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Fat is one of three macronutrients ("macros") present in foods. On a keto or low carb diet, fat is your main source of energy. It is therefore important to choose healthy types and consume the right amount. Here's our guide to everything you need to know about lipids in diets without carbohydrates.
- What is fat and what roles does it play in the body?
- How are fats absorbed in the body?
- What is cholesterol?
- What types of fat should I eat?
- What types of fat should I avoid?
- How much fat should I eat?
What is fat and what roles does it play in the body?
Dietary fat is found in animals and plants. While his primary function is to provide energy to your body, he plays several other important roles, including:
- Help you absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- Regulate inflammation and immunity
- Maintain the health of your cells, including skin and hair cells
- Add wealth to the food to make you feel full and full
The fat in food is in the form of triglycerides. Each triglyceride contains a molecule of glycerol linked to 3 fatty acid chains composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms.
Example of unsaturated fat triglyceride Left side: glycerol; right part, from top to bottom: palmitic acid, oleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid.
Fatty acids are classified according to the number of bonds that they contain between the carbon atoms in their chains, as well as the length of their chains.
Saturated or unsaturated fatty acids
There are two families of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs): omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are named for the position of the first double bond in their carbon chains.
Length of the fatty acid chain
- Short chain fatty acids have 5 carbon atoms or less. Short-chain fatty acids are present in small amounts in butter and cream.
- Medium Chain Fatty Acids (also called Medium Chain Triglycerides or MCTs) have 6-12 carbon atoms. Examples of foods containing medium chain fatty acids include coconut oil and MCT oil. Butter and cream also contain a small amount of TCM.
- Long Chain Fatty Acids have 13 carbon atoms or more. Most of the fats in foods consist of long chain fatty acids. Meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, nuts, seeds, avocado and olives are examples of foods containing long chain fatty acids.
You can find out more about fats to eat here.
How are fats absorbed in the body?
Once the fatty foods have been digested, their triglycerides are broken down into individual fatty acids and glycerol.
Saturated and unsaturated long-chain fatty acids are absorbed into the blood, packaged with cholesterol and protein, and then transported into your system for use or stored as body fat.
Short and medium chain fatty acids are absorbed differently. Instead of being transported throughout your body, they go directly to the liver, where they can be converted to ketones and used as a source of rapid energy. In addition, they may be more likely to be stored as fat compared to long chain fatty acids.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found only in foods of animal origin. Unlike fatty acids, it does not provide energy. However, your body needs it to produce steroid hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that help digest fats. All your cells produce cholesterol; In fact, most of the cholesterol in your blood comes from your body rather than the food you eat. Dietary cholesterol usually does not increase cholesterol levels in the blood, or at all, and therefore probably does not increase the risk of heart disease.
What types of fat should I eat?
We recommend eating fats that occur naturally in foods and have been little transformed.
For several decades, the American Heart Association and other health organizations have advised people to reduce their intake of saturated fats. Unfortunately, this recommendation is based primarily on low quality nutritional epidemiology studies. Yet, most high-quality randomized controlled trials have consistently failed to show a link between saturated fats and heart disease. For this reason, the role of natural saturated fats in a healthy diet is now being questioned. Overall, saturated fats seem to be health neutral. Learn more
Saturated fats are found in a number of healthy foods that can – and should probably be – consumed as part of a balanced keto or low carbohydrate diet.
In addition, no food contains 100% saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. For example, fatty meat contains about the same amount of monounsaturated and saturated fat and a small amount of polyunsaturated fat.
However, in some foods, one type of fat is usually predominant. For example, we consider butter a good source of saturated fat and olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat.
Below you will find several healthy sources of each type of fat.
- Butter and ghee (clarified butter)
- Coconut oil
- Bacon and tallow
Monounsaturated fatty acids
- Olives and olive oil
- Avocado and avocado oil
- Macadamias and macadamia oil
- Almonds, Nuts of Brazil, Hazelnuts, Pecans
- Bacon and tallow
- Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies)
- Animals fed on the grass
- Dairy products derived from animals fed on the grass
- Chicken eggs on pasture
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Present in almost all foods, including meat, nuts and seeds.
- Vegetable and seed oils (specially safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil and corn oil) – as well as processed foods that contain them – often constitute a major source of omega-6 PUFAs in modern Western diets. We recommend minimizing these vegetable oils and seeds as they are highly processed.
