Dear Mark: MCT Oil, Camelina Oil, and Fancy Canola Oil

Today’s Dear Mark roundup is a trio of oil-related questions. Learn about my adventures with MCT oil and whether it fits into a good eating plan. Hear about camelina, the “better flax.” And finally, we’ll go over whether fancy, cold-pressed canola oil is worth including or whether it’s still just canola oil.

I’m thinking I’ll stick with this format for awhile. The response has been mostly positive, so why mess with what works? If ever a question arrives that merits a devoted full-length post, I’ll do that, but for now this seems like a hit.

What do you think of MCT oil?


MCTs, or medium chain triglycerides, are fatty acids that the body treats differently than longer chain fats. They are easily digested, head straight to the liver for oxidation or ketone generation without dealing with the lymphatic system, and can be utilized by cells for energy without the enzymatic processes needed to utilize longer chain fats. MCT oil is pure medium chain triglyceride. For this reason, it remains liquid at all temperatures despite being a highly saturated fat.

I’m not a huge fan of MCT oil, but not for any health reasons. I’ve just had weird experiences with it. I once used it to make mayo, since it’s flavorless, saturated, and stays liquid. It worked and the mayo tasted great, but it was just too big a bolus of MCTs at once. I used a couple tablespoons of MCT mayo with some hard boiled eggs and yellow mustard for egg salad, and a couple minutes after eating, I was infused with a weird, nervous energy. It felt similar to taking a quadruple shot of the strongest espresso on the planet sprinkled with a bit of Walter White’s special recipe, followed by a forced toilet trip. The fatty acids were being converted to pure energy – way more than my body needed at the time – and it wasn’t very pleasant. I tried it again as the base for a salad dressing, having run out of olive oil, and the effect was the same. It’s definitely not for me. I’ll stick to coconut oil for my MCT fix, since it never gives me any issues. While natural sources of MCTs, like coconut, contain the full range of MCTs (lauric acid, caproic acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid), most MCT oils are caprylic acid and capric acid. I suspect the isolation of the fatty acids is responsible for my problems with MCT oil.

That’s me, though. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with MCT oil, especially if you’re on a strict ketogenic diet or simply looking to get into ketosis (MCTs are the most ketogenic fatty acids), but I also think you could just eat coconut oil. I’ve heard of people who can’t handle coconut oil but for whom MCT oil works perfectly. Go figure. I’d suggest buying the smallest bottle of MCT oil you can find if you’re thinking of trying it. Here’s one not so small bottle.

Hi Mark,

Curious about Camelina oil – it is very high in Omega-3’s, has a high smoke point, tastes good on salads and in cooking.  I just want to know if it’s going to cause the same problems as other vegetable oils (which it is considered to be).



Camelina has been grown in Europe for at least 3,000 years as a food crop for livestock and for people, so at least it’s not some genetically modified, formerly toxic plant. It’s a seed, similar in some respects to flax, but with some important differences. Well, let’s explore a couple of the main problems with vegetable oils and see how camelina stacks up:

1. High in omega-6 – Vegetable oils have introduced a massive, evolutionarily-novel dose of linoleic acid into our diets, throwing off our dietary and tissue omega-3:omega-6 ratios and resulting in lopsided levels of eicosanoids derived from omega-6. More omega-6 eicosanoids mean our inflammation and response to stress are exaggerated. This is bad.

Camelina oil is similar to flax in that it’s high in alpha-linolenic-acid, the omega-3 fatty acid present in plants, and lower in omega-6 linoleic acid. Flax has an omega-3:omega-6 ratio of about 4:1, while camelina has a ratio ranging from 2:1 to 3:1. Put another way, camelina oil is between 35% and 45% ALA and between 15% and 20% linoleic acid. So, it has more omega-6 than butter, olive oil, macadamias, or beef fat, but similar levels as poultry and pork fat. It’s not a huge amount, but it can add up pretty quickly – especially if you’re aiming to keep omega-6 below five or six grams per day. And remember that it’s not just the ratio that matters, but the absolute amount of omega-6 in your diet.

2. Heat unstable, prone to oxidation inside and outside of the bodyPolyunsaturated fats are prone to oxidative damage when exposed to heat, air, and/or light. The PUFAs we eat are often incorporated into serum lipids, and LDL more easily oxidizes when it contains higher amounts of polyunsaturated fats (even omega-3s). This is bad.

