Complete Guide to MCT Oil

Written by Matt Koulas
on September 23, 2019

Table of Contents:
1. What is MCT Oil 2. Why Medium-Chain Fatty Acids are Favored 3. Importance in High Fat Low Carb Diets
4. Types of MCT Oil 5. Uses and Benefits 6. MCT Oil vs MCT Powder
7. MCT Supplements 8. Adding into Your Diet


You’ve likely heard the buzz surrounding a new superfood called MCT oil. It’s been touted as the ideal ingredient to boost metabolism, reduce hunger, and even improve brain function. Its popularity has risen in tandem with that of coconut oil, bulletproof coffee, and the ketogenic diet (keto diet).

But are the health claims surrounding MCT oil founded in truth?

Below, we’ll dive deep into the world of MCT oil, explaining what exactly it is, its recommended uses and benefits, and whether or not it can really transform your diet and health as it claims to be able to do.

What Is MCT Oil?

Before explaining what MCT oil is, let’s talk about MCT molecules or medium-chain triglyceride molecules. These are what make up MCT oil.

Triglycerides are a type of dietary fat. In fact, triglyceride is basically just another word for fat.

Each triglyceride molecule is made up mostly of fatty acids, and there are three main types of fatty acids: Long-chain, medium-chain, and short-chain.

Long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) have between 13 and 21 carbon atoms.

Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) have between six and 12 carbon atoms.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) have five or less carbon atoms.

We’re going to be talking about medium-chain triglyceride molecules, also known as “medium-chain triglycerides” or “MCTs” for short. These fats are made up only of medium-chain fatty acids. Therefore, MCT oil, contains only medium-chain fatty acids.

Most of the oils that we consume on a regular basis are long-chain triglycerides. This means they are made up mostly of long-chain fatty acids. Examples include olive oil, soybean oil, avocado oil, and other vegetable oils. Some of the oils that have long-chain triglycerides also have medium-chain triglycerides. A good example is coconut oil.


MCT oil is not a natural oil like coconut oil, but it is derived from coconut oil. Basically, MCT is a manmade oil that is manufactured by taking only the medium-chain triglycerides out of coconut oil (and sometimes other oils too).

Keep in mind that while MCT oil is derived from coconut oil, it is not the same thing as coconut oil. That’s because, again, only medium-chain triglycerides are found in MCT oil.

Why Are Medium-Chain Fatty Acids Favored?

All this talk about fatty acids, triglyceride molecules, and carbon atoms can be confusing.

What’s really important to know here is that all three types of triglycerides (long-chain, medium-chain, and short-chain) metabolize differently in the body. And when it comes to several health and wellness factors, medium-chain triglycerides metabolize in an optimal manner, which makes MCT oil a bonafide superfood that you’ll want to add to your diet.

Why are medium-chain triglycerides better than long- and short-chain triglycerides when it comes to metabolizing?

To answer this question, we need to look at what triglycerides actually do for the body.

Again, remember that triglycerides are dietary fats. These fats have two main roles in the body:

  • To be used up as energy by your cells
  • To be stored as body fat

Medium-chain triglycerides are unique in that they are metabolized extra quickly by the liver as energy. On the other hand, long-chain triglycerides must fulfill several other digestive steps first, before being transported to the liver and metabolized.

Essentially, this means the body uses up medium-chain triglycerides faster than it uses up long-chain triglycerides — and that’s good!

It’s good because it means these fats are less likely to be stored as body fat and because it causes these fats to be turned into ketones — and we love ketones (more on this ahead).

Why Is MCT Oil so Important for High-Fat, Low-Carb Diets Like Keto?

The ketogenic diet or keto diet, which claims to help people lose weight and improve their overall health, has certainly made headlines in recent years — and for good reason.

Generally speaking, the gist of the diet is this: Eat few carbohydrates, a lot of fats, and some protein.

The general breakdown of one’s diet when “doing keto” is:

  • 5% carbohydrates
  • 70% fats
  • 25% proteins

So, why does this diet work? It promotes the production and release of ketones in the bloodstream. And ketones are good because they promote the burning of fat in the body.

The process works like this:

If possible, the body will try to get its energy from blood sugar. This blood sugar comes from the carbohydrates you would normally eat on an everyday diet — foods like bread, rice, pasta, cake, crackers, etc.

