Contrary to popular thought, not all saturated fats can lead to heart disease and obesity. That’s because they’re not all created equal—Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), for example, are saturated fats with many health benefits, including support for metabolism, energy and beauty. (Learn more about the beauty benefits of MCTs and coconut oil here.)
What Are Medium Chain Triglycerides?
Medium Chain Triglycerides are saturated fats naturally found in coconut oil and palm kernel oils (and in lesser amounts in whole milk and butter). Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs), on the other hand, are the most abundant fat in nature, and the source of 98 percent of our dietary fat.
Medium and Long Chain Triglycerides are named based on the length of their carbon chains, and as you would suspect, LCTs have longer carbons chains than MCTs. This structural difference affects how each fat is metabolized—LCTs pass slowly through the digestive tract, requiring bile salts and enzymes to break them down, then entering the lymphatic system and ending up mostly in fat stores as conserved energy. Conversely, MCTs are metabolized by the liver—bypassing the lymphatic system and the need for bile salts and enzymes—making them available for quick energy.
MCTs for metabolism and weight management
By replacing common LCTs with MCTs in your diet, you reap many metabolism- and weight-associated benefits. First, MCTs provide about 10 percent fewer calories per gram than LCTs. Consuming MCTs also slows down accumulation of fat over time, since MCTs are not stored in fat deposits the way LCTs are. MCTs may also suppress appetite.
To get started, try cooking and baking with coconut oil to get more fat calories from MCTs and fewer from LCTs. Palm kernel and coconut oils are also great for cooking because they are stable at high temperatures, unlike vegetable oils such as canola oil.
Other healthy benefits of MCTs
Energy – As we’ve established, MCTs provide quick energy because they are so readily metabolized by the liver. This makes them great for endurance athletes, bodybuilders or anyone looking for a quick energy boost.
Heart Health – MCTs promote normal blood platelet function, healthy cholesterol levels and prevent plaque build-up. Worth noting: Pacific Islanders—whose diet features a whopping 30-60 percent coconut content—show nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease.
Brain Health – MCTs may also be helpful in supporting cognitive health. Here’s why: The brain regularly uses insulin to convert glucose to brain fuel. When insulin response is compromised (e.g. through poor diet or diabetes), the brain can starve of the glucose-converted energy it needs. But MCTs can be converted into ketone bodies or ketoacids, an alternative form of fuel for the brain. In this way, the body treats MCTs more like a carbohydrate than a fat, turning it into quick brain fuel.
Immunity – The fatty acids in coconut oil (i.e. capric, caprylic and lauric acids) have many immune-benefitting properties, including anti-microbial actions.
Ways to get your MCTs
Ready to improve energy, boost immunity and brain power, manage weight and beautify your skin and hair? Pharmaca carries a variety of great products containing MCTs.
NOW Foods’ MCT Oil – A blend of liquefied pure coconut/palm kernel oils.
Nutiva’s Organic Red Palm Oil – A buttery, MCT-rich oil that’s great for sauces, sautéing and baking. (Note: Red palm oil is not to be confused with palm kernel oil that has a richer amount of MCTs.)
Nature’s Way’s Liquid Coconut Premium Oil – Made from pure, expeller-pressed coconuts, and formulated to maintain a liquid form wither refrigerated or at room temperature. A great alternative for vegetable oil in cooking, or adding to dressing, sauces and dips.
Jarrow Formulas’ Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – Made with organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed coconuts. Try the easy-to-take pill form, or the solid form that’s great for cooking, baking and for use topically on the hair and skin.
Nature’s Way’s EFAGold Coconut Oil – Another great option made from certified organic, non-GMO, extra virgin coconuts. Cold pressed, hexane-free, unrefined and non-bleached.