Keto Healthy Fats 101: Fat is Good For You!
Healthy fats are a cornerstone of the keto diet. If you’re new to the keto diet, you may be struggling with the idea that fat is good for you. But the fact is, there are healthy fats (e.g. fish, nuts, grass-fed meat…) and bad fats (e.g. margarine, trans fat, sunflower oil…) – and healthy fat is not responsible for weight gain.
Fat does not make you fat! For decades, we have been brainwashed to believe that fat makes us fat and sick. But that’s just not true – fat is not to blame (at least, healthy fat – but more on this later). Much of the dietary advice we’ve been told to follow for decades was the result of a deeply-flawed study (and that’s putting it kindly) from the 1950s.
Fat is probably the most maligned and misunderstood dietary nutrient. You’re probably familiar with the traditional food pyramid. Well, that pyramid is just plain wrong and is responsible for many of today’s chronic health conditions and rising obesity and diabetes levels. That pyramid tells us our diet should consist mainly of carbs with little fat – a recipe for weight gain and poor health. Conversely, eating a high fat diet consisting of good, healthy fats can actually increase weight loss and even reverse disease.
Good fat vs Bad fat
It’s absolutely necessary to point out that the keto diet is based on eating more fat but it must be the correct, healthy fats. There are definitely fats that are bad for you – the keto diet requires you avoid those fats at all costs. But there are some really healthy fats – and that’s the fat you need to consume more of. We have written about which fats to eat, which fats to avoid – but here’s a quick summary:
Good fats – eat these
- Avocado/avocado oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Nuts/nut butter
- Natural yoghurt
- Chia seeds and flaxseed/flaxseed oil
- Coconut oil
- Goose fat, lard, bacon fat and tallow
- Red meat
- Fatty fish/fish oil
- Grass-fed animal products
Bad fats – avoid these at all cost
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) found in processed products like biscuits, margarine, and fast food
- Processed vegetable oils like cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and canola oils
So, not all fats are created equal: consume the good fats, avoid the bad fats. Simple, right?
Thankfully, a growing number of people are waking up to the fact that fat is good for you and eating fat doesn’t make you fat. But there’s still a lot of re-educating necessary so let’s continue.
Eat healthy fats, avoid bad fats and sugar
It makes sense right? Eating fat “should” make you fat – but it is actually not true. It’s sugar that makes you fat. In fact, all forms of sugar will make you fat. It doesn’t matter if it is table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, fruit or fruit juice or agave nectar or any of the other hundreds of names for sugar. It is all sugar.
But, unlike sugar, not all fats are the same. There is saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and even trans fat and within each fat there are different types. Bottom line is, not all fats are to be condemned. Eating lots of the right fats will not make you fat. In fact, including the right fats in your diet is the key to health and weight loss. When you eat more fat you actually increase the speed of your metabolism. Eating fat also stimulates fat burning and it cuts your hunger. It improves the overall quality of your cholesterol profile and it reduces your risk of heart disease.
It’s actually sugar that makes you fat. Spread the message far and wide! The more sugar and processed carbs you eat, the more resistant you become to the effects of insulin. Your body pumps out more and more of this hormone in an attempt to keep your blood sugar levels normal. And since you can’t burn all the sugar you eat, you store it and this creates metabolic havoc.
Avoid packaged foods
Yes, some fats actually that can harm you. You must avoid trans fats (a fat used in the preparation of packaged foods that has zero nutritional value and is bad for you). Avoid many refined Omega-6 oils. Shortening and vegetable and seed oils like corn and soy and safflower and feedlot raised beef are all high in Omega-6 oils.
Now, the consumption of Omega-6 oils has increased dramatically over the last few decades and it has also led to higher rates of heart disease and obesity. These oils are inflammatory and they are pretty dangerous. So, yes there are fats that you want to avoid but there are some fats that you want to eat a lot of.
It’s pretty simple. Almost all of the harmful fats you need to avoid are found in pre-packaged foods. Anything that comes in a packet – ready-meals, biscuits/cookies, chips, crackers, pastry – likely contains fats you need to avoid.
Conversely, the more food you prepare from scratch using natural ingredients, the better for you.
What do keto healthy fats look like?
