One of the most satisfying developments in nutritional science has been the change in the way we nutritionists view fats. When I started in the field, fats were viewed as villains, responsible for everything from obesity to heart attacks. Today, we have a better understanding of the subject, and we know fats are essential for good health.
There are thousands of studies about the lifelong and body wide benefits of omega-3 fats from fish. I am also a big fan of olive oil and it’s well-studied role in the Mediterranean diet. But another fat deserves a mention that doesn't receive the spotlight as much: medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). The most well known source of MCTs is coconut oil. Since MCTs are saturated fats, their many benefits were often overlooked due to the inaccurate belief that all saturated fats were bad. Saturated or not, MCTs are good fats. They have been shown to support cognitive health, sports performance, energy production, satiety, and nutrient absorption.
Because of their structure, MCTs are more easily and rapidly absorbed than other dietary fats. This means it is more efficient for them to be used as fuel, since they quickly form ketones. Ketones can be used as an alternative to glucose in the production of energy at a cellular level. Athletes take advantage of this by using MCTs before and during workouts. MCTs are fuel for the muscles and support reduced recovery following intense exercise.
MCTs are also fuel for our brains. As we get older, we may become less capable of managing glucose. When this happens, our brains may struggle to find the energy needed for focus, concentration, and memory retrieval. Ketones may come to the rescue for older individuals because they may serve to be a reliable brain fuel.
For people at any age, the quick metabolism of MCTs means they boost energy levels, and that energy can be sustained over the course of the day. Finally, MCTs improve satiety, an important key to hunger management.
MCTs may be one of nature's most perfect fuels for the body and the mind.