Let's Consider a Well-Formulated Ketogenic Diet
Since the majority of calories come from fat on a ketogenic diet, it is crucial to know that the fat type and quality matter. Let’s take a look at which fats are best for a healthy ketogenic plan.
A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, and when done properly goes far beyond just limiting carbohydrates and increasing fat consumption. For starters, it helps resolve issues surround poor blood sugar control. Since the majority of calories come from fat, it is crucial to know that the fat type and quality matter. The optimal approach to the ketogenic diet includes healthy, high-quality sources of fat that will fuel you rather than bring you down.
There are three main categories of fatty acids that differ based on the length of their carbon backbone and number of hydrogen bonds:
- Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA): fully “saturated” with hydrogen atoms
- Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA): missing one pair of hydrogen atoms
- Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA): missing two or more pairs of hydrogen atoms
‘Which Fats are Best on a Ketogenic Diet?
These are the ones you want to focus on and where the majority of your fats should be coming from. They are the body’s preferred source of energy when keto-adapted (the metabolic switch from burning glucose to burning fats and ketones). You might be thinking, isn’t all that saturated fat going to increase my risk for heart disease? Fret not; research is now pointing the finger at carbohydrates to blame for what saturated fats were accused of all these years.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids only need to be consumed in small amounts but contain the two essential fatty acids (EFA), omega-6 and omega-3, that must be obtained through diet since humans cannot produce them on their own.
Although essential, omega-6 fatty acids are commonly overconsumed in the form of linoleic acid (LA) due to the increasing overuse of highly refined and processed vegetable/seed oils. Excess omega-6 might contribute to problems down the road, given that LA is the precursor to a number of highly inflammatory molecules, also known as pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Recent research has linked chronic inflammation to a number of different health conditions, therefore consuming food with anti-inflammatory properties might be beneficial to your overall health.
When following a ketogenic diet, you will likely get all the omega-6 you need without consciously trying, just by eating different nuts, seeds, healthy oils, meat and poultry, dairy products, and eggs.
- You want to avoid Omega-6 PUFAs for the following reasons:
- They are often made from GMO crops
- They are often highly processed and exposed to various chemicals)
- The are prone to oxidation
- They can be partially hydrogenated
Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly underconsumed, creating a high omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio. It has been estimated that the average American consumes a ratio as high as 20:1, extremely far from the ideal ratio of 1:1. This imbalance has been linked to support for neurological, immune, cardiovascular, and eye health, along with fetal development and so much more.
- When choosing oils, opt for cold-pressed, unrefined, extra-virgin, and stored in glass (not plastic) when available
- Use oils with high saturated or monounsaturated fat content for cooking such as coconut oil, butter/ghee, avocado oil, and high quality extra-virgin olive oil since these are less likely to oxidize under heat
- Cook meats below 300° F to protect the integrity of their fatty acid profiles (and their amino acid profile too!)
- If you absolutely must use vegetable/seed oils do not cook with them due to their instability and likelihood of oxidation, especially under heat