However, if you’re on a keto diet, you’re not eating much or any of these foods. Therefore, the body has to get its energy from somewhere else. In this case, it turns to fats. In particular, the body begins to turn stored fat into something called ketones, and these are what it uses for energy. This process is called ketosis.

During ketosis, because stored fat is being burned up as energy, this naturally results in fat loss/weight loss.

All of this relates to MCT oil because, again, fats (triglycerides) come in several different forms. And if you’re going to be eating more fats in the hopes of spurring the ketosis process, you’ll want to choose fats (triglycerides) that will readily turn to ketones — in this case: Medium-chain triglycerides.

Remember how we said that medium-chain triglycerides were metabolized more quickly than long-chain triglycerides? This is what we were talking about: Consuming more medium-chain triglycerides through MCT oil promotes the production of ketones and the process of ketosis, which then promotes fat loss.

Are There Different Types of MCT Oils?


First, remember that the majority of MCT oil is made up only of medium-chain triglycerides. But it is also possible to find MCT oil that contains some long-chain fatty acids.

Furthermore, MCT oil can be derived from different sources. Generally speaking, the two main sources are coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Through a process called fractionation, the medium-chain triglycerides are extracted from these oils to be processed into MCT oil.

So, for example, coconut oil is actually made up of both medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides. Fractionation takes out the medium-chain triglycerides. An MCT oil company may choose to remove these triglycerides from coconut oil only or from both coconut and palm kernel oil when creating their MCT oil. The percentages of each may vary as well.

To further complicate things, there are different types of medium-chain fatty acids. The types of medium-chain fatty acids that can be found in MCT oil are C6, C8, C10, and C12.

C6 is commonly known as caproic acid.

C8 is commonly known as caprylic acid.

C10 is commonly known as capric acid.

C12 is commonly known as lauric acid.

MCT Oil may be made up of various combinations of these four medium-chain fatty acid types.

What Are the Main Uses and Benefits of MCT Oil?

Because MCT oil is rather new, research on the positive effects and possible side effects is still ongoing. In general, however, MCT oil has been found to be extremely beneficial in many ways:

Is There a Difference Between the Oil and Powder Forms of MCT Oil?

When it comes to deciding between MCT oil and MCT powder, you should consider the following:

  • Do you prefer tasting your MCT, which often has a slight coconut flavor? The oil generally has this flavor while the powder can be mixed into smoothies, shakes, and other drinks without altering the overall flavor too much.
  • Check the MCTs per serving amount on your oil or powder. Oil may have a higher concentration of MCTs.
  • Consider how your system tends to handle oils. Depending on several factors, powder may be easier to digest in some people.

What Should Your Primary Considerations Be When Purchasing the MCT Oil Supplement?

As with choosing any other dietary supplement, it’s important to take your time and do your research. Generally speaking, you should consider the following questions when making a decision on an MCT oil supplement:

  • Which form would you like to take MCT oil in — softgel, powder, or oil? (See above.)
  • Is the brand producing the supplement reputable?
  • Does it have good reviews?
  • Are you able to know exactly what sources the MCTs were derived from?
  • Are there any hidden ingredients like protein or starch?
  • How much is the supplement? How much will taking it cost you per month?
  • Do you struggle with digestive issues? Which supplement is known to be easy on the digestive system?

How Can You Get More MCTs in Your Diet?

There are actually two ways to consume more MCTs or medium-chain triglycerides: You can either take MCT oil as a supplement, or you can consume medium-chain triglycerides in the foods you eat. Your choice really depends on your personal preference.

Supplements can be taken in softgel form or as an oil or powder. Or, if possible, it can be beneficial to simply add MCT oil to your everyday cooking and baking. For example, you can:

  • Add it to salad dressings
  • Add it your coffee (bulletproof coffee)
  • Blend it into smoothies and drinks
  • Drizzle it onto cooked veggies and other foods
  • Cook with MCT oil (when stir-frying veggies, for example)
  • Add it to baked goods and desserts

It should also be noted that simply consuming more coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and dairy products can result in getting more whole food-based MCTs in your diet.

Author: Faye C

Published:  September 23, 2019

Faye is a guest writer for SuperFat and is a full-time health, fitness, and medical writer for numerous publications on the web. 

Hungry for more?

Read Our Beginner's Guide to Keto, or try our delicious keto-friendly nut butters.


Written by Matt Koulas

Published: September 23, 2019