So you’ve decided to take on the ketogenic diet. You understand what it takes to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. And you’re prepared to begin eating a shit-ton of healthy fat.
Only problem is, you have no idea what healthy fat actually is. Don’t worry— I got you.
Now, before I drag you down the rabbit hole I want to let you in on a little shortcut (in case you don’t really give a damn about the science of it all). I’ve put together a little cheatsheet entitled, Which Fats to Eat and Which to Leave— you’re welcome to skip this read and download the PDF for easy access.
If you’re still with me, let’s get to it, cause we’ve got a lot to cover!
The secret to successfully mastering the ketogenic diet is to include healthy dietary fats at EVERY single meal.
For this to happen, it’s essential that you reject any lingering fat phobias from previously instilled, inaccurate dietary information.
Conventionally, we pack on pounds when we consume more calories than we burn. We’re well aware that sitting around and stuffing our faces will inevitably lead to weight gain. What the conventional approach fails to discuss is caloric quality and metabolic conversion.
Emerging studies produced by world-renowned specialists at Harvard Medical School are giving conventional dietary theories a run for their money. Articles such as: Dietary fat is not a major determinant of body fat, are raising questions such as…
What is making us fat?
- Is it the quantity of our consumption?
- Are poor quality fats to blame?
- Insufficient exercise?
Ultimately we must ask, is every calorie created equal?
Unconventional research is mounting to suggest perhaps it’s not the fat making us fat. Now we’re not getting into the nuts and bolts of weight gain within this blog post. However, if you’d like to learn more about how seriously flawed and manipulative the scientific foundation for a grain-based diet truly is, I’d recommend reading either Good Calories, Bad Calories; Why We Get Fat; or The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes.
For the purpose of this post, some basic science should suffice.
Fat moves through the body in the form of fatty acids. When fatty acids make their way into the body’s cells, we get fatter. But fatty acids don’t just flow freely into the body’s cells- there’s a gatekeeper. And who might that gatekeeper be?
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar for energy. Essentially insulin is a fat-storage hormone, because any excess glucose in the body is stored away as fat.
In this sense, insulin is a fat regulator. An increase in insulin results in an accumulation of fat cells. If an increase in insulin results in an increased waistline, we’d better learn what increases insulin.
The following is a list of foods that cause a rise in insulin…
Interestingly, fat didn’t even make the list. Quite the opposite in fact— fat-free products have been linked to weight gain.
Popular diets of the ‘80s and ‘90s promoted weight loss by encouraging low-fat or fat-free food products. Studies today suggest such products encourage blood sugar spikes, intensified cravings and increased appetite.
Rather than adhering to an unsustainable diet plan with impractical caloric restrictions, we’re going to work on supplementing your diet with healthier whole foods such as healthy fats.
Because fat doesn’t stimulate insulin, eating healthy dietary fat will help you better burn stored body fat.
Eating a high-fat diet will also help stabilize your appetite by regulating the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and promoting the satiety hormone leptin.
Over time, you’ll find your body requires fewer calories to achieve total dietary satisfaction.
Convinced? I hope so. Because skipping out on the healthy fats portion of the ketogenic diet will not only greatly reduce your success rate, it will also put you on a path to starvation and dietary disaster.
If you’re a fellow keto-enthusiast I’m sure you’ve fully grasped the concept that if your body is deprived of carbohydrates it will effectively feast off fat. Now, keep in mind there are ways of going about this all wrong, and believe me, many do.
You could go on the ketogenic diet, eat all the unhealthy fats, you will lose weight but you’ll also raise triglycerides and likely end up with illness.
Or you could go on the ketogenic diet, eat all the healthy fats, lose weight while lowering triglycerides, resulting in wellness.
Many ketogenic diet plans play up the fat that the keto is basically a fat feast. Meaning as long as your tossing out the bun you can have your greasy burger topped off with American cheese and Helman’s mayonnaise. Or a wedge salad sprinkled with heaps of bleu cheese crumbles and chopped bacon. Or deep fried hot wings dipped in Hidden Valley Ranch.
