By now we know we have to consume ample amounts of fats (they are your best friend on keto!) In order to stay in ketosis and keep burning our own body fat as fuel – the ideal environment we want to keep our body in!
Fats are your primary source of fuel on the ketogenic diet – taking the throne from carbohydrates.
Around 70-75% of your dietary macronutrient composition should consist out of fats on keto. If you are confused how many calories of each macronutrient you specifically need per day, I talked all about it in ‘How to figure out your macros on keto’.
But which fats can you consume on the ketogenic diet?, or more specifically which foods. The keto diet has generally been advertised as a bacon and cheese fest – but is that really a wise thing to do?
In this article I will break down to what fats really are, and which high fat foods on keto you can consume, and the ones you should be cautious for.
Which fats, and the advisable quantities you should consume – and I will dive into the renowned omega fatty acids, including a rare omega fatty acid that has some surprising health benefits!
Fat And Its Composition
The most essential macronutrient in order to keep your body producing ketones and supply it of high quality energy, and a lasting feeling of satiety. Fat is also crucial for the absorption of vitamin A, D, E and K – since these are fat-soluble vitamins. Meaning that they can’t be absorbed properly by your body upon taking these in with water.
Fat also supports the production of essential hormones(like testosterone), Increasing good HDL cholesterol, and reducing bad LDL cholesterol, protects the cells and tissue in your body.
A high fat diet like the ketogenic diet also fight inflammation within the body.
In my personal experience I felt a lot less sore after a workout on the ketogenic diet, this may also be related to the fact that burning fat as fuel is a lot less damaging to your cells in comparison to burning glucose(or sugar)
All fats in your diet are either Saturated fats, Unsaturated fats(Mono & Poly, no pun intended) & the unhealthy trans fats. I will dive into their purposes below. To keep this article understandable I will get into the details, but leave some of the non-relevant, deeper matter out of the equation.
Saturated fats have been demonized over the years as being the cause of a host of health issues including obesity and cardiovascular disease. However, this has been proven to be incorrect. This assumption was made some 60 years ago and upheld for decades by the media, food production companies and governments.
New studies indicate that saturated fat is an excellent nutritious source of fuel, capable of being converted into high quality ketones by your liver. Saturated fat therefore positively contributes to a healthy ketogenic lifestyle.
There are 4 categories of ‘lengths’ of fatty acid chains.
For the purpose of this article, I will only elaborate on the edible fatty acid carbons.
- Short chain triglycerides – Consists of 5 connections(or carbons)
- Medium chain triglycerides – Consists of 6 to 12 connections
- Long chain triglycerides – Consists of 14 to 22 connections
- Very long chain triglycerides – Consists of 22 to 40 connections. I will not elaborate on these fatty acid compounds as they are not found in consumable natural sources.
In order to understand the differences between them and in which products you can find them, I will first briefly explain what they are.
Short Chain Triglycerides (Up to 5 connections)
Consist of 5 connections of fatty acids or less. Found in butter, heavy cream, butter & ghee, goat cheese & milk. Your ‘good’ gut bacteria is also capable of producing these fats out of so called ‘fermentable fiber’ which is found in fruit, vegetables & legumes. This means that you don’t have to directly consume any of the formerly mentioned products that directly have short chain fatty acids in them, in order to still maintain healthy levels.
The most common short chain fatty acid is Butyric Acid, or C4(Carbon 4)
In the presence of ample amounts of short chain fatty acids, they will help contribute to the optimal production of digestive fluids in your system, they aid digestion, helps maintain(or achieve) an optimal pH value in your intestines, form a protective layer in your intestine, fight inflammation(crohns) within your digestive system. All the aforementioned mentioned effects will either directly or indirectly contribute to an optimal fat burning environment.
It is advisable to consume either a direct source(butter, heavy cream, butter & ghee, goat cheese & milk) or an indirect source of short fatty chains (in fruit, vegetables & legumes) with every meal for optimal bowel health, ketone production and fat burning processes.
