How To Get Enough of the Right Fats On Keto (And Avoid the Bad Ones)
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How To Get Enough of the Right Fats On Keto (And Avoid the Bad Ones)

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How To Get Enough of the Right Fats On Keto (And Avoid the Bad Ones)

Posted 4 years ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton

Author

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Author and Scientific Reviewer

Expert Approved

Eating Keto means eating most of your calories from fat. 

This scares some people. Isn’t fat bad for you? Doesn’t it clog your arteries?

That’s what we’ve been conditioned to believe. Saturated fat, in particular, has been demonized for decades on the back of 1950s population research. [*]

This research has largely been debunked, but the anti-fat sentiment persists. Even today, otherwise reputable organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) continue to get the fat story wrong. [*

This can all be rather confusing. You know Keto is high-fat, but what types of fat should you eat to promote good health? And how can you ensure you’re getting enough fat to hit your Keto macros?

Keep reading. This article has you covered. 

Why Keto Is High-Fat

When you eat a Keto diet, you consume about 60-70% of your calories from fat, 25-30% from protein, and 5-10% from carbohydrates.[*]

Fat is mostly a placeholder on Keto—a macronutrient that provides energy in the absence of carbs. Some explanation will help. 

The key to ketosis (aka, burning fat on Keto) is carb restriction. By keeping carbs low, you keep blood sugar and insulin levels low. This sends a memo to your liver, which soon gets busy burning fat and making ketones. 

So carbs are out. That leaves protein and fat. 

Protein is super important for muscle and brain health, but its benefits are confined to a fairly tight window. If you ate all your calories from protein, you wouldn’t necessarily gain more muscle, and you’d probably overburden your kidneys.[*]

An excess of protein also spikes insulin levels, which would spell an end to fat-burning ketosis. [*]

And so the bulk of your Keto calories must come from fat. Dietary fat has a minuscule impact on insulin levels, helping you stay in fat-burning mode.  

On Keto, fat is your fuel.

Different Types of Fat: Which Are Healthy?

When you eat fat, you’re eating molecules called triglycerides. When digested, these molecules split into compounds called fatty acids to be burned for energy or stored for later.  

Fatty acids come in four varieties: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and trans fat. Let’s talk more about these four, and see which belong on your healthy Keto diet. 

#1: Saturated Fat 

“Saturated” with hydrogen bonds, saturated fat is found in meat, lard, egg yolks, coconut oil, butter, and palm oil. 

Saturated fat has a bad rep. It started back in the 1950s when a doctor named Ancel Keys published data linking lower sat fat consumption to lower rates of heart disease. [*] His shining example of a healthy, low-fat population? Italy. 

But as the saying goes, correlation doesn’t prove causation. Could it be that Italians were healthy for some other reason? Sunlight and laughter maybe? 

Fast forward to today and the data doesn’t look good for Keys’ theory. For example, two massive meta-analyses—after analyzing nearly 1 million people—found zero links between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. No link! [*], [*]

The truth is, there’s a lot to like about saturated fat. Unlike polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat is a stable fat—ideal for high-heat cooking. 

Also, some of the healthiest foods on the planet are high in saturated fat. Egg yolks, for instance, are excellent sources of essential nutrients like choline, iron, and vitamin A. 

Verdict? Saturated fat is definitely Keto-approved.  

#2: Monounsaturated Fat 

Found in olives and avocados, monounsaturated fat isn’t controversial. When you look at the literature, higher intakes are linked to lower blood pressure, healthier blood sugar levels, and a variety of other health improvements. [*]  

Verdict? Don’t skimp on monounsaturated fat.  

#3: Polyunsaturated Fat (PUFA) 

Polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) is controversial. A little background will help. 

There are 2 categories of PUFAs; Omega-6s and Omega-3s. 

Back in the 1970s, the food industry started promoting high-PUFA vegetable oils as healthy based on research suggesting that replacing saturated fat with PUFAs lowered bad cholesterol. Saturated fat bad, polyunsaturated fat good. That was the message. 

The celebrated high-PUFA vegetable oils included soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, and peanut oil—all of which are omega-6 oils, and they became staples of the American diet. Even today, the AHA maintains that veggie oils are heart-healthy.[*

However, there are some concerns to be aware of. If you consume too much Omega-6 PUFAs, it can promote inflammatory conditions, which can lead to obesity,[*] heart disease, diabetes, and others.[*]

On the other hand, Omega-3 oils (flax seeds, fish) help resolve inflammation, and can be beneficial for autoimmune diseases, promoting weight loss, and disease prevention.[*

Bottom line: you do need both, but in the right balance! 

The average American diet creates an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of ~20:1.[*] Ideally, you want to get that ratio down to 4:1 or less.[*]

Another noteworthy concern is that vegetable oils are prone to oxidation, especially when exposed to high heat - and many of the Omega-6 vegetable oils consumed in a standard American diet are from deep-fried foods, making them especially unhealthy. Consuming these oxidized oils increases inflammation and all the conditions related to inflammation noted above.[*]

If cooking with these oils yourself, make sure you are only doing so at low to moderate heat. Each oil has a “smoke point” at which the oil becomes oxidized, or rancid. 