Here’s the deal, you can absolutely maintain ketosis and shred weight by consuming any of the meals I just mentioned, I’ve even put them to the test on my cheat days. The problem is, there’s nothing healthy about it. Yes, you’ll continue to lose weight but you’ll also continue to clog your arteries and raise your triglycerides. Which in turn increases your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, amongst other conditions. So the key is, you must feast on the right fats.
What are the “right” fats?
Before we continue with the “best of” list, a quick disclosure.
The issue of healthy fats, insulin resistance and inflammation is a bit of a loaded topic. If you go searching for it, you’re sure to find substantial argumentative evidence on either side.
Unfortunately, we can’t say all saturated fat is good and all unsaturated is bad. Quality in fact, plays a huge role. Actually, quality is likely the main determinant separating healthy from unhealthy fats.
For now, just remember that eating a diet high in healthy saturated fats and low in polyunsaturated fats will decrease inflammation.
And inflammation may lead to a wide array of health problems such as:
- chronic pain
- heart disease
- thyroid issues
- dental issues
- and cancer
So tell me already, which fats do I eat?
Fats with high amounts of saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are best: they are stable and anti-inflammatory, protect against oxidation and have many other health benefits. Look for grass-fed and organic sources; these are always best.
The following is a list of the ten best sources for fat. The asterisk denotes non-heat applications. Meaning oils marked with an asterisk will oxidize when heated, which is harmful to your health.
Avoid polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and omega-6’s. They are prone to oxidation and more likely to contribute to inflammation.
The following is a list of the ten of the worst sources for fat. Be aware that most processed food products contain PUFA’s due to their extensive shelf life and inexpensive price point.
Now that we’ve reviewed our best and worst of lists (all of which you can find in PDF, Which Fats to Eat and Which to Leave), let’s spend a minute discussing the most important fat to avoid: trans fats.
Trans fats are the most inflammatory. In fact, they are among the worst substances for our health that we can consume. Many studies have shown that consuming foods containing trans fats increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.
The following are 3 trans fats to avoid at all costs:
Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils have been subjected to destructive high-temperature processing methods. Significant oxidative damage has occurred during the processing which can result in a disturbance of healthy arterial function. And even though vegetable oils don’t stimulate insulin, they contribute to insulin resistance by creating oxidative stress in the liver.
Your best bet is to get into the habit of reading labels. If hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil is listed in the ingredients, put it back on the shelf.
You can make a safe bet that the majority of inexpensive vegetable oils undergo hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation. This includes oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and corn — just to name a few.
By now, you’re probably aware that margarine is not the healthier option. But, buttery spread and sprays can be deceiving. Just because they’re marketed as an olive or coconut oil spread they may not be healthy for you. Read the label before wasting your hard-earned money.
Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated on the label equals no-go.
Vegetable shortening is tricky, especially if you’re super into baking. In which case palm kernel oil may be your best alternative, just be conscientious and purchase sustainably sourced palm products.
Healthy fat is one of the most important and underrated aspects of a healthy diet. Work on integrating some form of healthy fat into each meal. Also, the next time you’re out grocery shopping, I encourage you to experiment with whole fat. Upgrade your American cheese to organic, whole-fat cheddar or buffalo mozzarella, or go crazy with goat. Trade your reduced-fat cottage cheese for four percent Organic Valley and wait for your mind to be blown. Holy deliciousness.
Whichever new choices I mentioned that intrigued you, I recommend you give them a try.
I hope this lesson has turned you into a fellow fat whore because consuming an obscene amount of healthy dietary fat is a non-negotiable on the ketogenic diet.
With much love and aloha,
Whether you’re well-versed or brand spankin’ new to keto life and looking for some help, you should check out Katie’s coaching program. Coach Katie lives keto all day, errryday. She keeps up to date on the latest science, so you don’t have to. But more importantly, she addresses your specific goals to help you achieve ultimate success on your keto journey. And it’s always better to have someone in your corner, guiding you along. So if you’re ready for total life transformation and ultimate keto success, schedule your FREE initial keto consultation today!