Exploring MCT Foods: The Energy-Boost You Need For Your Brain and Body

You may have heard of the term ‘MCT’, but do you know about MCT Foods? They’re more common than you think, and you're likely already enjoying a range of MCT foods without realising it. In this article, we'll define MCT foods, examine their health benefits and explore how to incorporate MCT foods into your diet. Whether you're seeking to improve your energy levels, manage weight more effectively, or enhance your mental acuity, MCTs might just be the nutritional secret you've been searching for. Intrigued? Scroll on to read more about MCT foods and why you should pay attention to them.

What are MCTs?

MCTs are medium-chain triglycerides and are a type of fat that is found naturally in certain oils and dairy products. Unlike long-chain triglycerides, which are the predominant form of fat in our diet, the body metabolises MCTs more efficiently, primarily due to their shorter length. This can lead to various health benefits, from improved brain function to increased energy expenditure.

The sources of MCTs are varied but commonly found in:

  • Coconut oil
  • Palm kernel oil
  • Dairy products, including milk and cheese

Understanding the versatility of MCTs and MCT foods is essential, especially when considering their integration into your daily routine.

List of MCT Foods

Foods rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) include:

  • Coconut oil
  • Palm kernel oil
  • Dairy products such as butter and cheese
  • Milk from goats, sheep, and cows
  • Full-fat yoghurts

Is MCT the same as Coconut Oil?

While both MCT oil and coconut oil are celebrated for their health benefits, key differences set them apart. MCT oil is a concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides, carefully extracted and isolated from coconut or palm kernel oil.

On the other hand, coconut oil contains a mix of various types of fats, including long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), with MCTs accounting for about 54% of its fat content. So, if you want to specifically maximise your MCT intake and reap the many health benefits, MCT oil is more direct and concentrated than coconut oil. 

MCT Metabolism: A Boost of Quick Energy

MCTs are metabolised uniquely and efficiently within the body. They bypass the usual digestive process that longer-chain fats endure. MCTs are rapidly absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream and transported to the liver. Here, MCTs are easily broken down and transformed into molecules called ketones, which are then released back into the bloodstream. Ketones can be used as an efficient energy source by the brain, heart and muscle tissue. This quick-fire digestion that MCTs undergo contributes to their popularity as an energy-boosting and performance-enhancing substance. This is also partly why MCT oil is popular amongst paleo-dieters and those following a ketogenic diet

MCT foods and dairy products on a plate.

Health Benefits of MCT Foods

The research on MCTs dates back half a century. MCTs were first utilised in the 1950s as a quick-release energy source. Due to their efficient processing via the liver, MCTs provide instant energy and can help with weight control. As a natural fat source, MCTs improve satiety, allowing you to feel full and help prevent overeating and indulging in less healthy foods. Moreover, research shows that MCTs have the potential to boost memory, improve mood and reduce social anxiety.

Medically, the administration of MCTs helps manage epilepsy. Some emerging data suggest that MCTs also have antimicrobial properties that can help combat harmful bacteria and candida growth in the digestive tract. Though more research is needed, MCTs show promise as a potential natural antibiotic.

Let's dive deeper into the research demonstrating the health benefits of MCTs and MCT foods.

Enhanced Energy Levels

One of the standout features of MCTs is their rapid absorption and conversion into energy by the liver. This process is especially valuable for individuals following a ketogenic diet or those looking to get a boost of mental and physical energy at any time of the day. The quick and sustained release of energy can be particularly beneficial during demanding cognitive tasks, high-intensity workouts, or as a pre-workout supplement.

Maintains Healthy Cholesterol

The old narrative that fat causes heart disease is thankfully dissolving, and researchers such as McKenzie et al. (2021) help bolster the ever-growing data that supports this inconvenient truth. This systematic review found that MCT oil does not affect LDL, HDL, or total cholesterol levels. While a slight triglyceride elevation was evident, the overall heart disease risk was insignificant concerning MCT consumption. 

Improves Weight Management

MCTs have been studied for their potential to help with weight management. As mentioned, quality fats have a satiating effect, meaning that they can help you feel full for longer. This characteristic helps reduce overall food consumption and helps you maintain a healthy weight range.

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that MCTs have the potential to influence body weight and fat composition if incorporated into an otherwise balanced diet. The study identified that MCTs contribute to weight loss by increasing overall energy expenditure and lipid oxidation (fat burning). These findings mean that MCT foods could be a valuable therapeutic ally in managing obesity.

Enhances Cognitive Function

MCTs can support cognitive function, primarily through the production of ketones. These compounds provide an alternative energy source for the brain, which can improve mental clarity and focus. A review paper from 2022 established that MCTs as part of a ‘regular diet’ are beneficial to those with adequate brain function, as well as to people with various forms of cognitive impairments, including Alzheimer's disease. 

Provides Neuroprotective Effects

Research into the potential neuroprotective effects of MCTs is particularly encouraging. A study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that MCTs, and relatedly, medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), can improve neuronal function and reduce excitation in the brain. These findings suggest benefits for those with neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease and dementia. A similar result was published in a double-blind trial from 2020, showing that MCT had positive effects on cognitive ability in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s patients. 

A jar of ghee high in MCT.

How to Incorporate MCTs into Your Diet

Integrating MCTs and MCT foods into your diet can be pretty simple. Here are some ideas to get you started:

MCT Bulletproof Coffee

Kickstart your morning with an MCT Bulletproof Coffee designed to boost your energy and support focus and cognitive function throughout the day. A popular choice for paleo-fans or those following a ketogenic diet, Bulletproof coffee involves blending MCT oil (or grass-fed butter for added creaminess) with your favourite coffee. The result is a rich, energising beverage that can sustain you for hours.

