Medium Chain Triglycerides explained
Medium Chain Triglycerides might be a saturated fat, but that doesn't mean they're bad for you. In fact, far from it, says Peter Wilson.
Fat is bad for you right? The supermarkets are all selling low fat products and we are all told how we should be reducing our cholesterol.
The media has used a really broad brush here and grouped all fats as bad. The reality is a little different as some types of fat can be healthy for you, supporting your fitness goals and overall wellbeing.
The fat I am talking about is called Medium Chain Triglycerides. So what makes Medium Chain Triglycerides so special and where can you find them?
What are Medium Chain Triglycerides?
Essentially Medium Chain Triglycerides
are a form of saturated dietary fat. Hang on there! I hear you shout, isn't saturated fat bad for you? Well, not all fats are created equal or as nasty as TV and advertising would have you believe.
Medium Chain Triglycerides are easily absorbed by your body and are readily converted to a source of fuel for your muscles. This is unlike most common vegetable or seed oils which are comprised of as long chain triglycerides.
Obviously the name of these kind of gives it way but, the long chain triglycerides due to their molecular size causes your body difficulty when it is trying to break them down to use them and is therefore often stored in the fat cells in your body and burnt off more slowly when exercising.
One word you really need to consider here is "created," because some saturated fats occur naturally, while other fats that are in our food are messed about with to cook them into a saturated state. This is done through an industrial process called hydrogenation.
Hydrogenation changes vegetable and seed oils by heating them up and adding hydrogen atoms. This process is a lot worse than it sounds and ends up producing a thickened substance. This new substance is known as hydrogenated fat or even trans-fats. They are added to a lot of processed food to help with the shelf life.
It has been agreed over and over by a large number of experts that, hydrogenation does nothing to improve the fat and overall eating this hydrogenated fat is not good for your body or health.
Just to give some balance here, some forms of trans-fats are "safe" for you to eat, as trans-fats can be found naturally occurring in red meat. It is when manufacturers get involved and look to industrially alter the fats, to create an artificial substance that problems start to occur.
Why are they not good for you? Well, because they are industrially created your body does not know what to do with them. They start to have an effect on the other fats that your body and negatively affect your body's delicate balance.
This is why it is important to read the labels of pre-packaged food to see if the ingredients show that hydrogenated fat, trans-fats or even interesterified fats have been used in the product. If they have steer well clear.
So if one form of saturated fat is bad for you, surely that would mean that all saturated fat is bad for you? Tests have shown that Medium Chain Triglycerides oil helps improve atherosclerosis or clogged arteries and other types of cardiovascular disease.
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Organic coconut oil is becoming very popular as a healthy cooking ingredient.[/caption]
Coconuts and Medium Chain Triglycerides
A good example of this is the Tokelauans. They are a population which lives in the South Pacific. They get over 60% of their calories from coconuts, which contain a lot of Medium Chain Triglycerides. They are subsequently the biggest consumers of saturated fat in the world.
Considering the amount of saturated fat these people eat, they are in excellent health, with no evidence of heart disease. This is because not all fats are created equally and virgin coconut oil
, unlike other saturated fats, actually contains no cholesterol as well as many other benefits.
I have already mentioned that Medium Chain Triglycerides can used by your body as an energy source, so it is effectively almost like a type of carbohydrate in this respect. Medium Chain Triglycerides have also been found to have a thermogenic (fat burning) effect and therefore can actually help with weight loss. Yes this is a type of fat that can actually help you lose weight.
If we take coconut oil as an initial source of Medium Chain Triglycerides, as coconut oil is also nature's richest source of medium chain triglycerides, we can to look at some other benefits. If you cook with coconut oil, it is one of the few oils that do not change their molecular structure under cooking heat. Unlike normal vegetable oils, which lose a lot of their antioxidant benefits once heated up for use in frying.
Cooking and MCTs
Cooking your food in vegetable oils can produce a number of very nasty chemicals as well. Plus the heat from cooking is essentially, making your own artificial trans-fats, which we already know are not good for your body. There is only one oil that is stable enough to withstand the heat of cooking and that's coconut oil. So by cook with coconut oil you are not only using a healthy oil, but also getting the benefit of Medium Chain Triglycerides.
In addition to cooking with coconut oil, I also put it in my coffee. I do not really drink or eat many dairy products. So by stirring in a little coconut oil into my black coffee, I am able to sweeten it up a little and take off the bitter edge. I also seem to get less of a caffeine kick, but more of a constant level of alertness, with no real crash as it wears off. This is just a personal experience, but is a use I have recommended a number of times.
The majority of the saturated fat in coconut oil is in the form of a fatty acid known as lauric acid, which is why many consider it to be a healthier choice than other fat sources. There are studies that have shown that lauric acid can increase your HDL or "healthy" cholesterol and lower your LDL or "lethal" cholesterol, thereby improving your overall cholesterol level.
When you then start to also consider that numerous scientific reports are now stating you actually need cholesterol for hormone production along with overall brain health. Increasing your healthy cholesterol would seem like a positive idea. So the benefits of MCTs
and coconut oil can be significant.
After everything I have said, I would be clear here that coconut oil or Medium Chain Triglycerides are not the be all and end all of foods. No single food could be considered a magic bullet.
They ideally would form part of a healthy diet, ensuring that the food you eat can support your healthy lifestyle and the activities that you undertake as part of it. One final word if you purchase coconut oil, look for labels that say "virgin" and make sure it's not hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated and contains no trans fats.