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If you’ve tried using MCT oil after hearing about its benefits but are struggling to incorporate it into your diet, you may be wondering if there are alternatives available to you, yielding similar results or benefits.
What are the top MCT oil alternatives? While there is no direct substitute for MCT oil, there are a few suitable alternatives available, like coconut oil, which has the highest natural MCT oil composition of 55%. As well, hemp oil is flavorless (like MCT oil) and easy to disguise in food. Lastly, olive oil, which like MCT oil, can benefit your cognition.
MCT oil is not naturally occurring, to create the supplement, a production process occurs where Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are extracted from other oil sources to create a pure MCT oil supplement. So there is no direct, like-for-like alternative.
With that said, the alternatives available can equally provide you with health benefits, making them worth considering in the context of your health and performance goals.
This article explores:
- Reasons why you might need an MCT oil alternative
- What makes a good MCT oil substitute
- Best MCT oil alternatives
- Best MCT oil alternatives for bulletproof coffee
Why Are You Looking For An MCT Oil Alternative? (4 Reasons)
When determining the best MCT oil alternative for you, it is important to understand: (1) the reason behind wanting to introduce MCT oil into your diet in the first place; and, (2) the reason why you’re looking for an MCT oil alternative.
The main reasons you may typically look to introduce MCT oil into your diet are:
- To assist in fat loss
- To increase brain performance
- To increase exercise endurance
- To promote heart health
Common reasons for looking for an MCT oil alternative are:
- You get stomach upset when taking MCT oil
- You’re looking for more cooking variety
- You have some sort of allergy to MCT oil
- It’s expensive and not easy to find
1. You Get Stomach Upset When Taking MCT Oil
MCT oil has been associated with causing gastrointestinal discomfort among its uses. While these side effects typically resolve for most users over time and with a gradual dosage increase, if you are still experiencing discomfort, it may be worthwhile to consider an alternative.
2. You’re Looking for More Cooking Variety
MCT oil has a low smoke point of 160 degrees celsius, meaning it can only be used to cook foods at this medium heat or below, otherwise there is a risk of harming the fats if you cook it at a higher heat.
This low smoke point could limit the ways you are wanting to cook or bake with MCT oil and as a result, may prompt you to explore other alternatives available to you.
3. You Have Some Sort of Allergy to MCT Oil
If you have a coconut or tree allergy you may experience allergic reactions to MCT oil because the majority of MCT oil supplements extract MCTs from coconut oil.
Allergic reactions can present as rash, hives, stomach upset, wheezing or coughing, and swelling of the lips, tongue, and face. Obviously, any reaction of this nature means that MCT oil should be avoided and an alternative is absolutely necessary.
Also of note, is a particular study that tested how dietary MCT affects food allergies and showed that MCT oil can reduce antigen absorption and could create new allergies.
This is worth considering if you have some allergies and are using MCT oil and should be discussed with a Registered Dietician (click to book an appointment with us).
4. It’s Expensive and Not Easy to Find
The two main reasons that make MCT oil inaccessible for some users is its cost and that it isn’t as easy to find a reputable product readily available locally.
A typical tablespoon serving of MCT oil is around 13-15ml and costs between $9-14 ($0.70 to $1.00 per ml).
To source MCT oil many users resort to purchasing off the internet because it is hard to find a trusted product on your average store shelf, meaning there can be a lag between you wanting MCT oil and it making its way into your pantry.
Be it cost or difficulty sourcing the product, you may want to know what other options are available to you when you are low on funds or product postage is taking too long.
Takeaway: Having clarity on why you were wanting to use MCT oil in the first place, coupled with why you are wanting an alternative, will help direct you to the best alternative to suit your needs.
What Makes A Good MCT Oil Substitute?
MCT oil is the only 100% MCT product on the market.
MCT oil can be found naturally in dairy products like milk and butter as well as palm kernel oil with its heaviest concentration found in coconut oil where around half of its fats are from MCTs.
In fact, coconut oil is often interchangeably used in place of MCT oil because of its naturally high MCT composition.
However, just because something contains MCTs doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good substitute.
When considering a good MCT oil substitute, you want to consider:
- Its research-backed benefits: when you are looking for a supplement, you want to ensure that there is evidence to support it providing you with benefits. MCT oil has had some research done on it, however, not all products that have MCTs contained in them have. So just because a product like butter has MCTs in it, doesn’t mean it has been proven to provide the same benefit as MCT oil.
- The type of fats it is composed of: Different oil supplements will have different fatty acid composition and it is their composition that will assist in determining their associated benefits.
- Its taste: MCT oil is known to be flavorless making it easy to mix in with recipes or drinks, however some oils or fats may have a more distinct flavor making it more difficult for them to be disguised in food and drink.
