MCT oil is a tricky business. If you’ve jumped on the keto diet train, you’ve probably come across a ton of articles breaking down its pros and cons for boosting weight loss, especially when compared to good old coconut oil.
Quick science lesson: MCT stands for “medium chain triglycerides,” a fatty acid that’s absorbed differently from the more common type in our diet, long-chain triglycerides or LCTs. Most importantly for those on keto, these fatty acids pass much faster from the stomach to the liver than LCTs do. That means (theoretically) that a higher percentage is used as energy and far less stored as fat. There’s not a natural food source that only contains MCTs though, so to create a concentrated dose, companies extract them from coconuts to get a flavorless, colorless MCT oil.
Since MCT oil is really high in calories, it’s helpful for people who are in ketosis and trying to meet their fat intake goals. Other enthusiasts swear by MCT oil’s brain-boosting effects, since it’s easily absorbed and increases ketones, an alternative source of brain fuel. It’s also sometimes medically prescribed for epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease (though research on effectiveness has been mixed so far).
However, there can be gnarly side effects from using too much MCT oil. Since it’s so high in calories, adding it when you’re not in ketosis will actually cause weight gain instead of weight loss. In addition, because MCTs are absorbed differently, going straight from the gut to the liver, a lot at once can cause upset stomachs.
Ruled.me.” “So it’s best to start with around 1 to 2 teaspoons of MCT oil and see how it goes.”““Some people have digestion issues with MCT oil,” says Craig Clarke, the founder and manager of the keto website “
Choosing a high-quality MCT oil is crucial too. The most important thing to look for is third-party certification, according to Ginger Hultin, a Seattle-based registered dietician who also runs the blog “Champagne Nutrition.”
Supplements aren’t regulated,” explained Hultin, “so if they’re a good supplement, they can pay out of their own pocket to have an outside company come in, test their products, and put their stamp of approval on it.”
Not sure where to start? Overwhelmed by the millions of different brands out there? We dug through certifications, poured through blog posts, and spoke with keto specialists to round up a few top picks.
The only MCT oil certified by NSF Certified for Sport, Onnit is also a favorite of keto food and fitness bloggers. The Keto Cookbook named it their top choice, as did Biohackers Lab and Ketovale, for its smooth texture and clean taste. Many fans noted that Onnit released new emulsified MCT oils, like the fancy vanilla and herbs de provence varieties, that are even easier to stir into stuff like salad dressings and coffee. It’s important to note that the emulsified types have preservatives though, and only the original flavorless MCT oil is NSF-certified.Buy Now
You can’t go wrong with Sports Research. The company has been in the supplement game since the 1980s and is especially trusted by fitness buffs. Its MCT oil is certified by Informed Choice, one of the top third-party certifiers. It’s got a slew of other certifications too, including vegan, paleo, and non-GMO. Like other pure MCT oils, the smoke point here is 320 degrees, so it’s best suited for drinks like Bulletproof coffee, smoothies, and salad dressings. It’s also slightly less pricey per-ounce than Onnit. If you want a reliable, high-quality MCT oil for pre- and post-workouts, then Sports Research is a great choice.Buy Now
If the first two options are a bit out of your price range, Now Sports is the way to go. It’s certified by Informed Choice and, like Onnit, is a favorite for keto food bloggers. Also like Onnit, Now Sports has two flavors—chocolate mocha and vanilla hazelnut—that could give Starbucks a run for its money. Like the pricier brands, Now Sports is a blend of C-8 and C-10 MCTs, the two types of MCTs that Clarke recommends looking for when you’re picking an effective oilBuy Now.
Protocol for Life specializes in dietary supplements for healthcare professionals, so their MCT oil is another reliable, third-party certified option if you spot it at your local health foods store. Like many of the other oils, Protocol for Life is especially well-suited for boosting your morning cup of Bulletproof coffee. It’s also non-GMO verified, if that’s something that you’re looking to limit (though you might not really need to).Buy Now
Disclaimer: Bulletproof is the only MCT oil on this list without third-party certification, but we included it because it’s one of the most well-known names in MCT products. It was the OG pusher of the Bulletproof coffee trend a few years back. Lots of people like Bulletproof’s MCT oil because it has a slightly different fatty acid makeup. While most other oils are a mix of C-8 and C-10, Brain Octane is pure C-8, which Bulletproof claims to be the most effective for producing ketones and fueling the brain. At $48.95 for 32 ounces, it’s also nearly twice as expensive as some other products on this list.Buy Now
We know, we know: this isn’t an MCT oil. But because MCT oils have low smoke points, they actually aren’t the best for recipes that need heat. “If you do want to get MCTs into your cooked or baked foods,” says Clarke, “coconut oil would be the best bet.” Nutiva is a favorite of food and beauty bloggers because it’s unrefined and has a milder coconut flavor than others. If you’re on keto and (somehow) sick of butter, take advantage of the natural sweetness of coconut oil for these chocolate coconut macaroons or this low-carb coconut shrimp. Buy Now
If you’re prescribed a pure MCT oil, though, it’s best to go with another option on this list. “Keep in mind that coconut oil is typically around fifty- to sixty-percent MCTs,” Clarke added, “and take much longer to digest fully.”
Header image courtesy of Amazon