By all accounts, camelina oil is considerably more heat-stable than flax oil. It contains high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin E (up to 110mg/100g, according to Wikipedia), which can protect against heat/light/air damage. However, antioxidants are only there because the fatty acids are so inherently unstable, so it’s not going to remain pure and untouched forever. Camelina oil must still be stored well (low temperature, secure lid, dark bottle) to prevent rancidity (PDF). And once it’s in your body, its ALA will be incorporated into your serum lipids in a disproportionate amount. While this study describes it as a positive thing, recall that LDL high in PUFAs has been shown to oxidize more easily. Perhaps camelina’s vitamin E will protect the LDL from oxidation, but I wouldn’t depend on it.

Overall, camelina oil seems a decent choice, at least compared to most vegetable oils. I wouldn’t cook with it, and I definitely wouldn’t use more than a couple teaspoons, but I think it’s one of the “better” seed oils – though that’s not saying much!

Hi Mark,

As I’ve mentioned in the past I work for a cookery school. They have recently started selling cold pressed rapeseed oil. I headed over to your blog where I remembered reading [about it], but that talked about the heat extracted stuff. I was wondering what your opinion on this would be? To me it does still seem kinda high in omega 6’s.



Your instincts are right. It’s still pretty high in omega-6. I mean, sure, it’s better than regular canola oil or sunflower oil, but so what? There’s butter, good olive oil, macadamia oil, pastured lard, extra virgin coconut oil, red palm oil… I could go on, but my point stands: why eat the substandard stuff just because it isn’t overtly toxic when you could use better tasting, more affordable fats like the aforementioned?

If it’s a choice between the Black and Gold canola and refined soybean oil, sure, choose the canola. But in my experience, such an ultimatum rarely pops up in everyday life.

As always, keep those questions flowing. I’m ready for (just about) anything you can throw at me. Grok on!

Purchase your bottle of Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil. 

You Might Also Like:

PUFA-Rama and the Rise of Vegetable Oils

The 7 Most Common Reactions to Your High-Fat Diet (and How to Respond)

10 Reasons You Should Be Eating More Monounsaturated Fats


About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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66 thoughts on “Dear Mark: MCT Oil, Camelina Oil, and Fancy Canola Oil”

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  1. “I’m thinking I’ll stick with this format for awhile”

    I love to hear that Mark!

    I agree with your points on canola oil… why consume it when you have so many other choices? Its just not necessary. When I eat out I don’t worry about what my food is cooked with. I am doing some things to convince restaurants to cook with coconut oil or animal fat but that is a lont ways away.

    When I make food myself I stick with butter and coconut oil to cook. I drizzle macadamia oil and olive oil on my food! I also LOVE sesame oil but use in very small amounts (1/4 tsp at a time) because of the high omega 6 content. It’s all you need though since its so damn rich and tasty!!

  2. I just finished off my old bottle of canola oil and have been wavering on whether to replace it. Since I totally quit the flour, I quit baking; since I quit baking, I rarely have a need for a product like canola oil, so it’s not been much of an issue.

    Thanks for the discussion here. I won’t be replacing my canola oil after reading this!

    1. This is the same with me. My baking has come to a screeching halt since going primal.

      I am sure there will a be time down the road when I will learn how to bake with nut flours. At this point though, I am too interested in making sure that my whole family is fed and full off of meat, veggies, and fruit.

  3. I had not really heard of MCT oil. It sounds interesting, but your reaction to it was pretty weird. Have you heard of anyone else being affected by it in a similar manner?

    Might be good to have a little either right before or right after a particularly hard workout (for instance if you do crossfit style workouts). Thanks for the heads up and introduction to it!

    1. Actually– as much as I LOVE (and use) Coconut oil, I had a similar reaction to it one time upon just eating a straight spoonful of it. It wasn’t an ‘awesome’ or ‘useable’ energy, it was more of a caffeine/sugar-high feeling jitter. I’ll bet thats why…

      I’m thinking I’d have the same reaction to MCT oil? What is it made from?

  4. I agree mark, this format is great. I have never heard of any these oils, and after reading this post, I probably won’t use them either. Coconut and Olive are my go to oils.

  5. Coconut oil has a CRAZY effect on me. If have any more than a tablespoon a day, it has what I can only describe as a “Roid Rage” effect. It was like I was constantly on the the edge of exploding and it didn’t take much to push me over. I am not a violent person, but that was the one and only time I snapped and slapped my husband across the face. It was like an outer body experience. Horrible. It took three day to taper off and not feel the effects of it. Now I stay away! Now I’ve never taken steroids, but it would be what I would imagine them to feel like….(I know what your’re thinking, too, it was NOT pms-lol)

    1. That’s fascinating to me, I eat coconut oil from the spoon and have been known to eat half a jar (250-300ml worth) in a sitting on its own just because it’s tasty and I have had no effects at all.

