Fats play an important role in your health. They also play an important role in the ketogenic diet!
Healthy fats as a part of your diet have many health benefits on different aspects of your body’s functions including your immune system, endocrine system, inflammation within your body, and your metabolism 1. Fats even help your body to absorb certain vitamins.
They play an important role in achieving your keto goals as well as play a crucial role in helping you to feel satisfied and stave off cravings.
Not all fats, however, are created equal.
Some fats are harmful to your health, and some fats need to be consumed in a specific ratio. Also, you should consider how oxidation plays a role in affecting the fats that you are consuming.
Oxidation is a process that can reduce shelf life, destroy vitamins, and create potentially toxic compounds within the fats that you consume 2.
How you cook certain fats may affect their oxidation, as well as other factors such as temperature of your storage location and exposure to moisture and light.
Getting the right balance and the full benefits of healthy fats on the keto diet doesn’t have to be daunting. Let’s explore some of the different types of fats available and how to incorporate them into a ketogenic diet.
Saturated fats are found in many foods including meat, lard, shortening, coconut, and dairy. They are are typically solid at room temperature. Some plant-based oils, such as palm oil and coconut oil, mostly contain saturated fats.
Saturated fats have a higher smoke point (meaning they’re better for higher-heat cooking) and have a long shelf life. This additionally makes saturated fat a desirable option for higher-heat cooking.
Saturated fats have been the subject of much debate over the decades. It used to be the consensus that they should be avoided at all costs – but that’s no longer the case!
Conventional wisdom which demanded that people stick to nonfat dairy and avoid egg yolks is no longer prevailing. Emerging research is beginning to reveal that the role that saturated fat plays in your health is more complicated than previously thought.
New research is beginning to show that, contrary to popular belief, there is no significant evidence that saturated fat boosts the risk of cardiovascular disease. Coconut is one example of a food high in saturated fat that has recently become widely popular for its health benefits.
Monounsaturated fats can be found in avocados, canola oil, nuts, olive oil, and seeds. At room temperature oils that contain monounsaturated fats are typically liquid. These oils may begin to solidify when refrigerated.
These fats are less susceptible to oxidation than polyunsaturated fats, which makes them better for light, lower-heat cooking than polyunsaturated fats. They’re also a good option to include in recipes that don’t require cooking, or to add them to a dish at the end of your preparation.
Monounsaturated fats help with reducing bad cholesterol levels, which in turn can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. That’s a big benefit! Monounsaturated fats are also rich in nutrients.
At room temperature, oils that contain polyunsaturated fats are typically liquid. Like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats can reduce bad cholesterol levels and are full of nutrients including Vitamin E.
An additional benefit to polyunsaturated fat is that they provide omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Your body requires omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids but is unable to produce them on its own.
Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for many bodily functions. Sources of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids include some nuts and seeds such as walnuts and soybeans. Polyunsaturated are more susceptible to oxidation and its recommended that you avoid heating them. Instead, consider adding them to dishes at the end of preparation.
The ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids should also be noted here. It’s not as simple as trying to eat a diet rich in both like many people think. Research has shown that the proportion of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in the modern Western diet is not optimal. While our ancestors had diets with a closer ratio of 1:1, modern Western diets have a ratio of 15:1 – that’s a big difference4!
Trans fats are a type of fat usually found in processed foods such as bakery foods, snack foods, fried foods, shortening, margarine, and some vegetable oils.
Eating trans fat can negatively affect your health in a lot of ways. Research has shown a connection between trans fats and multiple health conditions including cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, preeclampsia, colon cancer, diabetes, and obesity.5
Trans fats not only raise your bad cholesterol, but they simultaneously lower your good cholesterol too! Not only that, but artificial trans fats may increase your chance of developing diabetes.
These pesky fats are available in two types – artificial and naturally-occurring. Naturally-occurring trans fat may be found in some foods that come from animals such as meat and dairy.
Artificial trans fats are artificially processed, taking liquid vegetable oils and converting them to be more solid for better shelf life and taste. Most often, artificial trans fats in foods are partially hydrogenated oils.
Fortunately, avoiding artificial trans fats is easy on the ketogenic diet by avoiding processed foods with partially hydrogenated oils.
To sum up…
Achieving balance and taking full advantage of the health benefits of the ketogenic diet is aided by an understanding of the way different foods, including dietary fats, affect your body.
Whether you’re new to the keto diet or a seasoned pro, understanding the types of dietary fats will take you that much further on your ketogenic journey.
The full benefits of the ketogenic diet are easily attainable when you are armed with the right information!
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2. Vieira, Samantha A, David Julian McClements, and Eric A Decker. “Challenges of Utilizing Healthy Fats in Foods.” Advances in Nutrition 6.3 (2015): 309S–317S. PMC. Web. 17 Apr. 2018.
2. Feinman, Richard D. “Saturated Fat and Health: Recent Advances in Research.” Lipids 45.10 (2010): 891–892. PMC. Web. 16 Apr. 2018.
3. Mumme, Karen et al. Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides on Weight Loss and Body Composition: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 115.2 (2015): 249 – 263 Web. 16 Apr 2018.
4. Simopoulos, AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmaother 56.8 (2002): :365-79. Web. 17 Apr 2018.
5. Dhaka, Vandana et al. “Trans Fats—sources, Health Risks and Alternative Approach – A Review.” Journal of food science and technology 48.5 (2011): 534–541. PMC. Web. 17 Apr. 2018.