5 MCT Oil Alternatives
Deciding on an MCT oil alternative is going to be dependent on what outcome you are looking to achieve, whether it is managing gastrointestinal discomfort, supporting a keto diet or improving brain function, the alternative most appropriate to you will differ.
The 5 MCT oil alternatives are:
- Natural sources of MCTs
- Coconut Oil
- Hemp Oil
- Fish Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Natural sources of MCTs
MCTs are naturally in a few different food products. So in instances where you are keen on incorporating MCTs as part of a balanced diet, direct your attention to dairy products.
|Product||MCT composition (approx)|
|Cow or Goat Milk||9%|
|Palm Kernel Oil||54%|
MCT oil became popular as a supplement because of its ability to provide you with energy, in place of carbohydrates, on keto and low carb diets, as well as assisting in appetite suppression to aid weight loss. However, you don’t have to be on keto or having significant quantities of MCT oil in order to achieve health or body composition goals.
Through a balanced diet including a variety of fat sources as well as carbs and protein while being in a calorie deficit you are able to lose weight, not restrict certain food groups, and still provide your body with essential fats to aid body functions and processes.
Relying on natural sources of MCTs to support a keto diet, may be problematic as you would need to consume these foods in significant amounts, which may prevent you from getting nutrients from other food groups or overconsumption of saturated fats which could lead to heart disease.
2. Coconut Oil
This is the closest direct alternative to MCT oil available on the market. 55% of coconut oil is MCTs, with the majority of the 55% composed of C8 and C10 fatty acids, which are the more beneficial MCTs. With its significant MCT composition, you will still experience similar benefits using coconut oil.
Coconut oil will have a more distinct coconut taste to it, but it does have a higher smoke point, providing you with more options in the kitchen. Coconut oil is more solid than MCT oil though so while you can mix it into food and drinks consuming it on its own would prove more challenging.
3. Hemp Oil
Hemp oil is a great alternative to MCT oil because it provides your body with omega-3s, an essential fatty acid you can only get through your diet. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which aid in disease prevention. This is distinct from MCT oil, which is mostly all saturated fat with research suggesting it can cause inflammation in the body.
Hemp oil can have a slightly nutty flavor but it is predominantly neutral in taste and odor making it easily substituted in food and drink recipes or to have on its own. It also has a low smoke point and like MCT oil is not the best when cooking or frying.
4. Fish Oil
Fish oil is one of the most researched dietary supplements shown to provide you with many health benefits, with evidence showing their use may:
- Improve anxiety and depression symptoms
- Improve risk factors for heart disease
- Lower inflammation in the body
- Improve bone strength
Fish oil can be purchased as a liquid but you are also able to get it in gel capsule form, making it easy to incorporate into your diet. It is not something you would cook with or consume in high quantities.
While fish oil doesn’t tout the same benefits as MCT oil, the benefits that it does have are much more widely researched and would certainly contribute to health, performance, and body composition goals.
Fish oil is great for overall health, with a number of benefits, making this my favorite alternative to MCT oil.
5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is easily accessible and provides plenty of versatility in cooking. What makes this a great alternative to MCT oil though is that its presence in your diet, can provide an array of health benefits.
Olive oil is full of antioxidants which have been evidenced to reduce your risk of chronic diseases and fight inflammation in the body. Research has also suggested that it could prevent strokes and heart disease. In terms of its impact on body weight, studies have indicated that olive consumption had no adverse impact on weight gain.
Incorporating around 1-3 tablespoons of olive oil throughout your day has been said to be a secret weapon to improving your health. The benefits of olive have been well studied with ample research out there supporting its use, making it another strong contender as the best MCT oil alternative.
- If you are on high fat, low to no carb diet, your body will resort to using dietary fat and fat stores for energy, you do not need a fast-acting energy source like MCT oil.
- If you aren’t on ahigh fat, low to no carb diet, you may not need to be considering MCT in the first place and may see great benefit from some other options out there.
Oils That Should Not Be Used As Alternatives
While Palm Kernel Oil may seem like an obvious alternative to MCT oil due to its high composition of MCTs, it is a supplement you may want to avoid. This is because:
- It is composed largely of C12 fatty acids which is one of the 4 main fatty acids in MCTs, the others being C6, C8, and C10.
While research on MCT oil is limited, there has been research into what are the better MCTs. With studies suggesting that C8 and C10 are more effective in providing benefits. So despite palm oil being high in MCTs, it is not high in the best available MCTs.
- There are significant sustainability concerns around the harvesting of palm kernel oil. While it is possible to obtain it sustainably, it is difficult to find and not worth the risk, especially with so many other options available.
