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The 6 Best MCT Oils: Top Picks for Value, Purity, Flavor, and More!

Find the best, the best priced, the tastiest, and more.

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If you’re interested in the potential benefits of a ketogenic diet or if you want to reduce the odds of the fat you consume being stored as body fat, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about medium chain triglyceride oil, or “MCTs.” It’s called “medium chain” because the tails of the carbon atoms aren’t as long as most fats, and this means the fat digests much more quickly and easily than, say, olive oil.

This also means the fat is more readily converted to ketones: evidence suggests it can help you get into ketosis more quickly and avoid the fatigue that can accompany the early stages in ketosis. It also might improve digestive health and athletic performance — here are our favorite products.

Best MCT Oils

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oil

How We Chose the Best MCTs

Because they digest quickly and readily convert into ketones, MCTs appear to reduce the symptoms of fatigue that a lot of people experience when they’re switching into a ketogenic state.(1)(2)(3)(4) There’s also some evidence that adding more of them to your diet could improve gut health and athletic performance, especially if your workouts are endurance focused.(5)(6)(7)(8).

So what factors are important when choosing your MCTs?

Composition of Fats

Medium chain triglycerides are defined as having aliphatic tails of 6 to 12 carbon atoms — most fats are “long chain” and the “medium chain” makes them digest more quickly. Usually you’ll see MCTs split up on the label into capric acid (6 atoms), caprylic acid (8 atoms), and lauric acid (12 atoms). All of these count as MCTs, although since a lot of lauric acid digests more like a long chain fatty acid, some people prefer MCTs that minimize that one.(9)

Price

The typical price of a quality MCT oil is between 40 and 70 cents per tablespoon. Plenty of big, brand name MCTs cost more than this but we managed to find plenty that have just as many certifications and just as many MCTs per serving without the unnecessary extra cost.

coconut oil

BPA-free bottles

Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical that’s found in a lot of plastics, including commonly used bottles. Because it may imitate and interfere with the body’s hormones, many prefer BPA-free bottles, so we pointed out the best options on our list.

Third party certifications

To give peace of mind to consumers, a lot of organizations get another company to test their product to ensure everything is accurately stated on the label — this way you know for sure that you’re getting what you’re paying for.

Certifications

Who says this product is organic? Is it gluten free, or tested and verified as gluten free? We checked and double checked to make sure an independent organization has declared the product as non-GMO, organic, sustainable, or whatever else is on the label.

coffee foam

How to Take MCTs

So you’ve bought a bottle of MCTs and you’re trying to find ways to get it in your diet? These supplements are usually tasteless, so it’s easy to mix them into a variety of foods. Start with half a tablespoon at a time and move up to one or two per serving — but do it slowly, as too much at once might cause an upset stomach. Consider mixing a tablespoon into a serving of the following.

  • Salad dressings
  • Protein shakes
  • Smoothies
  • Oatmeal
  • Coffee

coconut half

MCT Oil vs Coconut Oil

Regular coconut oil contains a lot of MCTs but about half the fat content is comprised of the MCT known as lauric acid, and it often comprises a significant percentage of a standard MCT supplement.

There are a lot of keto fans and MCT companies that will proudly tell you that their product contains no lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride with a “tail” that’s pretty close to long chain: 12 carbon atoms. A fatty acid is considered long chain once its tail has 13 carbon atoms or more.

Many will tell you that lauric acid is practically, more or less, just a little too close to a long chain fatty acid to be a true MCT.

This may be the case: while 95 percent of medium chain triglycerides are absorbed through the portal vein in the digestive tract, only about 25 to 30 percent of lauric acid is.(9)

Lauric acid and coconut oil are still linked to a ton of health benefits but it appears that it’s not ideal to have too much of your MCTs sourced this way if you’re trying to maximize the benefits of MCTs.

Lessons Learned From No Barbell Training

Should I Take MCTs Even If I’m Not Keto?

You shouldn’t make all of your fats MCTs; Omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, are great for lowering inflammation and they don’t fall into that category. But besides helping people switch to ketosis, MCTs have links with other health benefits.

