I’ve never been on a Ketogenic Diet for longer than a month, but I truly believe in its benefits. There are many general questions about the Ketogenic Diet, but one of the most common is “what are the best healthy fats for a keto diet?”
Well, there are many for you to choose from!
If you don’t have much knowledge about nutrition and this is your first experience with the Ketogenic Diet, there is a good chance you will be confused why people are eating so much “fat.”
The term fat has been associated with weight gain and several other health issues for a long time, so it can be difficult to understand good “fats” exist!
Eating healthy dietary fats is necessary whether you are on a Ketogenic Diet or not. However, you need to do your research to find out which are the best healthy fats to eat on a Keto Diet.
If you are interested to know some of my go-to healthy dietary fats while I’m doing the Ketogenic Diet (or not), keep reading below!
Why Is the Keto Diet Useful?
If you are looking to lose weight quickly, there are not many better options!
Not only is this diet useful for weight loss, but it also has other beneficial effects as well. One of the main benefits of this diet is it will help lower your blood sugar levels and reliance on insulin, which is especially important for people with Type-2 Diabetes.
Whether your goal is to build an aesthetic physique, manage your heart health or reduce your blood sugar levels, the keto diet is an effective choice!
Though there are probably over 100 new diet fads in America each year, one of the only consistent truths for helping you lose weight is to eat a diet that is naturally low in carbohydrates.
Some diets such as the ketogenic diet even suggest to basically eliminate carbohydrates from your diet for certain periods of time!
A ketogenic diet can be difficult for some people to maintain, but a low carb diet should be manageable for most.
Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient for athletes and play a significant role in the average person’s daily life, but low carb diets can be extremely successful for people who are struggling to lose weight with other traditional methods.
Read More: Complex Carbs for Bodybuilding
Who Can Benefit From Low Carb Diets?
Low carb diets are especially helpful for people who struggle to lose weight and body fat for the simple fact that low carb diets help you to control your insulin levels during the course of a day, especially when combined with the concept of carb backloading.
Insulin itself causes an anabolic response within your body, and is vital for those looking to build muscle.
However, it can also cause you to retain body fat at an unnecessary rate.
Insulin levels are such a hindrance to the burning of body fat that many people choose to perform cardiovascular activities early in the morning before ingesting any insulin-level-raising foods, so that their body can more preferentially burn body fat.
Similar to this approach, low carb diets will allow you to burn body fat at a better rate since your insulin levels will be naturally lower throughout the day.
How to Maintain a Healthy Low-Carb Diet
The main difference between a healthy low carb diet and an unhealthy diet where you sacrifice carbohydrates completely is the choice of carbs, and the timing of ingesting them.
For those who are looking to maintain a low carb diet for an extended period and without the risk of falling off dangerously, the best carbohydrates to eat during your day are clearly fruits and vegetables.
Some people may argue that fruits should be avoided since they do contain substantial amounts of fructose (fruit sugar), but the fact that your body can normally easily digest fruits compared with wheat or other grain products makes them an advisable choice.
Along with this, you should do your best to eat the majority (if not all) of your carbohydrates for the day, after you do your daily training.
Carbohydrates should not be consumed close to the time you go to sleep either, and timing your carbohydrates in this manner will mitigate the overall insulin response of the carbs you eat.
Many people will take low carb diets too drastically and will not be able to hold them for too long.
Sticking to these basic principles and allowing yourself enough free-room in your diet are absolutely the keys to being successful and healthy on a low carb diet!
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Are All Dietary Fats the Same?
Before we start to learn about the best fats for the Keto Diet, let’s first review the different dietary fats. As many of you know, not all dietary fats are the same.
There are four different types of fats:
- Saturated Fat
- Trans Fat
- Polyunsaturated Fat
- Monounsaturated Fat
For the most part, you are going to want to eat foods that contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, because these have the most health benefits.
Saturated fats have a certain place in your diet, but you should not over-consume them. Trans fats are terrible, and you should avoid them at all costs!
As you can see, there is an enormous difference between the types of dietary fat you can consume, as some are very harmful, while others are highly beneficial.
The trick is to avoid hydrogenated oils and trans fats at all costs. As a matter of fact, the main rule of thumb is to avoid anything that’s “processed,” and try to stick with oils and fats that are as close to their natural state as possible.
Here are a few additional benefits of healthy dietary fats that you’ll consume on the ketogenic diet:
Healthy Fats and Blood Cholesterol
Cholesterol can be broken down into two types; low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL cholesterol has been linked with a number of negative health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and organ damage. HDL cholesterol has a more positive role, and transports excess LDL cholesterol from the blood to the liver (where it is then removed from the body).
