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MCT Oil In Coffee: Is It For Taste, Health Benefits, Or Some Other Reason?
This article has been written by experts and fact-checked by experts, including licensed nutritionists, dietitians or medical professionals. The information in the article is based on scientific studies and research.
It is designed to be honest, unbiased and objective, and opinions from both sides of an argument are presented wherever there is disagreement.
The scientific references in this article (marked by 1, 2, 3, etc.) are clickable links to peer-reviewed research material on the subject being discussed.
It’s not unusual to put sugar or sweetener in coffee.
It’s not unusual to put milk or cream in coffee.
It’s not even unusual for people to put cinnamon (for a yummy twist) or salt (to decrease the bitterness) in their coffee.
But MCT oil? Why would you put oil in your coffee? What the heck is MCT oil, anyway?
We’ll get to the full explanations shortly. In a nutshell, though, it appears that MCT oil can provide some pretty substantial health benefits. And just as importantly, it’s one of the dietary supplements that can help keto dieters lose significant amounts of weight.
Is putting MCT oil in coffee a good idea? Bad idea? Or just another overhyped trend?
Let’s find out.
What is MCT Oil?
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, and labels like “MCT” describe the chemical structure of the fats we normally consume in our diet.
Dietary fats (usually called triglycerides) are composed of a glycerol backbone and a number of fatty acids, all chained together. So that explains two-thirds of MCT, the “chain” and “triglycerides” parts. The key word, though, is “medium,” which specifies the number of carbon atoms in the chain’s fatty acids.
There are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) and short-chain triglycerides (SCTs), too. We do consume some SCTs in food, but most are produced inside the body; the fats we eat are mostly long-chain triglycerides. The body breaks them down for use as energy, or stores them as body fat – and that process takes a while. Medium-chain triglycerides, on the other hand, are broken down quickly and sent right to the liver. They’re not usually stored as fat, either, because the body can use them so quickly.
Dairy products and a few other foods contain some MCTs, but not a lot. So the best way to get MCTs into the body is via dietary supplements. And while you can get MCT in powder form, the easiest way to take MCT supplements is in oil. It’s normally extracted from coconut oil or palm kernel oil, although coconut oil has a good amount of medium-chain triglycerides on its own.
That’s all fine. But why is it important to get MCTs into the body?
The Role of MCTs
MCTs can provide a number of health and medical benefits.
We’ve already briefly explained one of the major benefits of consuming MCT oil: it can immediately be used by the liver, instead of being stored as fat. But in order to unpack that a little more, we have to talk about dieting.
MCT Oil, Ketones, and the Keto Diet
MCT oil is commonly used by people following the low carbohydrate ketogenic diet (and the paleo diet as well).
One of the best ways to lose weight is to force the body to burn stored body fat, but that’s awfully hard to do when you’re eating carbohydrates. Most carbs contain LCTs which are either broken down into glucose (blood sugar) to be used by the body as fuel, or stored as additional body fat. So, by eliminating most carbs from the diet, less LCTs are available to be stored as fat. That’s the keto diet approach, substituting healthy fats for most of the carbohydrates you’d normally eat.
Without carbs, though, the body and brain don’t have the glucose they normally use for energy. They have to use an alternate fuel, which is produced by the liver in the form of molecules called ketones. Ketone production begins in earnest when the body is forced into a metabolic state known as ketosis – and that only happens when it doesn’t have enough carbs to make glucose. You should be getting the picture: the keto diet is designed to put the body into ketosis.
When it’s in ketosis, the body burns stored fat, leading to weight loss. Meanwhile, the liver turns that burned fat into ketones, to be used as replacement fuel for the body. That’s where MCT oil comes in: most of the fatty acids in MCTs can also be quickly broken down into ketones by the liver. Those additional ketones boost a keto dieter’s energy levels. They also make it easier to keep the body in ketosis, so it can continue to burn stored body fat and you can lose more weight.
Now you know the benefits of consuming MCT oil on a keto eating plan. And as you’d probably guess, one of the best ways to do that is by putting it into your coffee. We’ll look at so-called keto coffee shortly.
There are many other reasons to drink coffee with added MCT oil, however, even if you’re not on keto.
Health Benefits of MCT Oil
In most cases, the benefits of dietary supplements are apparent from research studies, rather than proven and accepted by the medical community. That’s certainly true for MCT oil’s benefits, but the evidence in favor of MCTs continues to grow rapidly.
Most of the reported benefits are related to weight loss.
- Some research simply draws the conclusion that MCT consumption is associated with the loss of weight in obese and overweight study participants.
- Numerous studies have shown that use of MCT oil is linked to fat burning and moderate weight loss, far outperforming long-chain triglycerides.
- Similar research has demonstrated the potential of MCT oil to help the body reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, which are both factors in the development or worsening of type 2 diabetes. It may also help diabetics to metabolize and use glucose.
- It appears that one of the fatty acids in MCT oil, caprylic acid, helps to modulate ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry. In other words, MCTs can apparently reduce food cravings.
- Studies show that MCTs appear to provide an energy boost by reducing lactate buildup, a key obstacle to performance during athletic workouts.