It’s a good idea to be aware of the smoke point of any oil you are using and cook within the appropriate temperature range, but particularly with PUFA veggie oils. It’s also helpful to be aware of what rancid oil smells like, as these PUFA oils are particularly prone to spoiling or going “rancid” with age. 

If you are not familiar with this smell, cook a veggie oil or olive oil at high heat and notice how the smell changes. If you’ve ever eaten a nut or seed that tasted “off,” that’s a good example of what rancid oils smell like. Yuck.

Overall, we recommend you avoid using Omega-6 veggie oils. The best way to meet that 4:1 or less ratio is to use more Omega-3 oils (flax, chia, hemp) and MUFAs (olive oil, avocado oil), while eating more fatty fish, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds.[*]

Verdict? Limit omega-6 oils and eat fatty fish for omega-3s.

#4: Trans Fat

Trans fats are vegetable oils that have been engineered, via hydrogenation, to be more shelf-stable. Longer shelf life, higher profits for manufacturers.  

You probably know that trans fats are bad for you. They’ve been linked to pretty much every disease in the book, from heart disease to Alzheimer’s to cancer. [*]

Trans fats are so bad that the World Health Organization has recommended they be removed from the global food supply. [*] In America, the FDA has banned trans fats as of 2018, but extensions have allowed them to linger in processed foods until 2021. 

Avoid trans fats by reading food labels closely. Anything with “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” in the name is a trans fat. 

Verdict? Steer clear of trans fats!

How To Eat Enough Healthy Fat On Keto

Eating 60-70% of your calories from fat can seem daunting, especially if you’re new to low-carb living. Should I be chugging olive oil straight from the bottle?

Hey, if that works for you, go for it. But here are some easier ways to ensure you’re getting enough fat to hit your Keto macros: 

  • Eat eggs. Eggs are the perfect Keto food—about 65% fat, 35% protein, minimal carbs, and highly nutrient-dense. 
  • Favor fatty cuts of meat. Ribeye, chuck roast, and lamb leg are solid Keto-friendly cuts. Don’t slice off the fat! 
  • Veggies as a fat vehicle. Cook low-carb veggies in coconut oil or butter—and use generous portions of olive oil as a salad dressing. As a bonus, you’ll absorb more vitamins (like A, D, K, and E) with fat around.  
  • Take MCT oil. MCT oil is a coconut-derived fat that heads straight to your liver for ketone production. Start slow with this one (1 teaspoon at a time), as larger amounts can have a laxative effect. 
  • Make fat bombs. Mmm…fat bombs. Hard to believe they’re even Keto. Whip up these Keto Coconut-choc Fat Bombs and Keto Buckeye Fat Bombs, straight from the Carb Manager kitchen. 

One Last Tip

One last tip. And it’s the most important. 

It’s the only way to truly know if you’re getting enough fat on Keto. 

The tip? Use a macro tracker! Just log your meals, let the AI look up the nutrition info, and out pops your daily fat intake. 

Happy tracking!

Comments 30

  • Moonshadow132023

    Moonshadow132023 9 months ago

    I am trying Keto for the 2nd time. I have had gastric bypass back in 2016. I gained weight when I got covid. I never lost my appetite, but l slept a lot and that's where it all started. However, doing Keto I cannot eat all those calories. I do real good keeping the calories between 1200 and 1300. If I eat more then I'll gain weight. I am trying to find the right combination of my macros and that's where I'm struggling. Does anyone have any suggestions that may help? I have tried Atkins, but I feel like a yo-yo because something isn't right. It could also be me not knowing how to do this correctly.

    • FabulousKetone671801

      FabulousKetone671801 8 months ago

      I had gastric bypass back in 2002 I never watch my calories I only watch my carbs I can do somewhere between 20 and 25 carbs and stay within ketosis I was over 300 lb in 2002 went down to 117 lb through covid was back up to 165 but I've always followed the rules of gastric bypass I don't eat full-fledged sugar I'm not one to indulge I listen to my body and eat one bite at a time and one bite meaning could be like Thanksgiving pain so I just make sure that my my carbs are in the right zone I bounced back into into the low-carb keto diet when I need to shed just a couple of pounds it's always a greatfix for me. I hopped back on keto June 6th at 165. I am now 145 I I will be 117 again by Sept 6 . Whatcha carb intake and take in as much protein and good fat as you can. We because of gastric bypass we're not wired like other people so I don't pay attention to anything but the carbs just making sure I get a lot of protein and good fat in

  • QuadGranny

    QuadGranny 2 years ago

    Thank you for this article! I am trying to understand why fats are important on Keto and trying to re-learn to be okay eating them.

    • BlithesomeKale452576

      BlithesomeKale452576 2 years ago

      What a great article, now I really understand why I have to have my fats, thank you 😊

      • Sun and Fun 81

        Sun and Fun 81 2 years ago

        How I kick start my day with a jump on fats is black coffee, 1 tbl MCT oil and 1 tbl of butter. I add 1 Stevia and it tastes like coffe and cream surprisingly

        • Sandra_keto

          Sandra_keto a year ago

          If you are doing IF, can you have your black coffee with the addition of the oil and butter, and Stevia before your 16 hours of fasting are over.