Eating healthy dietary fats lowers blood levels of LDL cholesterol, and raises blood levels of HDL cholesterol.
According to a study in Clinical Nutrition,
“Substitution of unsaturated fat for saturated fat not only reduces LDL cholesterol but contributes also to reduce plasma triglycerides in insulin resistant individuals.”
This improves your overall blood cholesterol levels, and helps protects your cells, organs, and blood vessels from damage.
Healthy Fats and Blood Glucose Control
Poor blood glucose is a problem that can affect anyone, but it is a particularly big issue for diabetics. Blood glucose levels can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, and in the worst cases lead to organ damage.
Healthy dietary fats can improve your body’s blood glucose control in two ways.
First, they contain a protein called adiponectin. Studies have shown that adiponectin improves your body’s control of insulin (a hormone that allows your cells to take glucose from the blood).
Secondly, this type of fat improves your cell’s insulin sensitivity, which further improves your blood glucose control. Eating a diet high in “healthy fats” will work to help your body naturally control glucose levels better, allowing you to maintain your overall health easier.
Vitamins in Foods High in Healthy Fats
Most healthy dietary fats are an excellent source of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These fat soluble vitamins help your body in many ways; which include helping your blood clot, supporting strong bones, and protecting your cells from oxidative damage.
Saturated Fats for a Ketogenic Diet
Although some people demonize saturated fats and claim they are as bad as trans-fat, saturated fats are not completely bad for our body.
For the most part, saturated fats are found in animal products. The main issue with consuming a diet high in saturated fat is that it raises both total blood cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. Overall, this will increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and other health issues.
Along with this, saturated fats have also been linked with an increased risk of Type-2 Diabetes.
However, as I said before, they are not only negative.
As proven through a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology,
“Diets containing greater amounts of fat were associated with higher levels of free testosterone at rest. Interestingly, a strong negative correlation was found between protein intake and pre-exercise testosterone levels. This finding is very important in light of the fact that many athletes limit their intake of fats, while increasing protein intake in an attempt to gain muscle mass. This would have the exact opposite effect on testosterone release as desired and will consequently interfere with muscle growth.”
As this study demonstrated, saturated fats increased testosterone levels more than any other fat! Drinking healthy saturated fats (such as the MCT oil and grass-fed butter in Bulletproof Coffee) can have many beneficial affects for your health.
If you are avoiding saturated fats completely, your body will not function as well as it can. However, it is vital you make the correct choices about which saturated fats to consume.
Saturated Fats for a Keto Diet
- Red meat
- Coconut oil
Specific Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of the best fats for the keto diet or any diet, so it deserves some specific recognition. Here are a few specific benefits of coconut oil:
Coconut Oil is Naturally Disease Fighting
Lauric acid accounts for almost 50% of total fatty acids present in coconut oil. When coconut oil is digested enzymatically, a monoglyceride called monolaurin is formed. Both monolaurin and lauric acid can kill pathogens such as bacteria, virus or fungus. These two substances have been shown to kill:
- Staphylococcus aureus bacteria which is a very dangerous pathogen
- Fungus in the form of yeast Candida albicans, a common source of infection in humans.
Regularly in taking coconut oil bolsters your entire immune system, building a form of “bubble” around your body that is impenetrable by most diseases.
Coconut Oil Improves Blood Cholesterol Levels
I want to say this first. The “cholesterol” in food and the “cholesterol” in our blood are two completely different things. Cholesterol in food has actually no effect on the cholesterol in your blood. They should be named differently; it literally does not make sense.
The majority of foods that negatively affect blood cholesterol levels are sugary and artificial, not high in saturated fat as many dieticians will tell you.
Coconut Oil is loaded with saturated fats that do not affect blood lipid profile as erroneously believed for a long time.
The majority of saturated fats which come from natural sources are incredibly healthy for you.
There are many studies showing the direct effect of saturated fats on testosterone levels even!
Saturated fats raise HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL change for a milder subtype.
In a study of 40 women, it was actually observed that coconut oil lowered total cholesterol and LDL level while raising the HDL when compared with the intake of soybean oil. This improves the risk of cardiovascular disease in the long term.
Coconut Oil Helps Your Hair and Skin
In addition to dietary benefits, coconut oil is very useful in other applications; as many people use it for cosmetic purposes, which will improve the health and appearance of your skin and hair. Studies carried out in individuals with dry skin show that coconut oil improves skin hydration and lipid content of their skin.
Other cosmetic applications include coconut oil use as a dentifrice and above all as a mouthwash, which has been shown to kill bacteria in the mouth; improving dental health and eliminating bad breath.
I have actually begun using a toothpaste that is simply a blend of turmeric and coconut oil, to great success! It has an incredible whitening effect as well as strengthening your teeth.
