With the growth in popularity of low-carb diets for weight loss, very-low-carbohydrate meal plans such as the Keto diet have gone viral with everyone wanting to try them. What makes this meal plan even more attractive is the allowance of fats in the diet. However, many people fail to differentiate between the unhealthy and healthy fats for keto.
In this article, we are shedding light on what are good fats and which ones you should avoid at all costs, show you some examples of healthy fats for keto diet, as well as how to go about incorporating these healthy fats for keto diet in your day-to-day meals.
When thinking about fats in general we tend to divide them into two groups: good and bad. While essentially these are the two main groups, in truth, there is more to this macronutrient than what meets the eye (7, 10).
What are the ‘bad fats’? They are identified as both saturated and trans fats and most diets call for an avoidance of them because they are seen to be potentially harmful to your health.
The word saturated comes from the number of hydrogen atoms surrounding each carbon atom. One carbon atom holds on to as many hydrogen atoms as it can and thus a chain of the carbon atoms becomes saturated with hydrogen.
These are the most common kind of fats, especially in a Western diet. They are mostly found in animal products and will remain solid at room temperature. Are they bad for you? Yes and no.
While they are listed under ‘bad fats’ they are more of in-between; this is because when used sparingly they are perfectly safe for you but when overdone, they can cause health problems by increasing total cholesterol and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels in the body with can lead to blocked arteries and heart problems. They are found in sources such as:
Now these are the worst kind of dietary fat available and should not make an appearance on any list of healthy fats for keto (or any other diet). They have no known health benefits and that there is no safe level of consumption.
Trans fats should be avoided at all costs as they have been linked to raising your LDL cholesterol while simultaneously lowering the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels in the body. They cause inflammation in the body which has been shown to trigger several illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
They are found in foods like microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, fried foods such as french fries, donuts and fried chicken, margarine, and baked goods, among others.
What are good fats? The best healthy fats for keto (and every other diet) are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These two kinds have multiple health benefits including (4):
Monounsaturated fats are defined as fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule, this is also called a double bond. Unlike saturated fats, monounsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and turn solid when chilled. They are found in sources such as vegetable oils, nuts, avocados and nut butters.
On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats are fat molecules that have more than one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. They are essential fats – omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids – that the body needs but cannot make them and thus we have to get them from food.
Below are some goods that are high in fats but extremely healthy for you and your keto diet.
The craze for avocados has taken the Western world by storm and all for good reason. Not only is this fruit delicious and can be served in multiple ways, but it also has incredible health benefits (11).
The high fiber in the avocado can also help significantly lower the risks of developing chronic diseases like coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.
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Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein, healthy fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Nuts especially have been shown to (13):
MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride which is an oil supplement that contains medium-length chains of fats called triglycerides. MCT oil has gained popularity as it is more easily digested and has some incredible health benefits.
Some of these benefits include (1):
MCT oil is also good for your gut health as it prompts the growth of good and beneficial probiotic bacteria which can also prompt weight loss.
Once it is quickly broken, it is then used as an immediate source of energy by the body or turned into ketones to be used as a source of energy for the brain cells. This eliminates the needs of carbs for energy which falls in line with the ketogenic diet.
Other than in the keto diet, olive oil is highly encouraged in the Mediterranean diet due to its impressive health benefits (11):
Also known as fatty fish, they include examples such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel, trout, and kippers. Shellfish are also very keto-friendly. All oily fish and seafood such as shellfish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which fall under the good polyunsaturated fats.
When consumed these omega-3 fatty acids have the following benefits (3):
They are good sources of healthy fats for keto. Not only are they full of healthy minerals and nutrients, but they are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, have protein, raise the levels of good cholesterol in the body, and are filling which helps with weight loss.
When you look up keto diet recipes online and on YouTube, you are likely to find people heaping insane amounts of cheese, cream, butter and other no so healthy fat options in their daily food options. While there is no doubt that these foods are delicious, using healthy fats for keto is much better for your overall health.
As we stated above, some saturated fats are okay on your diet but consuming too much of them can cause cholesterol to build up in your body.
High cholesterol puts you at a higher risk of heart disease. You develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels which grow overtime eventually making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. This blockage can lead to a blood clot leading to a life-threatening or even fatal heart attacks or stroke (6).
Weight gain – while keto has been praised for its effects on weight loss, consistently opting for high calorie high fat foods can lead to weight gain. Remember that consuming too much of this macronutrient can even prevent ketosis.
If you are unsure how to use these healthy fats for keto diet to increase your fat intake of the meal plan, here are some ways to do this (8):
Instead of eating that dry salad or plain pasta add a tablespoon of olive oil and some cheese to your meal. Olive oil is a great option for keto and while cheese is a form of saturated fat, consuming it in moderation will not harm your health.
A popular keto breakfast drink is bulletproof coffee which is often made using coffee, hot water, 1 tablespoon of grass-fed butter or ghee, 1 tablespoon of MCT oil or coconut oil and a sweetener or choice e.g. stevia. Butter, ghee, and coconut oil are all fat options allowed on keto but MCT oil might be the best health benefits of them all.
Keto says yes to almost all kinds of butters, ghee, and cooking oils so do not be shy to experiment. Try making some shrimp in butter on one night then switch to olive oil on the next two nights, then maybe throw in a dash of sesame, avocado or peanut oil. Not only do you get to consume these healthy fats for keto but experimenting allows you to enjoy food more which may help your chances of sticking to a healthier version of the eating plan.
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There is no better way to increase your consumption of the best healthy fats for keto than by consuming keto friendly snacks throughout the day. Some healthy keto friendly snacks that can be had on the go include avocado-egg toast, coconut chips, boiled eggs, almonds and cheese, etc.
These are low-carb keto snacks that are made from high fat and low-carb ingredients.
Instead of eating chicken or turkey breast all the time, switch and eat the legs or neck which are considered darker meat and thus are high in fat. Consuming poultry skin is another way of adding some fats to your keto diet. T-bone, rib-eye, and skirt steak are some oily cuts of meat that you can order from time to time to supplement fats to your diet.
They add a bit of texture and crunch when added to any salads or smoothies bowls when blended in smoothies they add some nutty flavour and much needed healthy fats to your drink, snack or meal.
The main point to note from this section is to always choose nutrient-dense, whole foods to offer this macronutrient and avoid those that come from ultra-processed oils, meats, and fried foods, as they are quite unhealthy and will cause illnesses down the line.
If you are looking for some high fat low protein foods for your keto diet, they are the same as the ones mentioned above. Your diet should consist of avocados, cheese, eggs, nuts, chia, hemp and flax seeds, olive oil and even dark chocolate. Not only are they rich in healthy fats, but they also have vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are great for your heart and general health (2).
Healthy fats for keto are not that hard to come by. They are found in some of the most common everyday foods that we often consume without thinking twice about their nutrient contents. If you are currently on a ketogenic diet, do not be tempted to indulge in all the fatty foods that you can come across. Remember that not all fats are made the same. Always strive to pick the options that do your body more good than harm.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!