Well, it is rich in Omega-3 fats and it is rich in things like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, wild fatty fish, nuts and whole eggs, even grass fed meat if you eat meat. Now these foods can actually help you prevent disease and they are brain foods. They make you happy and smarter. (We eat fat with every single meal of the day and have never felt better.)
In fact, the benefits of eating fat are incredible. The right kinds of fat leads to improved mood, better skin, hair and nails not to mention offering some protection in preventing dementia, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Can you eat too much fat on the keto diet?
One of the things that worries a lot of people who are trying the keto diet is, “Can I eat too much fat? Is it dangerous in some way?” (We’ve already addressed the question, “Won’t eating fat make me fat?” so here we will look at whether you can eat too much fat and what, if any, are the side-effects.)
We would say the idea of eating fat is what concerns people most about the keto diet because we have all grown up with health experts telling us to avoid fat and that fat is bad for us. It’s been drummed into us from school up to adulthood that fat is not healthy and we should only consume it sparingly.
We’re going to dispel some myths here so that that you can stop worrying about fat in your diet and start reaping the benefits of the ketogenic diet.
So, there are two reasons why people worry about this:
- First of all, for the last 50 or 60 years, we’ve been eating a very carb-heavy diet and we all know that on a carbohydrate heavy diet you can definitely eat too much food. You can sit down and eat an entire tube of Pringles. We’ve all done that! You can sit down and eat an entire pie or an entire cake – the list goes on. That’s because you don’t get the satiety signals from carbs. Carbs don’t ever tell you you’re full. That’s why you can go to the fast-food restaurant and eat until you think you’re stuffed and about to die from eating too much. But then an hour later, you’re hungry and so you eat again and that’s what carbs do. Since we’re used to being able to binge on carbs, it’s a fair question to ask about the ketogenic diet, can we binge on fat?
- The second reason why people worry about this is for the last 50 and 60 years we’ve all been taught to fear fat as a food. Watch out for fat, avoid fat, look out for fat, don’t eat saturated fat, avoid animal fats, don’t eat that fat, remove the fat, don’t eat the skin, leave the fat behind, muscle can turn into fat… All this false information. And so, we almost have this instinctual fear that’s been drummed into us since childhood. So you’re taught to fear fat. And when we start talking about a diet that’s high in healthy fats, you think, “Well, that can’t be right. Fats are bad for me.”
But if you’ve read this far, hopefully by now we’ve convinced you that consuming good-quality fat is fine.
Your body needs healthy fats
Even if you could binge on fats, it’s not going to hurt you. Your body knows exactly what to do with fat in your diet and with good healthy fats. Think back to when humans were hunter gatherers. If they were lucky enough to kill a huge buffalo, what did they eat first? That would be the fat and the organ meats and they would eat as much as they could possibly hold. They would only eat the tough sinewy muscle after all the organ meats and all the fat and all the marrow was gone.
So, our body and our genetic makeup is used to fat. It’s perfectly natural.
Healthy fat keeps you feeling full
When you eat fat – and you’ll notice this as you start the ketogenic diet – you feel full. You don’t binge or snack. When you’ve eaten enough, your body tells you that you’re done. Good-quality fats is satiating. This is a major advantage of the keto diet. Unlike calorie-restricting diets (which don’t work because they are unsustainable), you will always feel full on the keto diet. There are no hunger pangs which means you’re not in a constant, unsustainable battle between your stomach and your willpower.
The bacon experiment
If we gave you a huge family size bag of Doritos, could you eat that entire bag? Yes, you could absolutely. We’ve all done that at one time or another at some point in our life. Maybe we’re not proud of that but we’ve done it.
But if we cooked up an entire pack of bacon right, do you think you could eat all that? Try it at home. Cook an entire pack of good-quality bacon in the oven (and save the bacon grease for cooking dishes. It’s delicious and good for brain and nerve health). Now, try to eat that whole pack and after six or so pieces of bacon you’re done and you’re full. You won’t want to eat another piece of bacon even though you love bacon. Why? Because fat triggers hormones in your body that tells you you’re full.
So, number one, fat is not going hurt you if you do overeat on a fatty meal. Number two, it’s really hard to do that because your body just says signals to you it’s full. You’ll stay full on a heavy fat meal for hours – maybe even all day long – and may just decide not to eat again that day. So, don’t worry about overloading on fat or eating too much fat on a ketogenic diet. It’s not dangerous first of all and second of all it’s very unlikely to happen.