You’re no doubt aware that a Ketogenic diet is primarily made up of high-fat foods. In fact, fat typically accounts for upwards of 65% of calories on Keto.
As a Keto beginner, it’s easy to assume that fat is fat, and as long as a food is low-carb, you're good to go. But this isn't necessarily the case...
You see, not all fats are created equally. In fact, the type of fats you choose could make or break your Keto diet...
Today we’ll help clear things up, exploring some of the best fats for Keto, and ones to avoid or limit for optimum results.
Let’s take a look.
What Are the Best Fats for Keto?
Fat is an essential macronutrient used as a fuel source in numerous bodily processes, including building cell membranes, absorbing vitamins and minerals, and more.
It’s important to remember that eating dietary fat doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll gain body fat.
In fact, studies suggest that low-carb, high-fat diets may result in greater long-term weight loss when compared to conventional high-carb, low-fat diets [*]
When you're looking to consume healthy, Keto-friendly fats, there are three main types to consider:
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
Let’s take a look at each of those in more detail.
Healthy Saturated Fats for Keto
Saturated fat gets a bad rap. Early animal studies lead to the widespread belief that saturated fats are harmful, and this gave rise to the low-fat craze in the ’70s and ’80s.
In fact, it seems there may be some benefits to moderate saturated fat consumption:
- Saturated fat may reduce levels of lipoprotein-a (Lp(a)), a substance that strongly correlates with heart disease risk [*]
- It may also raise HDL - levels of heart-healthy ‘good cholesterol’ [*]
- MCT oil, a type of saturated fat extracted from coconut oil, has been linked with weight loss [*], improved neurological health [*], and may even support healthy blood sugar levels [*].
Sources of Saturated Fat:
Saturated fats are abundant in animal products, but can also be found in a handful of plant-based foods. Common sources include:
- Red Meat
- Full Fat Dairy
- Coconut Oil
- Coconut Milk
- MCT Oil
- Cocoa Butter
Pro tip: Saturated fats are typically more stable at a high-heat when compared to other fats, making them perfect for cooking with!
Healthy Polyunsaturated Fats for Keto
Polyunsaturated fats are important for a whole host of reasons, and can be split into two major classes:
- Omega-3 Fats
- Omega-6 Fats
Both are essential fatty acids, meaning your body cannot produce them and they need to be sourced from your diet.
While both types of fat are needed, it’s important to maintain a healthy balance between the two. Consuming an excess of Omega-6s in relation to Omega-3s may promote inflammation and poor health outcomes [*].
Ideally, we’re aiming for a 1:1 ratio, but in the standard western diet, the ratio is often more than 16:1 Omega-6:Omega-3 [*].
Omega-3 Benefits & Sources:
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a number of potential health benefits, including:
- Improved cognitive function and decreased rate of cognitive decline [*].
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality [*].
- Improved outcomes with mental health challenges like depression [*].
On your Keto diet, there are a few types of Omega-3s. Aim to consume a mix of both on a regular basis:
- DHA & EPA. These are long-chain Omega-3s found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, fish oil, and certain algae. They are important for heart health and brain function.
- ALA. These short-chain Omega-3s are converted to DHA and EPA in the body, but the conversion process is not always that efficient - just 2–10% of the ALA you consume is converted [*]. Good sources include flax, hemp seeds, chia, and walnuts.
Healthy Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fats:
It’s best to prioritize Omega-3 sources over Omega-6s, but there are still some healthy foods that contain the latter:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Pine Nuts
- Sunflower Seeds
Keep in mind:
Polyunsaturated fats tend to spoil faster than other fats due to their chemical structure [*], so are best stored in cool dark places, and should be refrigerated once opened.
And whereas saturated fats are typically heat-stable, polyunsaturated are more volatile, and can lead to free radical production and inflammation if heated. So reserve your poly fats for salad dressings!
Healthy Monounsaturated Fats for Keto
Monounsaturated fats are the superstars of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, and come with an array of potential benefits:
- Unsaturated fats may aid with weight loss [*] - more so than a low-fat diet [*].
- They have also been linked with reduced inflammation [*].
- They support heart health by lowering cholesterol [*] and blood pressure [*].
Healthy Monounsaturated Fat Sources:
- Avocado Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Pumpkin Seeds
Feast on Healthy Fats: Check out the Carb Manager library of delicious, nutritious Keto recipes - jam-packed with healthy fats. Click here to take a look
Unhealthy Fats on Keto
Now you know which healthy fat sources to stock up on for Keto, let’s take a look at some of the ones to avoid or limit.
For the most part, it's best to steer clear of trans-fats and overly processed polyunsaturated fats.
Certain trans-fats, like vaccenic acid, are found naturally in meat and dairy, and are generally health-promoting. In fact, vaccenic acid has no relationship with risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes [*].
The trouble lies with artificial trans-fats.
These are formed through the processing of polyunsaturated fats, turning liquid oils into solid fats via a process called hydrogenation. This is why you’ll often see them labeled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
Artificial trans-fats are typically used to extend the shelf life of processed foods. You’ll find them in many baked goods, margarine, cookies, fries, processed meats, and fast food.
With convenience unfortunately comes a range of potential health risks [*]:
- Increased weight gain and abdominal fat deposits.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
- Negative impact on pregnancy.
- Impaired metabolism of essential fatty acids needed for cognitive health.
For best results on Keto, aim to avoid or minimize trans-fats, and instead replace them with healthy Keto fats mentioned earlier in the article.
It’s also important to be mindful of your intake of overly-processed polyunsaturated fat sources like generic vegetable oil - often produced from GMO sources and rich in inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids.
Below you’ll find some simple, delicious swaps to get you started.
Healthy Keto Fats: Swap This For That
- Margarine for Coconut Oil
- Vegetable Oil for Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- French Fries for Butternut Fries
- Pizza for Keto Cauliflower Pizza
- Cookies for Keto Cookies
- Boxed Cakes for Vanilla Keto Cake
Because Keto is a diet that relies so heavily on fats, it's super important to ensure you're getting the highest quality sources possible.
That means a good balance between animal and plant-based saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and minimizing or avoiding artificial trans fats where you can.
The key takeaway is to do your best and aim for a wide range of healthy high-fat foods that set you up for long-term success!