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

Best Overall

Viva Naturals USDA Organic MCT Oil

Viva Naturals has produced a solid product that’s certified organic and third party tested for label accuracy. There’s also next to no lauric acid — which some prefer to limit in their MCTs as they may not absorb as well as other forms.

Pros

  • Both the USDA and QAI (Quality Assurance International) have certified this product as organic.
  • Viva Naturals had this product third party tested to confirm the accuracy of the contents label.
  • There’s very little lauric acid: just 0.7 grams in 13 grams of MCTs.

Cons

  • There are some reports that the bottle can leak during shipping.
Viva Naturals USDA Organic MCT Oil
Viva Naturals USDA Organic MCT Oil
Viva Naturals USDA Organic MCT Oil

Certified organic by the USDA and QAI, third party tested for purity, and super low in lauric acid, Viva Naturals' MCT ticks all the right boxes.

Runner Up

Sports Research Premium MCT Oil

Derived solely from non-GMO coconuts and packaged in a nice, BPA-free bottle, Sports Research’s MCT is easy to pour, has no added ingredients, and has both Paleo and vegan certifications.

Pros

  • This is verified as containing no genetically modified organisms by the Non-GMO Project.
  • Sports Research’s MCT comes in a BPA-free bottle.
  • This product comes with a 90-day money back guarantee.

Cons

  • It contains about 30 percent lauric acid, a fatty acid some people try to minimize — to less than 10 percent — as it may not absorb as effectively as other MCTs.
Sports Research Premium MCT Oil
Sports Research Premium MCT Oil
Sports Research Premium MCT Oil

This MCT is easy to pour, has no added ingredients, is made from non-GMO ingredients and packaged in a BPA-free bottle.

Also Consider

Nature’s Way MCT Oil

Nature’s Way’s MCT stands out for being relatively inexpensive at around 30 cents per tablespoon and it’s USDA certified organic, a rare combination at this price point.

Pros

  • This is a relatively inexpensive MCT oil.
  • Nature’s Way’s oil comes in a BPA-free bottle.
  • It carries a certification from the Non-GMO Project and the USDA as organic, plus it’s certified vegan, Paleo, and gluten free.

Cons

  • The label doesn’t specify the lauric acid content.
Nature's Way MCT Oil
Nature's Way MCT Oil
Nature's Way MCT Oil

This inexpensive MCT has a ton of certifications: it's BPA-free, non-GMO, organic, vegan, Paleo, and gluten free.

Best MCT for Caprylic Acid

LevelUp Clean MCT Oil

If you don’t want any lauric acid in your MCT supplement, Clean MCT Oil is among the best, most cost effective options. Made entirely from caprylic acid triglycerides with a tail of 8 carbon atoms, this may absorb more easily than standard MCT products that contain longer chain fatty acids like lauric acid.

Pros

  • One hundred percent of the fatty acids come from caprylic acid.
  • This product comes with a money back guarantee.
  • These fatty acids are filtered without chemicals.

Cons

  • LevelUp’s MCTs aren’t certified organic.
  • It’s not specified whether or not this comes in a BPA-free bottle.
LevelUp Clean MCT Oil
LevelUp Clean MCT Oil
LevelUp Clean MCT Oil

This MCT is rare in that it only contains caprylic acid — there's no lauric acid at all, so it may absorb more effectively than other products with a wider variety of MCTs.

Best Value

Now Sports MCT Oil

Now Sports has produced an MCT Oil that’s very inexpensive — the cheapest high quality MCT we’ve seen — plus it’s been certified by Informed Sport and Informed Choice to ensure no impurities or banned substances.

Pros

  • Of all the high quality MCT oils we looked at, this is easily the best priced.
  • With certifications from Informed Sport and Informed Choice, consumers can be pretty confident there are no banned substances or steroids.
  • You can buy this product in Chocolate Mocha flavor, and with less than one percent of it constituting flavoring, it doesn’t really hamper the MCT content.

Cons

  • The bottle opens like a soda — there’s no small hole for easy pouring, so it’s easy to spill.
  • This doesn’t have as many certifications (eg. organic, non-GMO) as competing products.
Now Sports MCT Oil
Now Sports MCT Oil
Now Sports MCT Oil

Not only is this the cheapest high quality MCT we found, but it's also certified by Informed Sport and Informed Choice as free from banned substances and impurities.

Best Flavored MCT

Onnit Emulsified MCT Oil Keto Creamer

Coming in five different flavors (almond milk latte, cinnamon swirl, creamy strawberry, mocha, and vanilla), Onnit’s Emulsified MCT Oil delivers 7 grams of MCTs per tablespoon, mixed with natural flavors and sweeteners to make keto coffee tastier than ever.

Pros

  • This product gives you five tasty flavors to choose from.
  • It contains no artificial flavors or sweeteners.
  • Onnit had this officially certified as non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, and sustainably sourced.

Cons

  • Only about half the product is MCTs.
  • This product contains 1 gram of net carbs per serving.
  • At 85 cents per serving, Onnit’s MCT is on the pricier side.
Onnit Emulsified MCT Oil Keto Creamer
Onnit Emulsified MCT Oil Keto Creamer
Onnit Emulsified MCT Oil Keto Creamer

Non-GMO and with five flavors to choose from, Onnit has produced a delicious, naturally flavored creamer that goes great in your coffee.

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.