MCTs and Gut Health

Maintaining a healthy ecosystem in your gut — which houses trillions of bacteria that help you absorb nutrients, fight inflammation, and perform other roles — is important for your health. A 2016 study on obese people published in Nutrients, for example, found that MCTs improved metabolic health and energy expenditure due to their ability to “improve both intestinal ecosystem and permeability.”(10) Animal studies have found similar benefits.(11)(12)

MCTs and Mental Health

Many consider MCTs as “brain fuel,” but most of the evidence is in brains that are impaired in some way. Among the memory-impaired or people with Alzheimer’s, it’s possible that brain processes ketones more easily than glucose, so MCTs may be useful here.(13)(14) Anecdotally, a lot of people report increased mental clarity when taking ketones because ketones easily pass the blood brain barrier. More clinical research is needed at this point.

MCTs and Exercise Performance

Can they help you work out? Well, they do digest more quickly than other types of fat, so they’re more readily available as a source of fuel and less likely to be stored as fat.(15)

But some evidence also suggests that it might help to prevent a buildup of lactic acid, meaning that it may help to improve endurance in workouts.(16)(17)(18)

shake

BarBend Tips

  • Start small: take half a tablespoon per day and see how your digestion responds. Many experience softer stools when they take multiple tablespoons per day at the outset, so give your system some time to acclimate.
  • You can mix MCTs in with cereal, protein shakes, and salad dressings.
  • If you’re mixing MCTs with your tea or coffee, wait until your beverage is less than boiling temperature before adding it in.
  • Don’t cook with MCTs — the fats aren’t stable at high temperatures.
  • MCTs don’t contain Omega-3s or essential fatty acids, so make sure you’re consuming other sources of fat as well.

Wrapping Up

You do want to make sure you get plenty of fats from fish, nuts, and other whole food sources, but there are a lot of benefits to getting more MCTs in your diet. Coconut oil can help but if you’re really focused on increasing ketones, improving focus, and boosting gut health, then one of these supplements should help you get there.

References

  1. Yeh YY, et al. Relation of ketosis to metabolic changes induced by acute medium-chain triglyceride feeding in rats. J Nutr. 1976 Jan;106(1):58-67.
  2. Harvey CJDC, et al. The use of nutritional supplements to induce ketosis and reduce symptoms associated with keto-induction: a narrative review. PeerJ. 2018 Mar 16;6:e4488.
  3. Ota M, et al. Effects of a medium-chain triglyceride-based ketogenic formula on cognitive function in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Neurosci Lett. 2019 Jan 18;690:232-236.
  4. Harvey CJ, et al. The Effect of Medium Chain Triglycerides on Time to Nutritional Ketosis and Symptoms of Keto-Induction in Healthy Adults: A Randomised Controlled Clinical Trial. J Nutr Metab. 2018 May 22;2018:2630565.
  5. Rial SA, et al. Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals. Nutrients. 2016 May 12;8(5).
  6. Nosaka N, et al. Effect of ingestion of medium-chain triacylglycerols on moderate- and high-intensity exercise in recreational athletes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009 Apr;55(2):120-5.
  7. Fushiki T, et al. Swimming endurance capacity of mice is increased by chronic consumption of medium-chain triglycerides. J Nutr. 1995 Mar;125(3):531-9. 10.
  8. Wang Y, et al. Medium Chain Triglycerides enhances exercise endurance through the increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism. PLoS One. 2018 Feb 8;13(2):e0191182.
  9. Eyres L, et al. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):267-80.
  10. Rial SA, et al. Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals. Nutrients. 2016 May 12;8(5).
  11. Kono H, et al. Protective effects of medium-chain triglycerides on the liver and gut in rats administered endotoxin. Ann Surg. 2003 Feb;237(2):246-55.
  12. Kono H, et al. Protective effects of medium-chain triglycerides on the liver and gut in rats administered endotoxin. Ann Surg. 2003 Feb;237(2):246-55.
  13. Cunnane SC, et al. Can Ketones Help Rescue Brain Fuel Supply in Later Life? Implications for Cognitive Health during Aging and the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. Front Mol Neurosci. 2016 Jul 8;9:53.
  14. Abe S, et al. Medium-Chain Triglycerides in Combination with Leucine and Vitamin D Benefit Cognition in Frail Elderly Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2017;63(2):133-140.
  15. Nosaka N, et al. Effect of ingestion of medium-chain triacylglycerols on moderate- and high-intensity exercise in recreational athletes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009 Apr;55(2):120-5.
  16. Fushiki T, et al. Swimming endurance capacity of mice is increased by chronic consumption of medium-chain triglycerides. J Nutr. 1995 Mar;125(3):531-9.
  17. Wang Y, et al. Medium Chain Triglycerides enhances exercise endurance through the increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism. PLoS One. 2018 Feb 8;13(2):e0191182.

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