        • Tami Kay

          Tami Kay a year ago

          I do the exact same thing every morning!

        • Boatson

          Boatson a year ago

          I found Stevia to be overly sweet and caused by appetite to surge. Glad to hear you can enjoy it!

      • maloneytyler95

        maloneytyler95 2 years ago

        I struggle to get enough fat for sure. No problem for protein (average 75g over daily) carbs aren't an issue lucky if I get half of my limit. Think I might switch out my egg white for whole eggs, and ditch the chicken breast for a fattier cut of meat. Hopefully that will break the plateau that I'm in. I'm under on total calories right now, suppose to get 2600 and im around 1700. Hopefully the extra fat intake does the trick.

        • BlithesomeRadish575617

          BlithesomeRadish575617 2 years ago

          I never get up to what's needed on my protein, fat or calories. I am always full. But I never go over on my carbs. The others are severely low compared to what CM has recommended. I am gong to try to add MCT powder to my scrambled eggs and see if that helps at all on the fat side.

          • AwesomeKale571281

            AwesomeKale571281 3 years ago

            Thank you for helping me to understand why the fat ratio is larger than the others. josmailbx@yahoo.com not kale??

            • AwesomeKale571281

              AwesomeKale571281 3 years ago

              Why are you putting my comment under awesomeKale.s???

          • Goingforgoal100

            Goingforgoal100 3 years ago

            I have been doing this for 4 weeks but have got a docs appt in 2 weeks as even though I am losing weight, I am worried as to how the high fat element of it will effect my cholestrol.

            • StupendousArugula553467

              StupendousArugula553467 2 years ago

              EPA?

            • ErinG

              ErinG 3 years ago

              I happened to double my cholesterol levels after doing a Keto diet for a year. I went from a total score of 150 with my Highs being high and my Low being low to 257 with my lows (LDL) being elevated. I w=started taking a high dose of EPA (no DHA) and got tested again after 3 months (and3 months of being on Keto maintenance) and went back down to my low total of 150 again. Taking the EPA was a suggestion from a medical professional.

          • NicuKat

            NicuKat 3 years ago

            I too have had difficulty getting in enough fat. Thank you for the awesome article. This will really help me!

            • ZizziZoe

              ZizziZoe 3 years ago

              Good article! I never have any trouble hitting my fats! My problem is getting enough protein.

              • El devil

                El devil 3 years ago

                Can you go over your fat on your macros?

                • Grahml

                  Grahml 3 years ago

                  If deli meats are okay, why not sausage? Sausage is awesome high fat.

                  • stephanie

                    stephanie 3 years ago

                    I’m having trouble getting enough fat without going over carbs. What can I do?

                    • ErikGreyBeard

                      ErikGreyBeard 3 years ago

                      I had the same problem. Solved it by adding some extra butter, olive oil, MCT oil, and/or coconut oil to my daily meals. They are healthy pure fats without adding carbs.

                  • KindaMe

                    KindaMe 3 years ago

                    This article was so helpful to me for understanding good fats vs not-so-good fats. I also devised a way for myself to REMEMBER the general rules: Saturated and Monounsaturated: S&M is good. (Wink, wink. Excuse my sense of humor). Trans Fat: T Fat= Terrible Fat Polyunsaturated fats are the Omegas. Omega 3 vs Omega 6: “Less is more” therefore Omega 3 is better than Omega 6. So, Omega 3 = yes. Omega 6 = not-so much.

                    • RemarkableKetone324022

                      RemarkableKetone324022 3 years ago

                      Oops, continued from below. The manufacturer in Florida. Even with shipping, it was cheaper than anywhere. Tonight I picked up burgers and just switched out the bun. It was amazing. This is only my 4th day but feel so optimistic with these huge helps.

                      • RemarkableKetone324022

                        RemarkableKetone324022 3 years ago

                        Game changer! SmartBUN, and Smartcake. 0 carbs and really delicious. I heard about these and went on a search. After seeing the high prices, I went straight to the mug

                        • ExcellentMacadamia859448

                          ExcellentMacadamia859448 3 years ago

                          What do I eat when I need more fat

                          • SpectacularRadish732460

                            SpectacularRadish732460 3 years ago

                            Is there such thing as too much fat? I hit the carb goals daily, and my protein I try to stay under. I often max my fat goals. Is there any repercussions for that.

                            • ExcellentKetone986567

                              ExcellentKetone986567 3 years ago

                              Really helpful - I'm struggling to eat enough fat and I have not yet managed to hit my fat, protein and calorie recommendations on Carb Manager.

                              • PropitiousArugula331591

                                PropitiousArugula331591 3 years ago

                                I had a problem until I started planning the entire day’s food ahead. With the carb tracker you can easily look to see which food you need to substitute or delete to make it work.

                            • BlithesomeArugula769901

                              BlithesomeArugula769901 3 years ago

                              Helpful information

                              • drkelley89

                                drkelley89 3 years ago

                                This article really helped me understand the differences between the different types of fats. Thanks.