Are medium chain triglycerides low FODMAP?

If you’ve heard anything about the keto diet or similar eating plans, you may have heard of MCTs, or medium chain triglycerides. Perhaps the best known MCT food, which is used as a sort of supplement, is MCT oil. There is a lot of controversy surrounding MCTs as to whether they are beneficial or harmful to heart health.  Some research says that MCTs in coconut oil can help lower lipid levels in mice with high cholesterol. Meanwhile, other research states that consuming medium chain triglycerides should be replaced with intake of unsaturated fats for heart health benefits. Unfortunately, like this debate, the question of whether MCTs are low FODMAP or not is not cut and dry. Let’s talk a little more about medium chain triglycerides, what foods contain them, and how you can add them into a low FODMAP lifestyle.

What are MCTs?

Medium chain triglycerides are technically a glycerol molecule attached to three fatty acid chains. Compared to long chain triglycerides, commonly seen in plant-based oils like corn or safflower oil, MCTs are more easily digested by the body. MCTs have a history of helping to treat malabsorptive disorders like fat in the stool.

Foods that contain MCTs

Most plant-based and animal-based foods that may be considered healthier forms of fat are long-chain triglycerides. Examples of such foods include fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, corn, peanut, safflower, and soybean oil.

Natural sources of MCTs include foods such as:

  • coconut oil
  • palm kernel oil
  • desiccated coconut (dried, finely shredded flesh of the coconut)
  • raw coconut meat

Low FODMAP MCT servings

According to Monash University, the following servings sizes of medium chain triglycerides are considered low FODMAP safe:

  • Palm kernel oil and coconut oil in unspecified amounts
  • 2/3 cup raw coconut flesh
  • ½ cup shredded and dried coconut flakes

Palm kernel and coconut oils, since they are both just a fat source, are naturally free of FODMAPs. Therefore, they are considered green light items that can be consumed in moderation safely. However, many people with irritable bowel syndrome may also be sensitive to too much fat intake, so such oils should be limited in consumption daily to about 1-2 tablespoons daily to be safe.

Any more than 2/3 cup of raw coconut flesh or ½ cup shredded and dried coconut flakes are considered higher FODMAP.  Higher serving sizes of such foods contain high levels of sorbitol, a type of polyol. Polyols, which are best known as the “P” in FODMAP, are not well digested by many people with digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. In turn, consumption of such foods can cause digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Therefore, it is important to just stick to the recommended Monash-certified serving sizes of such foods to prevent or limit symptoms.

You can add MCTs to your diet by:

  • Using MCT-rich oils to sauté vegetables, pan-fry meats or eggs, or to drizzle on vegetables before roasting. You can also mix MCT oils with vinegars to create salad dressings.
  • Sprinkle coconut flakes in yogurt, on oatmeal, or on salads.
  • Slice and blend raw coconut into smoothies for a tropical flavor as well as 3.5 grams fiber and about 1.5 grams protein per ½ cup serving. Coconut meat is also a good source of potassium, which can be beneficial to heart health.

Take home message

Although further research must be done to confirm any potential benefits of medium chain triglycerides, certain serving sizes of MCT-rich foods are low FODMAP safe. Therefore, follow the Monash certified guidelines to stay safe while consuming such foods. For more information on what foods are safe on a low FODMAP regimen, visit the Casa de Sante website and the Monash University app.

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