTs actually slow the molecular changes that cause aging? For this reason, they're currently being studied as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, age-related dementia, and other serious neurodegenerative diseases.8

Alzheimer’s is often referred to these days as type 3 diabetes because of its relation to insulin dysregulation. More research is needed in this area, but this just provides another reason why blood sugar stabilization and managing inflammation are so important—two things MCT oil supports.

It’s also well known that a high-fat diet is nourishing to the brain (the ketogenic diet has been used to treat epilepsy patients for many decades). In fact, MCTs can significantly improve memory in folks with mild cognitive impairment.9

Benefit 4: MCT oil defends against infection

MCT oil can be a wonderful immune-supporting addition to your daily routine.

Research has shown that medium-chain triglycerides have antimicrobial and antifungal properties.10, 11 There are different forms of medium-chain fatty acids: lauric, capric, caproic, and caprylic acid. All are particularly effective at inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria, but caprylic acid really shines in this area.

You may have heard of coconut oil being used in oil pulling to balance the oral microbiome—its MCT content is why! This means it can also positively influence your gut microbiome, too. Caprylic acid has been found to reduce the bacterial overgrowth that precedes issues like candida.12

With over 70% of your immune system living in the gut, MCTs directly support your immunity and can even modulate the immune response.13 It has been found to promote the growth of good bacteria and the health of the digestive tract, too.14

How To Use MCT Oil

Our friend Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof, is a big fan of MCT oil and its many uses. Listen to him talk about them here.

“You can put it in your smoothie,” he says. “You can [use] it with anything that you put into a blender. You can also pour it on your salad. It’s a very flexible, zero-flavor oil,” he said. Its neutral taste makes it so easy to incorporate into your recipes.

I add MCT oil to my morning coffee, which gives me an amazing energy boost working out fasted in the morning.

But you don’t necessarily need the concentrated oil to get medium-chain triglycerides in your diet. You can consume whole coconut rather than just the oil, dairy products (only if you’ve gone through The Virgin Diet and know you can tolerate them well).

A loaded smoothie is the perfect vehicle for your MCTs. You can use my Plant-Based or Paleo-Inspired All-In-One Shakes in flavors like chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and chai, and you can pour in your MCT oil, too, for an extra boost.*

Looking for more creative ways to enjoy your loaded smoothies? I’ve got over 60 recipes for you in my Loaded Smoothie Cookbook. Download the guide for FREE here.

The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern. The information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or condition. Statements contained here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References:

  1. St-Onge MP, Ross R, Parsons WD, Jones PJ. Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men. Obes Res. 2003;11(3):395-402. doi:10.1038/oby.2003.53
  2. St-Onge MP, Bosarge A. Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(3):621-626. doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.3.621
  3. Functional Food Centre, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane, Oxford OX3 0BP, UK
  4. Yeh YY, Zee P. Relation of ketosis to metabolic changes induced by acute medium-chain triglyceride feeding in rats. J Nutr. 1976;106(1):58-67. doi:10.1093/jn/106.1.58
  5. Kaunitz H. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in aging and arteriosclerosis. Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology and Oncology : Official Organ of the International Society for Environmental Toxicology and Cancer. 1986 Mar-Apr;6(3-4):115-121. PMID: 3519928.
  6. St-Onge MP, Lamarche B, Mauger JF, Jones PJ. Consumption of a functional oil rich in phytosterols and medium-chain triglyceride oil improves plasma lipid profiles in men. J Nutr. 2003;133(6):1815-1820. doi:10.1093/jn/133.6.1815
  7. Cardoso DA, Moreira AS, de Oliveira GM, Raggio Luiz R, Rosa G. A COCONUT EXTRA VIRGIN OIL-RICH DIET INCREASES HDL CHOLESTEROL AND DECREASES WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE AND BODY MASS IN CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE PATIENTS. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(5):2144-2152. Published 2015 Nov 1. doi:10.3305/nh.2015.32.5.9642
  8. https://patents.google.com/patent/US6835750
  9. Reger MA, Henderson ST, Hale C, et al. Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults. Neurobiol Aging. 2004;25(3):311-314. doi:10.1016/S0197-4580(03)00087-3
  10. Rial SA, Karelis AD, Bergeron KF, Mounier C. Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals. Nutrients. 2016;8(5):281. Published 2016 May 12. doi:10.3390/nu8050281
  11. Papavassilis C, Mach KK, Mayser PA. Medium-chain triglycerides inhibit growth of Malassezia: implications for prevention of systemic infection. Crit Care Med. 1999;27(9):1781-1786. doi:10.1097/00003246-199909000-00013
  12. Harrison LM, Balan KV, Babu US. Dietary fatty acids and immune response to food-borne bacterial infections. Nutrients. 2013;5(5):1801-1822. Published 2013 May 22. doi:10.3390/nu5051801
  13. Yu S, Go GW, Kim W. Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil Affects the Immunophenotype via Reprogramming of Mitochondrial Respiration in Murine Macrophages. Foods. 2019;8(11):553. Published 2019 Nov 5. doi:10.3390/foods8110553
  14. Rial SA, Karelis AD, Bergeron KF, Mounier C. Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals. Nutrients. 2016;8(5):281. Published 2016 May 12. doi:10.3390/nu8050281

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