Butter, Ghee and Coconut Oil

Use ghee, a type of clarified butter rich in MCTs, for cooking and baking to add flavour and health benefits to your meals. Cook with coconut oil when sautéing and roasting vegetables and meat. Finally, use good quality grass-fed organic butter for a boost of omega-3 fats, which is also a natural MCT food.

Full-Fat Dairy Foods

One of the easiest ways to enjoy MCT foods is to incorporate full-fat dairy products, like cheese, full-fat milk and yoghurt, which contain natural MCTs, into your breakfast or snacks.

MCT Oil Supplements

MCT oil is also a versatile option for smoothies, sweet treats and desserts. MCT-infused dressings can also be drizzled over salads and steamed vegetables, adding a hit of nutrition and flavour to support your brain and body. 

Tips When Cooking with MCT Oil

When cooking with MCT oils, be mindful of their lower smoke point than other oils. This makes them ideal for low to medium-heat cooking but less suitable for high-temperature applications like deep-frying.

Enjoy the Health-Boosting Properties of MCT Foods

Incorporating MCT foods into your daily diet provides many benefits that support physical and mental health. If you're looking for a boost in energy, more focus and mental fitness, MCT foods are an all-natural way to achieve this. Whether simply adding MCT oil to your daily smoothie or coffee or easily eating more full-fat dairy and coconut products, MCT foods are versatile and delicious. Remember, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional when making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

3 Healthy Recipes Using MCT Foods


Full-Fat Yoghurt Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are the perfect solution for a nutritious, no-fuss breakfast waiting for you in the morning. This recipe uses full-fat yoghurt, which adds a creamy texture and a delicious MCT food to start your day right.


  • 1/2 cup of rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup of full-fat yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup of milk (any kind works, but almond or coconut milk are great dairy-free options)
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds (optional, for extra thickness and a boost of fibre)
  • 1 tablespoon of honey or maple syrup (adjust according to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Toppings of choice (fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, nut butter, or granola)


  1. In a jar or bowl, combine the rolled oats, full-fat yoghurt, milk, chia seeds (if using), honey or maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
  2. Stir well to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  3. Seal the jar or cover the bowl with a lid/plate and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.
  4. In the morning, stir the oats well. If the mixture seems too thick, add a little more milk until it reaches your desired consistency.
  5. Top with your preferred toppings for extra flavour and texture and enjoy.

MCT Breakfast Smoothie

Start your day with some healthy fats and a solid energy boost with this simple and delicious MCT Breakfast Smoothie. Perfect for a quick breakfast or a post-workout refuel, it's packed with nutrients and the brain-boosting power of MCTs.


  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon MCT oil
  • ½ banana, frozen
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 scoop of your favourite protein powder (vanilla or unflavoured works best)
  • A handful of spinach
  • A tablespoon of chia seeds (for fibre and omega-3s)
  • Ice cubes (optional, for a thicker consistency)


  1. Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender.
  2. Blend on high until smooth and creamy.
  3. Taste and adjust sweetness if necessary, perhaps with a drizzle of honey or a drop of stevia.
  4. Serve immediately in a chilled glass for a refreshing start to your day.

Paleo Lemon and Coconut Bars

These Paleo Lemon and Coconut Bars are the perfect blend of tangy and sweet, made with all-natural ingredients for a healthy treat. Ideal for a quick snack or a delicious dessert, they're gluten-free, dairy-free, and entirely paleo-friendly.


  • 1 cup of almond flour
  • 1/4 cup of coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup of raw honey (or to taste)
  • 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 4 large eggs
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut


  1. Preheat your oven to 175°C. Grease and line a 20cm baking dish with a little coconut oil and baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the almond flour and coconut flour.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey, melted coconut oil, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract until well combined.
  4. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until a smooth batter is formed.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, smoothing the top with a spatula.
  6. Sprinkle the shredded coconut evenly over the top of the batter.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  8. Allow the bars to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Once cooled, cut into bars and serve. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

Article References

Dunn, E., Zhang, B., Sahota, V. K., & Augustin, H. (2023). Potential benefits of medium chain fatty acids in ageing and neurodegenerative disease. Frontiers in ageing neuroscience15, 1230467. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2023.1230467

Jadhav, H. B., & Annapure, U. S. (2023). Triglycerides of medium-chain fatty acids: a concise review. Journal of food science and technology60(8), 2143–2152. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-022-05499-w

McKenzie, K. M., Lee, C. M., Mijatovic, J., Haghighi, M. M., & Skilton, M. R. (2021). Medium-Chain Triglyceride Oil and Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials. The Journal of nutrition151(10), 2949–2956. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxab220

Mumme, K., & Stonehouse, W. (2015). Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics115(2), 249–263. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2014.10.022

Shcherbakova, K., Schwarz, A., Apryatin, S., Karpenko, M., & Trofimov, A. (2022). Supplementation of Regular Diet With Medium-Chain Triglycerides for Procognitive Effects: A Narrative Review. Frontiers in nutrition9, 934497. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.934497

Xu, Q., Zhang, Y., Zhang, X., Liu, L., Zhou, B., Mo, R., Li, Y., Li, H., Li, F., Tao, Y., Liu, Y., & Xue, C. (2020). Medium-chain triglycerides improved cognition and lipid metabolomics in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease patients with APOE4-/-: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland)39(7), 2092–2105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2019.10.017