Which Is The Best MCT Oil For Bulletproof Coffee?
Bulletproof coffee and MCT oil are a popular marriage, especially within the keto and low carb diet communities. So let’s look specifically at the MCT oil or substitute for perfecting your own bulletproof coffee.
What Is Bulletproof Coffee?
Bulletproof coffee is coffee mixed with butter and MCTs. It is claimed that through its consumption you are provided with ample calories to fuel your morning or workout and will manage your appetite and stabilize your hunger.
Bulletproof Coffee Recommendations?
For bulletproof coffee, creaminess, taste, and texture are the most important things, so just mixing in butter and MCT oil with hot coffee, probably isn’t going to work well. Oil will want to separate from the water and there isn’t going to be a great infusion of flavor.
So if bulletproof coffee is your goal, use a creamer, which is a powdered form of butter and MCT oil combined and can be mixed in quickly and easily with coffee. It will provide great taste and texture. Bulletproof has an awesome product for this purpose and it is backed by several hundred 5 star user reviews.
The best substitute here is a MCT in powdered form, because any other oil in your coffee just isn’t going to mix well.
If you aren’t into MCT powders, an alternative you could consider is your full cream milk to coffee ratios. Milk has naturally occurring MCTs, is creamy, and has been shown to mix well with coffee for centuries.
Just because it is popular does make it the best thing. So while MCT oil is doing the rounds at the moment, don’t think it is a must-have or you are missing out by not using it. Consider your goals and what is best for you. Consider talking to a professional who can help you weigh up the best options.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Use Olive Oil Instead of MCT Oil?
Olive oil doesn’t provide your body with a fast energy source like MCT oil does, so if you want it for that reason, it is not a good substitute. However, you can supplement olive as part of your diet for its health properties.
Is Coconut Oil A Good MCT Oil Alternative?
Coconut oil is the closest alternative to MCT oil. 55% of coconut oil is MCTs and it is commonly used as a direct substitute, particularly as a fast energy source on keto or low carb diets where there is little to carb availability.
Is Avocado Oil A Good MCT Oil Alternative?
If you want a fast energy source, avocado oil may not be the best alternative because it’s processed by the body differently to MCT oil. MCT oil doesn’t need to be digested, allowing it to be absorbed by your body faster and converted into an energy source, whereas avocado oil takes longer to digest and provides energy to the body.
Is Ghee A Good MCT Oil Alternative?
Ghee is about 25% MCTs compared to 100% MCTs for MCT oil and 55% MCTs for Coconut oil. It is a more dense version of butter, with a high saturated fat content, the best way is could be substituted for MCT oil is in cooking, but it isn’t going to provide your body with an efficient energy source.
Is Butter A Good MCT Oil Alternative?
Butter isn’t a good alternative for MCT oil. It is only 7% MCTs so it is more likely to be metabolized and absorbed into the body over time, compared to MCT oil which doesn’t need to be digested and is absorbed quickly into the body to be used as energy.
Is Hemp Seed Oil A Good MCT Oil Alternative?
As a direct like for like substitute Hemp Seed Oil isn’t the best substitute for MCTs because it is composed of long-chain fatty acids which take longer for the body to absorb and convert into an energy source. However, it does provide your body with a number of health properties that MCT oil doesn’t.
MCT Oil Resources
- MCT Oil vs Powder: Pros, Cons, & Which Should You Take?
- Does MCT Oil Cause Headaches? (What The Science Says)
- Does MCT Oil Cause Bloating, Gas, & Constipation?
- Can You Use MCT Oil If Not On Keto Diet? (Yes, Here’s Why)
- Can You Mix MCT Oil With Apple Cider Vinegar? (Pros & Cons)
- Can I Take MCT Oil & Collagen Together? (Pros & Cons)
- Can Too Much MCT Oil Make You Fat? (Dos & Don’ts)
- Can I Take MCT Oil At Night? (A Nutritionist Explains)
- Can I Take MCT Oil On An Empty Stomach? What Not To Do
- MCT Oil in Protein Shakes: 4 Benefits (Plus, 2 Cons)
- MCT Oil vs Omega 3: Pros, Cons, & Do You Need To Take Both?
About The Author
Steph Catalucci | Nutrition Coach
@macronutritionau | macro-nutrition.com.au
Steph Catalucci is an online nutrition coach from Australia, working with clients all over the world. Her passion for nutrition was born through wanting to treat her body better, for health and performance. She is a strong advocate for understanding nutrition to develop informed nutritional habits that go beyond just food. Steph leverages a decade of her own nutritional experience to help people make sense of the noise and carve a path forward with their nutrition, supporting clients with whatever body composition goal they have. When not coaching or writing, you’ll find her training for her next powerlifting competition.