Medium Chain Triglycerides(MCT’s, C6-C12)
Consist of 6-12 connections of fatty acids. Found in coconut oil, MCT oil, Brain octane oil, butter and ghee. Medium chain triglycerides(or MCT’s for short) are faster & easier for your body to process. While short, long & very long fatty acid chains have to pass through your digestive systems, liver, lymphatic system, involvement of the gal bladder and intestine wall – MCT’s go directly to your liver to be converted into ketones.
MCT’s consist of the following fatty acid chains(or ‘carbon atoms’):
- Caproic Acid(C6) – A rapidly available fat that may cause stomach upset when consumed in large quantities.
- Caprylic Acid(C8) – Anti fungal/bacterial, stabilizes blood pressure & helps fighting crohns disease provides ketones super fast.
- Capric Acid(C10) – Anti-viral, increases fat burning processes, decreases LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol & increases(healthy) HDL cholestorel
- Lauric Acid(C12) A rather slowly digesting MCT – improves metabolism & reduces blood pressure
The above information was taken from my other article about Bulletproof coffee
This makes MCT’s an extremely fast source of energy. It is also commonly used in the popular drink called ‘Bulletproof Coffee’. A fatty coffee (that kills your carb cravings) with added butter and MCT oil for fast ketones(and thus a deepened state of ketosis), optimal fat burning & a boost to your metabolism and energy levels. It is an easy and quick-to-make breakfast(or meal replacement).
Unlike short chain fatty acids – MCT’s cannot be produced by your body from an alternative food source. The only sources are coconut oil, MCT oil, Brain octane oil, butter and ghee. They are without a doubt the best fats to aid in our weight loss journey because of their rapid absorption by the body and their ability to let our bodies produce ketones.
MCT’s are also unique In the regard that they deliver fewer calories with 8,3 calories per gram as opposed to 9 calories per gram for the short- and long fatty acid chains.
Long Chain Triglycerides (C14-C22)
Consist of 14 or 22 fatty acid connections. Long chain fatty acids(or triglycerides) are found in the most commonly consumed foods on both the ketogenic diet (such as nuts, meat/fish/poultry, nuts and nut butters, eggs, olive oil, seeds, cheese & milk), as well as foods that are consumed on the standard carby western diets.
Long chain triglycerides are digested and processed at a slower rate than its shorter brethren.
Long chain triglycerides are known by the following names:
- Myristic Acid (C14) – Found in nutmeg, Palm kernill oil. Increases the good HDL cholesterol & lowers bad LDL cholesterol.
- Palmitic Acid (C16) – Found in meats, cheese, butter, milk & cacao. A source of vitamin A
The majority of all fats the average individual consumes contain solely long chain triglycerides from the above food sources.
Unsaturated fats can be divided into two sub categories. Mono- and poly unsaturated fats. Both are required for a healthy functioning body.
Mono Unsaturated Fats
Mono unsaturated fats are fats that consist of a single bond, hence why they are called mono. These fats are non-essential, meaning that your body can produce these fats by itself by deriving it from other food sources, primarily vegetables.
Omega 7 (Non-Essential)
Omega 7(palmitoleic acid) is a fatty acid that is often overlooked, and wrongfully so. It provides a host of benefits for you ranging from the balancing of your blood sugar levels(less cravings, low insulin, allows fat burning), fights inflammation, reduces the risk of contracting heart disease, and improve insulin sensitivity. The benefits of consuming this fatty acid look very much like the benefits of the keto diet, and ketosis itself provides the body.
Omega 7 is found in macadamia nuts, eggs, dairy & avocado.
Omega 9 (Non-Essential)
Omega 9(oleic acid) is another non-essential fatty acid that earns its stripes in positively affecting your body.
It improves your blood lipids by lowering bad LDL cholesterol, and increasing good HDL cholesterol, increases energy, reduces the risk of heart disease, and improves your mood.