    2. For those of us following the gaps diet for gut issues, this is a common experience (die-off). In this case, we stop taking the food in question for a few days and reintroduce minute amounts of it at a later time, so that it ca be tolerated by the body. Then, slowly but surely, the amount can be upped. Some people start with amounts as tiny as the tip of a toothpick. Coconut oil is extremely healing and can cause a lot of reactions in people with the wrong gut flora! But that means we need it very much for this very reason.

      1. Hmmm. Thats an interesting point (die off scenario). Maybe I should try very small amounts to begin with. At that time I had jumped right in at about 2-3 tablespoons/day without building up.

  6. I still bake quite a bit—usually banana bread or coconut muffins—but use nut flours instead of wheat. It’s fun to work through the process and learn what works and what doesn’t. I have been using olive oil and walnut oil in all my baked goods for years. Don’t know if I’m ruining the olive oil by heating it, but I have never actually bought veg oil because that huge bottle of cheap oil always looked so gross to me.

  7. It was converted to “pure energy?” Did it reach the speed of light or something?

    1. Maybe on its way out. Large amounts of MCTs can cause “gastrointestinal distress”

  8. i’m hanging with good ‘ol butter when it comes to cooking and olive & flax seed oils for my salads, period! thanks for the insight daddy Grok.

  9. Just remember that ANY oils derived from plants (not coconut and palm) can oxidize under the skin and produce ‘age spots’.

    Don’t eat too much of it. If you’re the kind of person that’s out in the sun a lot stick to lard, butter and coconut/palm oil.

    1. Could you give more information about that? And if that’s the case, will stopping the oils make the spots go away…?

      1. Weston A Price has an article about it on their WAPF website.

        1. I just had this long article copy pasted and links to go with it…and other info posted and it went nowhere…WTH.

      2. Liver, or age spots are a subcutaneous accumulation of oxidized cholesterols that are predominantly damaged by trans fats intake. Ingestion of trans fats cause a free radical cascade and among other negative actions they also damage the body’s cholesterol structure & impair the skins ability to synthesize vitamin D.

        “Lipofucsin, the “fatty brown stuff” that makes up liver or age spots is largely comprised of oxidized fats, and by the time lipofucsin shows up on the skin there’s sure to already be more of it in the brain, liver, and other organs, doing massive damage to our health. It is clear that oxidized fats damage our health on a very fundamental cellular level.”

        Your body can only use the oils & fats in your diet for cholesterol production & cellular membrane structure, repair & rebuilding, so regular consumption of good high quality saturated fats is imperative.

    2. Wow that IS interesting. I had never heard of that. I used to have age spots which “miraculously” went away recently. I never knew there was a connection to vegetable oils.

      Even since being paleo I have eaten a lot of olive oil and I had some age spots just last summer. I quit olive oil a year ago and the age spots are all gone. I always wondered why they came and where they went.

      Thanks for the info.

      1. I did my research on this about a year ago and found all kinds of ‘proof’…so they say.
        Regardless if there is enough scientific proof for it at this point, the WAPF seem to agree on this, and it is odd like you said that some so called age spots all of a sudden disappear. I always thought it was an old people’s thing…but had age spots in my teens…which I thought was kinda weird. All of those are gone now, too. With 1 remaining that I ‘grew’ the summer before going primal and was on a heavy sunflower / canola and olive oil diet.

        Since consuming only animal fats and even making my salad dressing with raw milk, unpasteurized vinegar and egg yolks I’m outside more than ever, even slightly burn my skin, I’m dark like a spanier and have not gotten ANY age spots or sun spots. All I grew was summer freckles on my nose that disappear when the tan fades.

        1. That’s good to know. Unfortunately I’m still getting some vitiligo as I tan, which I thought would not be a problem still going paleo/primal. I don’t know if anything else in the diet would be related, or it’s an issue that has to be treated otherwise. Have you come across any info on vitiligo and diet?

        2. Fantastic information on age spots! Thanks for posting.
          Can applying coconut oil topically get rid of age spots, or is it just eating it?

        3. I use coconut oil as my lotion and I’ve heard about people using it for sunscreen very effectively. I would give it a try and see what happens.

        4. On Primal Toad’s point about sunscreen, I’ve had great success with coconut oil, and I am a PASTY girl! Just make sure you let it absorb completely before going out in the sun, or you may fry.

