The Right and Healthy Sources of Fats for Keto (Ketogenic Diet).
Ketogenic Diet requires you to attain about 70-75% of your daily calorific requirements from healthy fats. So, it implies that you need to increase your consumption of fats much more compared to your current diet while restricting your carb intake.
However, should you go ahead and consume just about any fat? Obviously not. There are many forms of fats and you need to identify which ones are healthy and which ones are not. Additionally, even within healthy fats, some fats or oils might be better suited for cooking while some for raw consumption.
So, let’s first classify healthy fats from unhealthy fats and then see which fats/oils suit what purpose.
Healthy Fats (Fats to Eat)
- Saturated Fats:
Red Meat, Cream, Butter, Ghee, Lard (pig fat), Tallow (beef or mutton fat), Eggs, Coconut Oil or Palm Oil
- MCTs (Medium-chain Triglycerides):
Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Butter, or Supplements
- Mono-saturated Fats (Omega 9 or Oleic Acid):
Avocado Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Beef and Nuts (esp. Macadamia)
- Poly-unsaturated Fats (Omega 6 and Omega 3) without heating:
Nut Oils, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Avocado Oil
- Omega 3 Foods:
Wild Salmon, Fermented Cod Liver Oil, Grass-fed Meat (Grain-fed Meat has poor Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio), Walnuts, Macadamia Nuts
- Natural Trans Fat found in dairy products and grass-fed animals
Unhealthy Fats (Fats to Avoid)
- Artificial Trans Fats (created during food production):
Typically found in Margarines, Cookies, Crackers, French Fries, etc.
- Processed Vegetable Oils and Interesterified Fat:
Sunflower, Safflower, Cottonseed, Canola, Soybean, Grapeseed, and Corn Oil
- Hydrogenated Oils
Now, the physical structure and chemical composition of a particular fat has a strong impact on the applicability of a particular fat. While, some fats remain stable even at high temperatures, making them suited for deep frying and cooking, some fats break down even at low temperatures to form free radicals, which are harmful to the body.
Additionally, their composition plays an equally important role to define the health benefits of a particular fat.
Thus, it is important to classify healthy fats based on their various characteristics and identify their best applications.
Parameters that determine a Fat’s usability:
1. Molecular Structure of Fat:
Whether the fat is saturated and unsaturated makes a large impact on benefits of a particular fat. Until recently, it was considered that saturated fats and cholesterol led to major coronary heart diseases and obesity.
Usually portrayed as the culprit by mainstream media, saturated fats such as coconut oil, ghee, butter, red palm oil, animal fat, eggs, are actually extremely healthy fats for Keto diet. These fats are extremely stable even at high temperatures because of their complex molecular structure making them extremely suitable for high heat cooking.
Unsaturated fats (including both mono-unsaturated or MUF and poly-unsaturated or PUF), such as Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Nuts Oils, on the other hand are better consumed raw or for light cooking. Due to their simple structures, which includes double bonds, they react with oxygen to form toxic free radical at the slightest application of heat.
2. Smoke Point:
The smoking point refers to the temperature at which an oil or fat starts to burn and smoke. It is directly linked to the molecular structure of the oil or fat. So, saturated fats have higher smoking points as compared to unsaturated fats.
Note that many processed vegetable oils or interesterified fats also have high smoking points, but they are not necessarily healthy for consumption especially for Keto.
3. Oxidation Rate:
The rate at which the particular rate combines with oxygen is referred as its Oxidation rate. The higher the rate the better because it increases the usability of the particular fat, which can last longer without turning into toxic free radicals.
Three things that decrease a fat’s oxidation rate are a) Heat; b) Exposure to air, light and moisture; and c) Exposure to metals such as copper and iron.
4. Omega-6 : Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio:
Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely essential fatty acids for the overall development of our health as they prevent the risk of deadly diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and auto-immune disorders.
Ideally, a fat with a 1:1 ratio of the two fatty acids is an extremely good bet for Keto. However, most fats are typically extremely high on Omega-6 as compared with Omega-3 concentrations.
Only, animal fats and nuts are rich in Omega-3 concentrations. However, even with the two, the body is unable to process the Omega-3 available in nuts efficiently. Thus, omega-3 found in fish, such as salmon and cod-liver oil, are the best bet.
5. Shelf Life:
A fat or oil’s shelf life is another important factor to keep in mind while consuming or picking an appropriate fat for Keto.
Fats or oils left exposed on a shelf can get rancid making it inappropriate for consumption. Usually, saturated fats have a longer shelf life (around 1 to 2 years) while unsaturated fats only last for 2 months to 1 year. Within unsaturated fats, MUFs last longer than PUFs.
Which Oil to Use For Different Purpose:
1. Regular Cooking (Frying, High-heat, Curries, Gravies):
Coconut Oil, Ghee (Clarified Butter), Cocoa Butter, Red Palm Oil, Chicken Fat, Lard and Bacon (Pork) Fat, Tallow (Beef or Mutton Fat) Grass-fed
2. Light Cooking (Sauteing or Tossing):
Avocado Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Macadamia Oil
3. Zero Cooking (Dressings or standalone):
Sesame Oil, Fish Oil, Krill Oil, Hazelnut Oil, Almond Oil, Walnut Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, Pistachio Oil, and Peanut Oil
Eating healthy for Keto requires you to include large amount of fats in your diet. However, picking the right ones and applying them correctly is equally important. Use the tips provided above to select the right fat or oil for consumption when you chart out your next Keto meal or diet chart!