Aim for an Omega-6 PUFA Health Report: Omega-3
Omega-6 linoleic acid polyunsaturated fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids because your body can not produce them themselves, so you have to consume them in food. Alpha-linolenic acid is found mainly in seeds.
However, the most important omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA, which are found in oily fish and grass-fed meat. These long chain fats are crucial for brain health, modulation of inflammation and cell structure. They can also reduce the risk factors for heart disease, although the results of high quality studies are mixed.
Although alpha-linolenic acid can be converted to EPA and DHA in your body, conversion is not very effective.
Achieving a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 could also be important.
Our evolutionary diet is thought to contain about the same amount of omega-3 and omega-6. However, because of their high dependence on processed foods, many Western diets may contain more than 15 times more omega-6 than omega-3s today. .
As it is currently unclear how this change in diet can impact our health, we think it makes sense to stay with the foods our ancestors have consumed for thousands of years.
Having fatty fish at least twice a week, choosing meat and dairy products from grass fed animals and eating less processed foods can help improve your omega-6 ratio : Omega 3.
The healthiest fats for cooking
Saturated fats such as butter, ghee, coconut oil and lard are the best options for frying and frying. These fats are heat resistant and do not oxidize at high temperatures, unlike the less stable polyunsaturated fats contained in vegetable and seed oils.
Some monounsaturated fats such as olive oil are also a good choice for baking at high temperatures as they remain fairly stable when they are heated.
It might be best to avoid using polyunsaturated fats, such as safflower or corn oil, when cooking at very high temperatures. When they are heated, these fats are more likely to oxidize or be damaged.
Avocado oil, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, easily oxidizes when exposed to high temperatures.
At the present time, evidence suggests that vegetable oils are likely suitable for low-heat cooking for short periods. However, to minimize risk, we recommend cooking with butter, lard or other heat-resistant fats and using avocado oil to make salad dressing, mayonnaise or other condiments. not requiring heating.
To learn more about fats and sauces in low carb diets, check out our complete visual guide:
What types of grease should I avoid or minimize?
We recommend avoiding trans fats (also called partially hydrogenated oils) because of their adverse effects on risk factors for heart disease.
Fortunately, this has become quite easy to do because they are banned in Europe and are being phased out of the US food supply by 2021.
Science is less clear about the health impact of vegetable oils and processed seeds, such as safflower, sunflower, canola, corn and soybean oils.
These oils are highly processed and rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which most of us consume already more than necessary.
High oleic versions of safflower, sunflower and other oils are probably better because they contain at least 70% monounsaturated fats and very little omega-6 fats. This makes them more stable and less likely to be damaged when they are heated. On the other hand, they are still very much transformed.
Although there is no conclusive evidence that vegetable oils or seeds are harmful to health, we recommend that you consume natural fats such as butter, olive oil and coconut oil and minimize the use of highly processed vegetable oils.
How much fat should I eat?
With a low carb or keto diet, most people do not need to count calories or grams of fat. While keeping carbohydrates low and protein in a fairly wide moderate range, most people can eat as much fat as needed to feel full after a meal. This often allows the weight to stay or approach the desired range.
If you still want to calculate grams of fat, follow these general instructions:
The amount of fat you should eat with a keto or low carb diet depends on many factors, including your protein and carbohydrate intake, your current weight, and your weight goals. Do you try to lose, maintain or gain weight?
Determine your protein and carbohydrate requirements first, then fill in your remaining energy needs with fat.
Overall, keto diets contain more fat than low carb diets. A keto diet usually provides between 70 and 80% of calories as fat, compared to around 50 to 65% for a more liberal low carb diet.
You may have heard that with a keto diet, the more fat you eat, the more you lose. This is just not true. If you eat more fat than you need, you can slow down or stop losing weight, even if you eat very little carbohydrate.
This also applies to medium chain fats found in coconut oil and MCT oil, which are normally burned rather than stored. Your body is less likely to burn its own fat if it contains an excess of dietary fat, regardless of its type.
More importantly, while adding less fat to the meal can help you burn more body fat, do not make the mistake of trying to go on a diet that is low in carbohydrates and fat – a strategy that will eventually leave you hungry. Long-term starvation is neither healthy nor sustainable. Eat enough fat to feel full and full after a meal without being stuffed.
Once you reach your weight goal, adding a little more fat to meals while still eating the same amount of carbohydrates and protein can help you maintain your weight in the long run. This usually happens automatically if you follow your hunger signals.