- Research has shown that medium-chain triglycerides provide antibacterial and antifungal effects, able to slow the growth of the Candida fungus responsible for genital yeast infections, and fight the bacteria C. difficile responsible for antibiotic-resistant diarrhea and colitis.
- A number of studies have shown that MCT oil seems to improve cognitive function and mental clarity in patients suffering from a number of conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, and those on the autism scale. There’s also some evidence that it can help reduce seizures in patients with epilepsy.
- Finally, it appears that MCTs may be able to help boost “good” cholesterol (HDL) levels while reducing “bad” cholesterol (LDL). That provides a number of benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease.
Some of those benefits are associated with the use of MCT oil in conjunction with a keto diet, yet there are strong implications that medium-chain triglycerides are largely responsible for the positive health and wellness benefits that ketogenic dieters experience.
Ready to give it a try?
Drinking keto coffee is the most common (and most popular) way to consume MCT oil, for those following a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.
Keto coffee is also known as bulletproof coffee and butter coffee. Bulletproof is the name given to the beverage by its inventor, Dave Asprey; it’s a trademarked name, but it’s also become used generically.
Reaching and staying in ketosis requires the dieter to drastically reduce their carb consumption while drastically increasing healthy fats in their diet. So those following the eating plan must find ways to consume “extra” fat.
That’s one of the reasons to drink bulletproof coffee. It’s coffee with lots of added fat: ghee (clarified butter with the carb-laden milk solids removed) or grass-fed butter (which is healthier than regular unsalted butter). Black coffee and keto coffee each contain no carbs, but black coffee also contains no fat. Keto coffee, by contrast, contains about 50 grams of fat.
Additionally, MCT Oil is a popular alternative to butter when making keto coffee. It doesn’t contribute any carbs or fat (or flavor, for that matter), but it supplies extra ketones which provide energy and supercharge the fat burning process, while adding a wealth of weight loss and health benefits at the same time.
There are two important cautions about keto coffee that we have to pass along.
First, many people don’t simply replace their normal morning coffee with a cup of bulletproof coffee. Because it’s so filling, they use butter coffee to replace their entire breakfast, especially if they’re trying an intermittent fasting regime. Bad idea. A good breakfast has lots of important nutrients, while bulletproof coffee has virtually none. That’s not a healthy way to go about any weight loss diet, including keto.
Second, keto coffee is loaded with calories. A lot of calories. Approximately 440 calories, to be precise. This means that heavy coffee drinkers can’t just swap keto coffee for their daily 4+ cups, since they’d never lose weight consuming that many calories every day. Bulletproof coffee should replace a single cup of coffee per day, not become a full-time substitute for normal coffee.
Can you add sweeteners, milk, cream or creamer to keto coffee? Yes, as long as they fit into ketogenic eating guidelines.
Sugar isn’t allowed on keto, and many artificial sweeteners contain carbs. Instead, use a natural zero-carb substitute like stevia or monk fruit extract, or a low-carb sugar alcohol like erythritol or xylitol.
Milk is discouraged on keto, because the lactose it contains is loaded with carbs. Heavy cream is OK for keto diets, but only in moderation, because its carbs can add up quickly. Better choices are non-dairy, sugar-free and gluten-free options like coconut milk or almond milk, or one of the specially-designed keto creamers on the market. Super Creamer from Super Coffee may be the best because it also contains MCT oil, but another good option to try is a collagen creamer that provides benefits for the skin as well.
Where do you get MCT oil? Lots of brands are available on Amazon, and the “Brain Octane Oil” sold by the Bulletproof folks is one of the best.
Quick Keto Coffee Recipe
Once you have the ingredients, making keto coffee is easy. Here’s the traditional bulletproof coffee recipe:
- Brew black coffee in your coffee maker as you usually do. It doesn’t matter whether you grind your own coffee beans or purchase ground coffee, it’s simply a matter of personal preference.
- Put 8-12 ounces of the hot coffee in a blender, add 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil, and either 1-2 teaspoons of ghee or 1-2 tablespoons of grass-fed, unsalted butter. (Start slowly and increase the amounts over a few days as you get used to the taste.)
- Blend for 30 seconds, until the coffee gets creamy and looks like a latte.
That’s it! Remember, though, only one keto coffee a day – and many people prefer to save it for midday, when they need an energy boost. Want to add protein to your diet? Blending protein powder supplement into your keto coffee is a painless way to do it.
Other Ways to Consume MCT Oil
Of course, you don’t have to make keto coffee to enjoy the benefits of MCT oil. The smart limit may be just one bulletproof coffee a day, but there’s nothing wrong with adding the oil to your regular coffee, too. Experts say as long as you keep your total daily consumption of MCT oil to 6-7 tablespoons a day, you should be fine.
MCT oil is not suitable as a replacement for olive oil when you’re cooking, since it has a very low burning point. However, it can be a terrific replacement (or addition) if you’re making salad dressings; just be sure you’re using the dressings on low-carb veggies.
Whether or not you’re on the keto diet – in fact, even if you’re not on any diet at all – adding MCT oil is an easy way to make coffee an even healthier part of your daily routine.