        5. On using coconut oil as a natural sunscreen… you may want to make sure you have a bit of a base tan built up. Got crispy fried last summer using coconut oil on my pasty whiteness.

          Although I don’t know that I let it absorb adequately before basking in the rays so maybe that was part of the issue…along with spending 2-3 hours outdoors. Several bad decisions that day. 🙂

        6. @Joe B. –

          Vitiligo can be a symptom of gluten intolerance. Might want to follow this up. Also – you might be Paleo, but wheat/gluten can be in anything – including supplements, perscription meds, even that handful of nuts you ate yesterday.

  10. I first learned about MCT Oil from; see dosage in “Conclusion”. I tried NOW Foods MCT Oil… I suspect it became rancid in a protein shake I made (maybe 1 tbsp didn’t mix well with one of my other ingredients). I stirred 1/2 tbsp into another shake, worked fine. Now I take the NOW organic non-GE virgin cold-pressed coconut oil, lovin it!

  11. Informative as always Mark, and I’m definitely a fan of the new format. So true for more readily available fats, why go for canola when the fats that are better for you taste so good?

  12. Joe, as far as I know, Vitiligo is an autoimmune problem, related to inflammation issues.
    I have it too, and I would also appreciate any info people can offer about it.

  13. It’s my understanding that oil through the lymphatic system is what causes defibrillation. The high negatively charged oil is delivered into the blood then first delivered to the heart. In the heart it comes in close proximity to high positive charged blood delivered from the lung. This difference in potential discharges causing…tahdah, a heart beat.
    Fat good!

  14. Question on the daily requirement on fat…

    What is considered a serving size for a healty fat?

    How many servings of healthy fat should a person consume a day?

  15. Can anyone suggest an oil for stir-frying? I LOVE Thai and Vietnamese food and have tried a few ‘better’ oils with a high smoke point, but haven’t found one that blended nicely taste-wise when stir-frying. I only cook this way once per week after becoming a more primal eater, but I aint giving it up totally!

    1. I use coconut oil for stir frying, its great for thai! and ghee for indian curries!

  16. What oil is recommended for roasting meat & veges in the oven? Its winter here so need to have warm food 🙂 I usually use extra virgin olive oil for roasting..

    1. I have been using coconut oil to roast pumpkin in the oven. Yum!.. My kitchen does get a little smokey though

  17. Interesting read, ta.

    I was wondering, are all coconut oils the same? When I first read about them (here) I searched supermarkets etc. but couldn’t find any. Eventually, I tried a fancy health food shop and found some – it was £12 for a little tub! Is this normal?

    A few weeks later, I was in an Indian food store and found some tubs for £2 each (same size, different brand).

    So is there a difference? The ingredients on each brand says (only) “100% Coconut Oil” yet the expensive one tastes very ‘coconutty’ whereas the other one only has a very mild taste.

    I’m not too fussed about the flavour, but nutritionally, am I ok to continue using the cheapy one? (It’s not a hair product is it? lol)

      1. “The choice is clear – steer clear of the refined stuff and stick with organic virgin coconut oil.”

        Thanks Chas.

  18. Is there a verdict on the use of avocado oil or apricot kernel oil? Both are high in Omega-3s, both have a high-heat use, and both are veg sources. I’m looking up the Omega-6 levels next.

    I tried apricot kernel oil in the past, and it gave me one hell of a bellyache.

    I’m going to launch a “kitchen investigation” into whether or not dehydrated avocado powder can be used in baking (as opposed to just being instant guacamole), and what the results are. It’s gluten-free, so I imagine it’ll take a ton of eggs and leaveners to get it to do anything.

    If it works, it may be just the thing to turn the almond flour world upside-down.

    I’m awaiting my avo-flour order. You can make your own if you have avocados, a dehydrator, and time/money to run it, plus a way to grind it into powder. I suppose you could just cut them up and leave them in the sun.

    Why not just use avocados instead? The whole ones make batter green, so I’m eager to see if I get a yellow batter instead with the powder, since the powder’s yellow.

  19. I only use canola oil to clean my cast iron skillet with salt. Only a trace amount remains just to give the skillet a nice jet-back coat. I don’t cook with it though so I think I’m okay.

  20. I’m giving the shangri-la diet a try- if MCT oil is indeed flavorless it would be worth a shot in place of light olive oil.

  21. The other issue with canola is that unless it’s labeled organic, you’re almost certainly eating a GMO oil. I try to avoid GMOs on principle. Just because the canola was cold-pressed does not mean the source was organic.

