health

What are Medium Chain Triglycerides and why you need them

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT for short) are a type of fat that is readily broken down by the human body into ketones. Ketones are the metabolic component responsible for your energy when in a state of ketosis. MCT belongs to the group of fats known as saturated fatty acids. In this blog post, I introduce MCTs and why you need them while running a ketogenic diet. If you’re not familiar with what the ketogenic diet is, check out my post here about my own achievements with the diet, along with my entire keto category index for all my related blog posts.

Caproic acid acsv
Molecular structure of Caproic Acid, one of the different MCTs.

You might have been told that saturated fats are bad. You might have heard they are linked to all sorts of diseases like heart disease. But not all saturated fats are equal, and Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are innocent here. They make up about 60% of the oil in coconuts, attributing in part to what makes coconut oil a super food on the keto diet. Because MCTs breakdown much easier into ketones, our bodies can use them to enter ketosis much faster.

Boosting Fat Consumption

Most people whom I coach through the on-ramp to the ketogenic diet struggle with the high amounts of fat they must now consume. A lot of the struggle is from the mental shift away from the “low fat” myth that we’ve been told for decades. But even after you convince yourself that it’s worth a shot, you may find that it’s still very difficult to get 70% or more of your calories from fat sources.

In order to get MCTs (and thus fat) into more of your meals, I recommend using an MTC Oil supplement. You can find them in liquid and powder forms. I prefer the powder form because it is lighter and easier to carry around. It mixes easily with water, and the flavor of the powder is similar to powdered creamer that you might use in your coffee. The product linked below is what I personally use, and I really enjoy it! It’s easy to drop a serving or two into my (low carb) protein shake or use it as an ingredient in other recipes. One serving of this product gives you 7 extra grams of fat from MCTs!

Disclaimer: clicking on the links above awards me a very small advertising credit to my Amazon Associates account. I am not paid by Amazon or any other company for my opinions or to directly promote products. The opinions expressed on this site are my own. Buying a product using ad links on my site goes towards helping me pay for website maintenance costs and the fuel (coffee!) that powers my blog writings.

Stomach Sensitivity

Some people might find that taking too much MCT oil at once can cause stomach pains. These are not harmful! It just means you’re using more than your body can process at once. Consume less MCT oil until you find the sweet spot where you body can handle it all without the discomfort.

In time, you can gradually increase the amount you use. I’ve personally noticed that my own ability to process MCT oil has improved the longer I use it.

Summary

Medium Chain Triglycerides are an important and powerful tool in the keto dieter’s nutritional arsenal. Whether you’re struggling to add more fat to your keto diet or not, you can benefit from making sure you get more MCT. You can find it in several natural food sources, like coconuts, but I prefer the ease and convenience of using it in a powdered supplement form.

Starbuck’s New 0 Calorie Sweetener: what exactly is it?

On September 9th[1], thousands of Starbucks locations across the USA started stocking a new 0 calorie sweetener in a green packet, produced by Whole Earth, called Nature Sweet. If you’re like me, you are intensely interested in the things you put into your body, so naturally, I flipped the little green packet over and found the ingredient list.

Ingredients: erythritol, fructose, chicory root fiber, stevia leaf extract, monk fruit extract.

So what exactly are each of these things, what do they do to you, and are they really zero calorie?

Erythritol

Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol that is found in certain fruits and produced by certain fermentation processes of regular sugar. It has a long history of human use, is FDA approved, and contains 0.2 calories per gram, which is pretty low. It also has a “cooling” effect making the mouth feel a bit different than regular sugar. Useful in food stuffs that are going for this, such as mint flavored things. It’s about 60-70% as sweet as sugar and is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. FDA, and doesn’t typically stomach distress like other sugar alcohols can, when consumed in large amounts.

Fructose

Fructose is the name of sugar that occurs naturally, and in abundance, in fruit! This is decidedly not a 0 calorie ingredient, having the same caloric value as refined sugar at 4 calories per gram. Also the fact that it’s the 2nd ingredient on the list means is the 2nd most prominent ingredient by weight, so that’s a bit suspicious. But in the end, fructose is completely natural and is safe to consume. The entire packet is also only 2 grams total, so the actual amount of fructose in here is negligible.

Chicory Root FiberRelated image

Chicory root fiber, also known as inulin, is a soluble fiber with many recorded health benefits. It is also not really calorie free, and weighs in at 1.5 calories per gram. This is a rough estimation though, as inulin is fermented heavily in the digestive tract by beneficial gut bacteria, so the amount available to the body as calorie energy is somewhat variable. Inulin is safe to consume, and actually promotes healthy gut bacteria! It is about 10% the sweetness of sugar.

 

Stevia Leaf Extract

Stevia comes from an herb, and truly has 0 calories. The downside is that it doesn’t quite have the same taste or mouth feel that sugar does, so many people aren’t fond of it alone. In high quantities, it can impart a bitter flavor. But at 1500% sweeter than sugar, you really don’t need much for it to have the sweetening effect! This is probably why Whole Earth has it in here in such small amounts. Stevia has been used for a long time and is generally regarded as safe.

Monk Fruit Extract

Monk fruit comes from a melon-like fruit and also has a long history of human use. It’s around 1500-2000% sweeter than regular sugar, and also truly has 0 calories. This is the last ingredient on the package, so it is contained least by volume. Monk fruit is a powerful sweetener, making a little go a long way.

So is it truly zero calories?

The true answer is: no. It is not truly zero calories thanks to the erythritol, fructose, and chicory root fiber ingredients. What concerns me the most is the inclusion of fructose, because it is equal to refined sugar in terms of calories, carbohydrates, and effect on blood sugar. But the reality is, the amount of fructose in one packet is very negligible and most of the perceived sweetness seems like it must be coming from the very strong stevia and monk fruit ingredients. The whole packet itself is definitely less than 5 calories, because that is the only way the FDA would allow them to claim it as a 0 calorie sweetener.[2]

“It is not truly zero calories thanks to the erythritol, fructose, and chicory root fiber ingredients.”

In my mind, it’s a better choice than the artificial sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose), and better than regular sugar. Whole Earth claims one packet (2 grams) is equal to 2 tsp of sugar (8.4 grams). So if you’re using 1 or 2 packets for your venti coffee, I think you’re fine, and you’re adding less than 10 calories to your drink.

Disclaimer: clicking on the links above awards me a very small advertising credit to my Amazon Associates account. I am not paid by Amazon or any other company for my opinions or to directly promote products. The opinions expressed on this site are my own. Buying a product using ad links on my site goes towards helping me pay for website maintenance costs and the fuel (coffee!) that powers my blog writings.

References

[1] https://news.starbucks.com/news/starbucks-offers-nature-sweet

[2] http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064911.htm