In the ongoing quest to optimize my breakfast fuel, I recently considered whether, and if so how, to inject my caffeinated beverage of choice, French-roast black coffee, with oil.
If you have heard of Bulletproof Coffee or the Bulletproof Diet, the idea of putting oil in coffee will be familiar to you already. If not, I may have just grossed you out. Sorry for that.
The nutritional objective is to increase the healthy fats in one’s diet.
Since there is only so much liquid a person can consume in a day, increasingly I am trying to power up the health benefits of every beverage I consume, including even cocktails.
Having already determined that coffee would be in my life for the foreseeable future, I wondered if I might take things a step further.
Is it possible I would be better served with a coffee booster?
If such a boost tasted great too, why wouldn’t I consider it?
So entered the MCT oil vs coconut oil debate into my world.
Since it was handy in my cupboard, I experimented with adding coconut oil to my coffee. It was indeed palatable, pleasant even.
MCT oil, grass-fed butter and ghee are other common oily add-ins. I didn’t really consider adding butter or ghee, mainly because the thought of sourcing grass-fed butter in Thailand was daunting (although I have since learned it isn’t so tough), and ghee is definitely something I do not normally have on hand nor at this point am prepared to investigate.
If I were to go out and purchase a new-to-me product, the add-in I am most curious about is MCT oil. This is mainly because there seems to be no shortage of fans writing love letters about it on the internet, including my favorite health nut (that’s short for “nutritionist” and used with nothing but respect here). Meanwhile, coconut oil is plentiful, affordable and always available in my kitchen. So for simplicity’s sake, I decided fairly quickly to choose between two coffee mixers: coconut oil and MCT oil.
But what exactly is MCT oil?
Why are people enthusiastically adding it to their coffees?
And how do its benefits compare with those of coconut oil?
WHAT MCT OIL IS
MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides, or fatty acids. They are medium chained in terms of the carbon atoms in their molecule chains. There are usually four main MCTs cited, with the number of carbon atoms noted after their names:
– caprioc (C-6)
– caprylic (C-8)
– capric (C-10)
– lauric (C-12)
The beauty of MCTs compared with LCTs (long chain fatty acids), such as those found in palm and canola and many other oils, is that MCTs bypass the lymphatic system when being digested. The result is that MCTs get processed into ketones, or energy, immediately rather than tending to get stored as fat. Thus, a selective focus on MCTs in the diet would seem to help with weight loss, hence the ketone diet / eating plan (in case you’ve heard about that). MCTs are also considered to be brain energy boosters and have been used to treat Alzheimer’s patients. For me, the thing that is most intriguing is that consumption of MCTs may suppress one’s appetite, and in any case will inject some essential oils in the diet right away without getting stored as fat.
The story with MCTs is a bit complicated though because one of the 4 above-named fatty acids is an imposter. You will notice that the names of 3 of the acids start with the letter “c” but one is lauric acid. That one is the round peg not quite fitting into the square hole because it still needs to go through the lymphatic system first before moving to the liver for processing. That means lauric acid behaves in this case like an LCT. For purposes of this post, we can call the other MCTs (C-6, C-8 and C-10) “True MCTs.” C-8 and C-10 seems to be the MCTs most preferred by people who are weight-loss focused.
MCT oil then, is a man-made synthesis of any 1 or a combination of True MCTs and lauric acid.
COCONUT OIL AND LAURIC ACID
Coconut oil is a darling of the food world lately. In its natural state, coconut oil is made up of 15% True MCTs and 50% lauric acid. (The remaining fatty acid profile of coconut oil is a mixture of the saturated myristic, palmiric and stearic, the monounsaturated oleic and the polyunsaturated linoleic.)
Lauric acid, compared with True MCTs is superior as an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory agent. In short, it is a great immunity booster.
Lauric acid also costs much less than True MCTs, and yet commercially sold MCT oil can contain large amounts of lauric acid (remember that lauric acid is allowed to be called an MCT even though it does not behave like one). That may be OK. It just depends on what you want. Frankly, if I were to splash out on pricey boutique-y MCT oil, I would want to know what I am paying for. Some companies are not so transparent about their product composition, so that’s something to consider. If you are paying a premium for MCT oil, why bother buying one with lauric acid? Instead, for lauric acid, just look for a good organic cold-pressed coconut oil.
HOW TO CHOOSE?
So here it gets personal. If your sole purpose is to burn fat (maybe you are are considering committing to a ketogenic eating plan for example), you probably want to go with an MCT oil with the most fat-burning acid components. Dr Mercola says that would be C-8, and he favors an MCT oil consisting only of this fatty acid. Apparently a common commercial MCT product is a 50/50 blend of C-8 and C-10, which would also seem to rate high on fat burning benefits.
On the other hand, coconut oil also contains some (15%) of the fat burning benefits of True MCTs. And even though lauric acid will not help you burn fat any faster, it would still that consuming an amount of it daily would upgrade your health – especially brain health and immunity. Finally, it is an affordable and easy to source product.
AND THE WINNER IS…
Well, personally, I’m looking for overall health upgrades, health hacks, even. While I may welcome the fat loss and appetite suppression benefits of MCT oil, I am not singularly focused on weight loss or maintenance. With coconut oil, I receive some of those benefits anyway, along with the healthy benefits of lauric acid. Properly sourcing MCT oils devoid of fillers and comprising the optimal True MCT composition ratio for my needs (after I have studied and determined that) seems like a serious health micro-managing effort, not to mention expense. A big part of me feels like I am not operating at that level yet. I’m confident that a boost of coconut oil in my daily coffee offers benefits. And I like the taste. I can also confirm that this along with a couple glasses of water (also boosted but I’ll spare the details on that for now) and a fresh green juice each morning, means I do not feel hungry until noon or 1 pm.
The coconut oil could be suppressing my appetite. Then again, perhaps it just take me that long to relieve myself of all those aforementioned breakfast liquids and make room for solid food. Hard to say.
In Thailand, coconuts are quite literally falling off the trees around me, and sourcing organic cold-pressed coconut oil is easy and affordable, so it seems the natural choice.
Why look a gift coconut oil-boosted coffee in the mouth?