  22. For frying (stir, deep, pan, sautee) and as a non-stick agent when I don’t want any coconut flavor, I use organic palm oil shortening. It’s mostly saturated and has many of the same benefits as coconut oil, but a totally neutral flavor and the texture is very close to beef tallow. Not a big fan

  23. …Not a big fan of butter for high heat frying because of the low smoke point.

  24. Age spots on my face and hands are without a doubt fading and some really dark ones on my face have completely disappeared! All the medically prescribed bleaching compounds I tried could not even come close.

    My nails used to be paper thin, painfully splitting. I developed an extreme sensitivity to all nail products (fake and polish). Now my nails for the first time are growing and fairly thick, no splitting or other issues.

    My eyelashes used to be sparse, now they are as thick and long as I could hope for. I’m delighted!

    This became quite evident after giving up ALL dairy. I also avoid all vegetable oils except coconut, and that which occurs naturally in nuts and seeds (of which I eat sparingly)

  25. I’ve been treating myself for candida and am going to start using MCT oil. I wonder if Mark’s reaction to the MCT oil wasn’t die off???

  26. Those experiencing jitters after consuming MCT or Coconut Oil may be confronting Candida die-off. Caprylic Acid is a a powerful antifungal. The reaction comes from the dead protein coat of the Caprylic Acid-killed Candida/fungus. Adding a little proteolytic enzyme, protease from meat tenderizer or papaya, will eat through that protein coat of the dead Candida. The denatured protein becomes non-reactive and will not trigger that allergic response. You’re also getting a Magnesium rush as the Magnesium-snitching Candida/fungus is releasing their stolen booty. To detox the highly toxic Candida by-product, Acetaldehyde, take the “digested” form of B-5, Pantethine. It also lowers trash cholesterol and your first stool after taking may be a little greasy. Blessings!

  27. Mark, could you please put in the disclaimer for people using MCT Oil to NOT be using TBSP’s of MCT Oil when they’re starting out? Instead for people to be using 1 tsp / day, gradually adding more, as per the instructions on most of the MCT Oil bottles?

    Would you also please be able to edit your experience write-up, and say that you did take TOO MUCH when you started out, and that your symptoms are normal for someone who puts way too much MCT Oil into their body at once (and, again, that people should start with less?)

    Thank you very much.

    1. GOOD call on the warning that you should start out gradually with MCT, I had the same problem (RUNNING to the toilet and had liquid stool shooting out – 7 trips in a few hours – ugh I was at work!) when I was just starting out with MCT and using big amounts, wanting to lose weight and get Keto ASAP. Of course I was wondering what is wrong with me and my stomach to have such a reaction. Finally after I started over, using proper small amounts, and gradually increasing, and ALSO – very important – NOT swallowing it back quickly but treating it like food, slowly sipping over a long period of time, enjoying it in my bullet proof coffee, YES, I finally achieved the awesomeness the whole thing.

      I was able to fast all day for the first time EVER. Normally I’m starving soon after I wake and could never go that long. With the new strategy, I have been lasting all day, no liquid stool, mental sharpness, and I’m not bloated or heavy.

      It’s the proper strategy that is needed. GRADUAL introduction – it doesn’t take long to build up.

      GOOD LUCK.

  28. i would like info on weight loss using coconut oil. Turned 50 and struggling with weight about 15 pounds. Can you assist me?

  29. I had a handmade toiletries business for a number of years and can tell you, the best use for camelina oil is on your skin and hair. External application is how linoleics (and linolenics) are best used, not for internal consumption.

    All that vit E is excellent for skin, very moisturizing, helps with skin elasticity. Just be sure to buy small amounts, keep it in the fridge and don’t let those linoleic/linolenic oils go rancid…

  30. Why is MCT oil making me tired?
    I’ve been eating paleo for a really long time now, and I decided to add some MCT oil (Dave Asprey’s XCT oil) into my tea (Yerba mate) in the morning. I started yesterday with 1tbsp and didn’t feel much, so I went up to 1.5 tbsp today. I ended up extremely tired with mental fog even though I got 9.5 hours of sleep the night before. Any thoughts as to why?

  31. So then MCT does work. But yes, when I consume fats,I also prefer a longer-duration nice stream of energy (satisfying my appetite and energy demands for a long time) rather than a gigantic burst right away (although that burst can sometimes happen even without coconut or MCT oil too, however).

    But, good to know the product works! So, in the rare circumstances where you might actually prefer energy like that, it is good to have that stuff around. And at the very least unlike “sugar” or “caffeine” there’s probably no “slump” afterwards (ie after the “rush”).