Fat has had a pretty bad rap over the years as a major cause of heart disease but certain fats can be very healthy for our diets provided we choose the right ones and monitor the amount we eat.
Contrary to what we have been told for many years, “good” fats can actually lower your cholesterol and decrease your risk of cardiovascular diseases, but they are not ALL healthy. So what exactly are the healthy fats on a Keto diet?
The general consensus with Keto is that you should consume around 70% of your dietary intake as fat, but does that mean we can just munch on blocks of butter all day?
Probably not a great idea…..
What Types Of Fats Are There?
Fats can be broken down into 4 main groups:
- Saturated – Meat & Dairy
- Monounsaturated – Avocado, olive oil & some nuts
- Polyunsaturated – Fatty fish, some seeds, vegetable oils
- Trans Fats – Hydrogenated vegetable oils
It’s important to know that fats play an important role in many bodily functions not just as an energy source, but also to help the body absorb certain vitamins, boost brain function and enhance the immune system.
Saturated fats were once thought of as one of the main causes of heart disease, however, new research has been seen to deflate these myths recently though the effects of saturated fats on the body are still a hotly debated topic among health experts.
What is very clear about saturated fats is that if you are going to consume them, then you should always consume quality fats that are not highly processed because much of the nutritional attributes that come with these fats can be removed in processing.
The best sources of saturated fats should come from the foods listed below:
- Red Meat (preferably grass fed and organic)
- High fat dairy – Butter, cream, ghee, cheese and whole milk
- Animal fats – Lard, tallow, pasteurized eggs
- Poultry with skin
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
Many health organizations such as the World Health Organization and American Heart Foundation believe that the total daily saturated fat consumption should make up for less than 10% of your daily calorie consumption, for example, if your daily calorie goal is 2,000 calories, then the maximum amount to come from saturated fats is 200 calories.
This claim has been met with disagreement, as not all saturated fats are the same. Also, it’s the foods that saturated fats are found in such as, cakes, burgers, hot dogs and pizza, that could prove to be more unhealthy than the fats themselves due to other additives and processes used to create them.
Unsaturated fats are broken up into two type of fats, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and these fats are considered to be the “good” fats for a healthy diet.
Monounsaturated fats are known to help protect the heart, support insulin sensitivity, increase energy levels and aid weight loss.
MUFAs are found in extra virgin olive oil, avocado and nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, macadamia.
Polyunsaturated fats contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential in the diet, where the right balance of these can reduce heart disease, stroke and brain health, however, too much Omega-6 can have almost the opposite effect and actually raise the blood pressure, cause blood clots and increase risk of cardiac arrest.
Unfortunately, eating too much Omega-6 is much easier today than eating enough Omega-3 because Omega-6 is found in many oils such as corn, sunflower, grapeseed, soy and some other vegetable oils. These oils are often used in many products from crackers, chips, cookies, breads etc.
We need Omega-6 in our diets, however, we also need to keep an eye on the amount we are consuming. From my research, a healthy ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 should be 4:1 or lower. I have also read that a 1:1 is a good ratio too. In comparison, the ratio today is around 16:1.
The best sources for PUFAs are in fatty fish, such as salmon, trout and tuna, also seeds such as sunflower, flax and chia.
Trans fats are known as the bad boys of the bunch. They are highly processed vegetable oils that are created by a process called hydrogenation.
Trans fats are damaging to the health because they lower the “good” cholesterol (HDL) and increase the “bad” cholesterol (LDL), as well as promoting inflammation and can cause heart disease and cancer.
Some trans fats are naturally found in meats and high fat dairy, but these are not the same as the over-processed vegetable oils mentioned above, nor are they harmful.
Some oils in the polyunsaturated group, mentioned above, fit into this territory including corn and soy oils which are often made with GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds.
As a rule of thumb, check your labels for trans fats and avoid them as much as possible.
This can be tricky, because they are in many mainstream foods, like fast food, many packaged snack foods, and fried foods that are cooked in vegetable oils.
Eating the right fats and adequate amounts are essential for good health. Try to focus on eating the “good” fats mentioned above and avoid eating any highly processed fats that will have negative effects on your cardiovascular system.