Coconut Oil Improves Brain Function in Alzheimer’s Patients
In a study conducted in 2006, consumption of medium chain triglycerides in patients with moderate Alzheimer’s showed an immediate improvement in brain function. Other studies provide the same results, and therefore have created a need to conduct more intensive studies with medium chain triglycerides for their therapeutic potential in patients with Alzheimer’s.
Studies show that the fatty acids present in coconut oil can increase levels of ketone bodies in the blood, and these can provide energy to the brain of Alzheimer’s patients which reduce their symptoms.
Alzheimer’s is one of the biggest causes of dementia and occurs mainly in the elderly population.
Direct Effect on Abdominal Fat
Since coconut oil can reduce appetite and increase the rate at which fat is burned, it seems logical that it can help you lose weight. Coconut Oil has proven to be quite adequate for reducing abdominal fat, which is surrounding your vital organs and is of high risk to your overall health.
This fat (also known as visceral fat) is the most dangerous and is commonly associated with many diseases of the Western world.
In a study conducted with 40 women having abdominal obesity, supplementing your diet with an amount of coconut oil at 30ml a day both reduced body mass index and waist circumference in a period of only 12 weeks. In another study of 20 obese men, there was a reduction in waist circumference of 2.86cm after only 4 weeks of taking 30ml of coconut oil a day.
Monounsaturated Fats to Fit Your Keto Diet
Unlike saturated fats, nearly everyone can agree that monounsaturated fats are excellent for your body. Not only do they have many unique health benefits we have not yet discussed, but they are excellent for increasing testosterone levels as well.
Along with testosterone boosting properties, monounsaturated fats improve blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats fight the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and aid your heart and health in a variety of ways.
Furthermore, research has shown that monounsaturated fats are useful for managing insulin levels and blood sugar control as well!
Monounsaturated fats remain liquid at room temperature, which is why they pass through your liver and out of your body easier than other types of fat. Monounsaturated fats are a crucial source of nutrition and energy if you are on a keto diet!
Excellent Options of Monounsaturated Fats for a Ketogenic Diet
Polyunsaturated Fats on a Keto Diet
The third type of healthy dietary fat for the ketogenic diet is known as polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are mostly found in plant-based oils, but they can be found in other foods as well.
There are many health benefits of eating foods high in polyunsaturated fats, and they are an excellent source of nutrition for people who are on a Ketogenic Diet.
These polyunsaturated fats help improve your ration of HDL to LDL cholesterol, lower your risk of Type-2 diabetes, and reduce inflammation throughout your body.
Especially for people who consume a lot of fried foods (which are high in Omega-6 fatty acids), eating a diet high in polyunsaturated fats is an excellent way to combat the “bad” fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are common in polyunsaturated fats, and they fight inflammation as well as anything else for our body.
Foods Containing Polyunsaturated Fats for a Keto Diet
- Pumpkin seeds
- Fish Oil
Trans Fats: The Worst of Them All!
Trans fat (trans fatty acids) are the only type of dietary fat which you should eliminate from your diet entirely. There is absolutely nothing beneficial about trans fatty acids!
According to a study conducted in the Journal of Food Science and Technology,
“Research has proved the direct connection of trans fatty acids with cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, shortening of pregnancy period, risks of preeclampsia, disorders of the nervous system and vision in infants, colon cancer, diabetes, obesity, and allergy. In light of these new findings trans fat intake should be zero.”
Consuming trans fats is dangerous whether you are healthy or not, and can negatively affect anyone.
Although they are found naturally in a few products, most trans fats form when liquid fats “transform” into solid fats due to artificial processes by food manufacturers. Consuming trans fatty acids increases your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and reduces your HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).
Although there has been a wide-spread push throughout the entire world to control the production and prevalence of trans fats, trans fats persist in certain foods.
If you are concerned about “accidentally” intaking trans fats on your keto diet, you’re not alone! Trans fats are still hidden in many foods, although the Food and Drug Administration set a 2018 deadline for the total elimination of them.
If you see a product labeled with “partially hydrogenated oil,” it contains trans fats!
Partially hydrogenated oils completely unhealthy, but they are a cheaper alternative to real butter for some companies. Regardless, stay away from them!
Common Foods Containing Trans Fats
- Fast Food
Concluding Thoughts on the Benefits of Dietary Fats on a Ketogenic Diet
As you can see, it is necessary to consume healthy dietary fats when you are on a keto diet.
In fact, healthy dietary fats are one of the main two nutritional components of the Ketogenic Diet! Instead of being nervous about eating too much “fat,” choose healthy dietary fats which will support and improve your body.