A Complete Guide to MCT Oil Vs Omega-3 Fish Oil: Which is Best?
An Introduction To MCT Oil And Fish Oil
What Is MCT Oil?
MCT oil, short for Medium-Chain Triglyceride oil, is a type of fat primarily sourced from coconut oil. It’s more concentrated than coconut oil and contains only coconut oil’s most potent MCTs – typically caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10), or C8 alone.1
This oil is unique, as MCTs are typically easier to digest than LCTs (long-chain triglycerides, which are found in fish, avocados, and dairy). As we’ll explore, this is where MCT oil can be a real stand-out.2
MCT oil has shown an array of exciting potential health benefits and can most commonly be found in liquid or powder form.
What Is Omega-3 Fish Oil?
Omega-3 fish oil is a dietary supplement derived from the tissues of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. It contains high concentrations of essential omega-3 fatty acids.3
The two primary omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Research shows that these polyunsaturated fats are crucial for supporting various aspects of human health.4
Omega-3 fish oil is commonly available in capsules or liquid supplements.
MCT Oil Vs Fish Oil: The Ultimate Comparison
1. MCT Oil vs Fish Oil: Basic Nutritional Info
Let’s start by taking a look at the basic nutritional properties of MCT Oil in comparison to fish oil.
- MCT oil contains fast-acting MCTs, typically a blend of caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10), or just C8.5
- MCTs are classified as saturated fat but don’t act like a traditional “unhealthy” saturated fat because they’re more rapidly metabolized.6
- Fish oil is packed full of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
- Omega-3s are a healthy, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid.
- Fish oil usually contains vitamins A and D.
- Some fish oil also contains high levels of healthy long-chain monounsaturated fatty acids.7-9
2. MCT Oil Vs Fish Oil: Calorie Content
When looking at the calorie content of both MCT and fish oil, you’ll see that they are almost identical. They also come in on par for fat content.
- Calories: One tablespoon of MCT oil contains approximately 120 calories.
- Fat: MCT oil has around 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.10
- Calories: The average tablespoon of fish oil offers around 123 calories.
- Fat: Fish oil has around 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.11
3. MCT Oil Vs Fish Oil: Medium-Chain Triglycerides Vs Long-Chain Triglycerides
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats with a chain length of 6-12 carbon atoms, sourced predominantly from foods like coconut oil. They're utilized in the body quite differently than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), such as those found in fish oil, which contain 13-21 carbon atoms.12
You see, MCTs are more quickly absorbed and converted into potential energy – making MCT oil popular for those who seek the possibility of fast-acting results.13
Although LCTs in fish oil are processed a little more slowly, they have their own unique and potentially beneficial long-term health properties, as we’ll explore next.
Health Benefits: MCT Oil Vs Fish Oil
Now that we’ve explored the basics of both oils, let’s take a look at what’s really important – the potential health benefits of each.
Potential Benefits Of MCT Oil
- Weight Management: Research suggests that MCT oil may lead to greater energy expenditure than LCTs. It also has a high burn rate, which may help boost the number of calories burned after meals.14
- Brain Health: MCT oil can help stimulate the production of ketones, a highly efficient energy source for the brain. These ketones have shown a promising ability to support normal brain function.15-17
- Energy and Focus: MCT oil may be beneficial as a fast source of energy because it’s so quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. As MCTs can be converted into ketones, they might provide more efficient brain energy to help support focus.18,19
- Blood Sugar Levels: MCT oil may help support healthy blood sugar levels.20
Potential Benefits Of Fish Oil Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Heart Health: Omega-3 fatty acids have shown potential to help support heart health by promoting a healthy heart rate, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels.
- Brain Health: Omega-3s are vital for brain development and function. They may help support cognitive function and memory, for example.
- Eye Health: DHA, one of fish oil’s omega-3 fatty acids, is a major structural component of the retina. Consuming omega-3s might help support eye health.
- Fetal Health: Omega-3s are also important for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as they can help support the development of a baby’s nervous system.21,22
MCT Oil Vs Fish Oil: Which Oil Is Right For You?
Here’s the clincher – both oils offer unique and diverse potential benefits. A healthy diet should consist of a wide range of foods (including fatty acids), and that means there’s room for both MCT oil and fish oil.
The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fish (particularly these fatty, oily fish) per week. Fatty fish include anchovies, herring, black cod, Alaskan salmon, sardines, canned tuna, whitefish, freshwater bass, and cobia – all are exceptionally high in omega-3 fatty acids.23
How To Incorporate MCT Oil And Fish Oil Into Your Diet
You know that both MCT oil and omega-3-rich fish oil may offer potential benefits for your overall health and well-being. Now, let’s take a look at how to incorporate them into a healthy, balanced diet.
Here are some suggestions:
1. MCT Oil
Add a serving of MCT oil or MCT oil powder to:
- Coffee: One popular way to consume MCT oil is by adding it to your coffee, where it creates a frothy, creamy texture.
- Smoothies and protein shakes: Add MCT oil to your favorite smoothie or post-workout protein shake.
- Salad Dressings: Use MCT oil as a base for homemade salad dressings, mixed with vinegar, herbs, and spices.
- Drizzle: Drizzle MCT oil over dishes like roasted vegetables or grilled meats for added nutrition.
Note: It's important to start with a small amount of MCT oil and gradually increase the amount as your body becomes better accustomed to it.
2. Fish Oil
Here's how to incorporate fish oil into your diet:
- Fatty Fish: Aim to consume fatty fish at least twice a week. Grill, bake, or steam the fish to help retain its nutritional value.
- Omega-3 or DHA Supplements: If it's challenging to get enough omega-3s through your diet, consider taking high-quality fish oil supplements.
Key Takeaways: MCT Oil Vs Omega-3 Fish Oil
As you’ve seen, both MCT oil and fish oil may offer beneficial impacts on your health when taken as recommended.
However, it's essential to also maintain a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods and plenty of physical activity.
Finally, always consult with a registered healthcare professional before adding any new supplement to your diet.