Omega 9 is found in primarily found in nuts, seeds and oils like olive oil. Again, there is no need to worry about sustaining a shortage of this fatty acid. If you regularly consume the formerly mentioned foods, you are all set.
Polyunsaturated fats is a fancy word for the healthy omega 3 & 6 fatty acids that are composed of double bonds. These fats are essential, meaning that your body can only get these from food sources. Your body cannot derive these fats from other food sources, or produce them by itself.
Omega 3 (Essential)
Omega 3 fatty acids are crucial for brain functioning and learning/remembering new abilities and skills, as well as combating depression & reducing anxiety. The 3 omega fats(ALA, EPA, DHA) act as a sort of conductor within your cells by increasing the fluid between cells, which makes it easier for your cells to communicate with your brain.
Recommended consumption per day is 300mg – 600mg Higher doses are generally not dangerous, and are well tolerated by the body. However, caution is advised since overdosing DHA can lead to blood thinning. If combined with other natural(ginger) or artificial blood thinners(painkillers), this may cause problems.
It is therefore recommended staying within the recommended dosage. Since reaching the recommended dose is hard to do with just naturally occurring food sources it is recommended that you supplement with 1 or 2 capsules a day for optimally enjoying its benefits.
Omega 3 is naturally found in meats, butter, fatty fish, algae, shell fish & eggs, but you can also use a supplement to meet your daily need.
On a secondary note: Be careful with where you get your omega 3 supplementation, as well as your fish from, as many cheaper brands of either may contain mercury which is detrimental for your health.
You should always strive for organic durable quality products. Samantha highly recommends Nordic Naturals Omega 3 supplementation in her post about recommended keto supplements.
Omega 5 (Non-Essential)
The ‘secret’ omega fatty acid, omega 5, which is also known as ‘Mystoleic acid‘ is found in Macadamia nuts, Pomegranate seeds, Alaskan Salmon, Butter & unrefined cold-pressed oils.
While omega 5 is, contrary to Omega 3 and 6 – a non-essential polyunsaturated fat, its effects have been studied and have been found to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells in women, promote weight loss, steady blood sugar levels, optimizing hearth & artery health, as well as reducing overall inflammation in the body.
Omega 6 is another polyunsaturated fat, and one which you shouldn’t have to worry about getting enough of.
A popular subject in health these past few years is the ratio between omega 3 – and omega 6 consumption. While an optimal ratio would be 1:3 to 1:4, the average individual in the west consumes an average of 1:17(!), which means that we are overeating omega 6, and under eating omega 3 fats.
I’m not going into the health benefits for this one, but rather the risks of over consuming this fatty acid that is mostly found in soybeans(in a lot of processed foods), olive oil(very healthy, but be careful with your dosage), sunflower oil & corn oil.
Overconsuming omega 6 has been linked with cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer, pro inflammatory effects, arthritis, fatty liver disease & inflammatory bowel disease.
Increasing your consumption of omega 3 fatty acids, and thus making the ratio of omega 3 to 6 smaller may nullify some of the excessively ingested omega 6.
Consuming all lengths of fatty acid chains is vital to maintain optimal health and help you burn your body fat. Adequate consumption will also fight the hormone cortisol – which is caused by elevated stress and inflammation, which in turn is caused by the wrong diet, as well as physical and mental stress.
A heightened production of the hormone cortisol has also been linked to an increase in fat storage in the human body.
Tip The Scales In Your Favor!
By incorporating a good balance of healthy keto approved vegetables, fruits, meats, (MCT) oils and butters you will make sure to get ample amounts of all fatty acid chains from both saturated and unsaturated food sources, which will support the production of ketone bodies for nutritional ketosis, as well as support optimal brain & eye functioning, and overall health.
Get your saturated fats from butter, coconut oil, meat, poultry, eggs, cheese & nuts – and your unsaturated fats from avocado’s, nuts, eggs, fatty fish & olive oil for a balanced diet that will nourish your body and support your metabolic state of ketosis to burn body fat for fuel.
If you have any questions please let me know in the comment section below!