Fat is critically important to the keto diet! This article will dispel the myths about fat and discover exactly how healthy fats are essential for your keto, plus we give you a sneak peak into the tasty world of keto fat bombs.
Fat is Energy
Fat is used to store energy, create structure and send signals around the body. Think of it like money (a direct energy currency), plus a savings account (fat as stored energy), a protective coating (to insulate nerves), and email messages (the hormonal signals controlling various processes). Since fat makes up 70% of the keto diet it’s important you make the healthiest and tastiest choices. Especially for your keto fat bombs!
There is a myth that fats, especially saturated fats are bad for you. Saturated fats were linked to heart disease in studies conducted in 1977. But the link was never proven with quality data. The studies did not exclude other lifestyle factors, including sugar consumption! In fact it been pretty much disproven that saturated fats are bad for you. An in depth clinical analysis of over half million people in 76 studies concluded that the advice to reduce saturated fat intake was NOT backed-up by scientific evidence!
The latest research shows that obesity, diabetes and heart disease are associated with low-fat diets high in refined carbohydrates. Saturated fats are proving to be very healthy! Eating a high fat keto diet has actually been shown to protect the heart. So, what are saturated fats? The word ‘saturated’ means ‘full’ in terms of hydrogen. Fat molecules are made of carbon bonded to hydrogen and oxygen, as the bonds are broken during digestion and metabolism energy is released. Saturated fats have more bonds, making them more stable. This is why they are solid when cool and able to withstand heat - making them better for cooking.
Types of Fat
Plant based saturated fats are found in coconut and cacao butter. Animal based saturated fats include ghee (made from butter), lard and tallow. Grass fed and organic, fats contain less pesticides and other contaminants. Saturated fats make us feel full, making them perfect for keto. Another type of fats are unsaturated, this means there are ‘gaps’ for hydrogen in the fat. There are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Mono-unsaturated fats are found in olive oil, nuts and nut oils, avocado and whole milk. These fats seem to improve serum lipid levels (the fats in your blood). They also protect against heart disease and lower bad cholesterol and are great for salads and dressings but not so good for cooking. You can enjoy these fats frequently on keto. You sometimes see these fats called MUFAs!
Then we have the polyunsaturated fats, or PUFAS! These fats have an anti-inflammatory effect. They boost your mood and reduce depression. This group includes essential omega fats which nourish the brain. Good PUFA sources include walnuts, flax and oily fish. You can also enjoy plenty of these fats in your keto diet.
Fats also come in different lengths. There are short, medium and long chain fats. The chain length refers to the number of carbons in the backbone. Fat is made of three backbones and an end cap. This is why fats are called TRI-glycerides. You may have had your triglyceride levels checked by the doctor. It’s helpful to understand the relationship, and terminology, linking diet and health.
The physical size of fats makes a difference in your body. Short fats: are mainly made in your gut by good bacteria! Medium fats: from coconut and ghee are more accessible to the brain and have a positive impact mood. Long fats: are slower to be broken down and used by the body. Your body uses fat for energy, especially on keto. It also converts fats to other substances like hormones. In fact, the body is a pretty awesome assembly line: it takes fats from your diet and converts them into the types of fat it needs. There are only a couple of fats the body needs that it can’t make itself, these are called essential fatty acids - essential because we need them in the diet. You’ve probably heard of them, they are the omega fats!
The Omega Fats
There are 3 different Omega fats and 2 of them are considered ‘essential’ (Omega- 3 and Omega-6) But there is a new kid on the block, Omega-9 which is becoming more important as scientists understand it. The name, 3, 6 or 9 refers to the location of one of the unsaturated bonds. Omega fats have both plant and animal sources but the plant sources seem to be less efficient.
There are 3 types of Omega- 3 fats which have complicated scientific names, so we abbreviate for simplicity! They are EPA, DHA and ALA. They improve heart health and mental health, and reduce liver fat and fight inflammation. Our diet is often lacking in these fats, so many people take Omega-3 supplements.
There is one main Omega-6 fat. It is called ARA and found in plant-based PUFAs. It is PRO-inflammatory, meaning it causes inflammation. Lots of biological processes have “accelerator and break” mechanisms: omega-6’s accelerate inflammation, omega-3’s put the breaks on and reduce inflammation. The recommended ratio is 4:1 of Omega-6 to Omega-3. But many people are well over 10:1, which sends the wrong message to the body. Some Omega-6 fats have specific health benefits. GLA (in evening primrose oil) balances female hormones and reduces menstrual symptoms. CLA (in grass-fed dairy) reduces cancer risk and improves fat metabolism. But we typically need to reduce Omega-6 intake by reducing foods deep fried in plant oils.
The final omega fat is Omega- 9. This boosts brain and heart health and is found in olive oil, mustard oil and almonds. It boosts mental performance, increases energy and reduces anger and aggression, although officially non-essential, they are perfect for keto and have a positive impact on health.
An important consideration for fats is how they are used in cooking. When fats are heated to high temperatures they change. Processed fats are often heated during their manufacture. Some of the bonds break and the fats are damaged.
You can also smell it in old fat, it smells gross and looks darker and thicker, when fats are damaged like this they cause problems in the body.
To keep you safe in the world of keto fats, we recommend the following:
Choose high quality oils and fats
Use saturated fats for cooking
Unrefined virgin and cold-pressed oils are better than refined ones
Only eat deep fried foods occasionally
Change the fat regularly if you do use a fryer
Consume a selection of fats from different sources
Ensure you get enough Omega-3 and reduce Omega-6 from deep fried foods
For animal fats opt for high quality organic and grass fed
There are loads of tasty and healthy sources of fat on keto. In addition to pure fats and oils you get fats from nuts and seeds, coconuts and avocados (very tasty and incredibly versatile fat sources), dairy and eggs, oily fish and meat fats (like dripping, lard and tallow). Choose the fatty cuts and keep the skin on for extra fat. Also, consider omega-3 supplements.
There is just one fat you do need to look out for, and avoid: ‘Trans’ fats, which were essentially ‘invented’ by food manufacturers trying to increase profits. Oil is heated with a heavy metal catalyst to add hydrogen. On food labels you will see “partially hydrogenated oil.” ‘Trans’ fats were used to make margarine and introduced to baked foods, like cakes and pastries.
Trans fats have may have negative health effects: increasing harmful LDL cholesterol and reducing beneficial HDL cholesterol, creating inflammation, insulin resistance, and blockages called plaques on the walls of delicate blood vessels. They are also associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Having just 2% of your calories from trans fats increases heart disease risk by 23%! They require warning labels and are gradually being removed from our food supply. This is the ONLY fat you need to avoid on keto!
So to conclude our journey through the controversial world of fats, let’s recap the main points:
Fats give you energy and make you feel satisfied and calm
Saturated fats ARE good for your health and cooking
Medium chain fats, found in coconut oil, boost energy more rapidly
Eat a variety of different fats and avoid deep fat frying
Choose quality unrefined oils or grass-fed organic fats
Totally avoid trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated fats
There is nothing explosive about fat bombs, well, apart from the energy boost they provide! Since fat is so key for keto people have found ingenious ways to eat it. When you lack an appetite or are in a hurry keto fat bombs are incredibly easy. They top up your energy without having to stop and make a meal. Many people make sweet keto fat bombs with coconut fat, nut butter and a natural sweetener, you can even freeze big batches to make delicious sweet keto treats. Keto fat bombs are really convenient and very easy to make. Simply adjust to your preferences and experiment with this versatile keto friendly snack!
Remember: fat is healthy, and more than that, it’s vital!