Carbohydrates are the Antagonist in the Story of the Ketogenic Diet. FAT – is the Superhero.
There are a variety of fats that fall into an array of categories such as saturated and unsaturated fats. You hear those two words a lot. Then there are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Where do these fit in? There are three really important types of fats that I want you to walk away with a better understanding of . Omega-3, Omega-6, and MCT (medium chain triglycerides) fats.
Most fats are healthy, necessary and work together like the Superfriends. I’d like to break down these fats into their family tree to give you a better viewing angle on these carb fighters. Let’s take a look first at saturated and unsaturated fats..
It is possible to get far more scientific and detailed on the topic of fats, but I have chosen these particular parts because they generally affect you the most when trying to get results with keto. If you don’t understand what saturated fats are, join the rest of the non-scientific, non-elemental chart reading, non-chemistry world. Just under one percent of us.
Saturated fats are often visually identified as the solid fats such as butter, lard, or even coconut oil. The hardening of these fats, though, is not how the fats are categorized. They are categorized by their chemical attributes based on carbon atoms.
When atoms bond together to create molecules they connect through what are called valence bonds. Think of valence bonds as available hands to hold on to other hands with.
If you have two hands and I have two hands, we both have 2 valence bonds each. If you and I hold hands (Oooh, it’s getting cozy in here) – then you and I would each have 1 valence bond left over – the free hands that we’re not using
Imagine a group of pre-school kids standing in single file line – each holding the next kids hand. The two kids on the ends of the chain would both have one free hand each to do something else with. Mean-time the kids in the middle have both of there hands being used holding hands around them.
I have described a chain. When you hear the word fatty chain, that is the image you should think of – a chain of connected carbon atoms. MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglyceride. That means a medium length chain of carbon atoms forming a fatty acid.
Only 2 Hands? What if You Had 4 Hands?
..or 4 valence bonds. Carbon atoms have 4 valence bonds. So, to stay with the analogy they have 4 hands. Cool, huh ?! Ever wish you had some extra hands in the kitchen? I’m not talking about your spouse! 🙂
While carbon atoms are chained together in a series, all the carbon atoms in the middle of the chain now have 2 extra hands left over (valence bonds). What do they do with these hands? Oh no! Idle hands are the devil’s playground.
Hydrogen to the Rescue
Each of those carbon atoms uses their two available hands (valence bonds) to attach to two hydrogen atoms.
Ok, so blah blah blah ~~ valence bonds ~~ atoms ~~ carbon atoms ……so what !? What does this have to do with saturated fats? The answer will be prefixed with a question. What does saturated mean? Saturated means to be 100% complete. Without space left over for more. If you have a sponge and you dampen it under the faucet, would you consider the sponge saturated? No. It can still take a lot more water. In the meantime, your sponge has a lot of space connected to the air in the room.
How about you dunk that sponge in a bucket of water? NOW you have a sponge saturated with water.
For a fatty acid, what does it have to be saturated with in order to be called a saturated fat?
What makes a fat unsaturated. Based on the description above, the fatty chain would not have as many hydrogen bonds as physically possible. So, somewhere in the chain, 1 or more of those carbon atoms must be holding on to something else with those extra available hands we talked about.
Yes, indeed. So, if the carbon atom is – say – holding on to something other than a hydrogen atom with it’s 3rd hand, then the chain couldn’t be saturated with hydrogen – so we call it an unsaturated fat. This leads us to double bonds.
A double bond is where two carbons aren’t holding just one hand with each other – they are holding two hands with each other. This is called a double bond.
In the diagram below, you’ll find what resembles a family tree of sorts and where different types of fats live. Take a look and we’ll continue the discussion below.
Review of the Diagram
Lets begin the family tree with jus Fat. Fat has two children. Saturated and Unsaturated. Fat has three grand children – MCTs, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Actually, only in my chart does it look like children and grand children. This is just to help you organize it mentally.
Go back and take a look and solidify in your mind where poly and mono unsaturated fats reside. Also remember how to define them.
Saturated fat is saturated with a maximum number of hydrogen atoms therefore zero double bonds.
Monounsaturated fat has exactly 1 double bond.
Polyunsaturated fat has 2 or more double bonds.
Polyunsaturated fats are abbreviated as PUFA pronounced (poo – fuh). Sounds like a brand of toilet paper or tissue. 😉
Monounsaturated is abbreviated as MUFA pronounced the same except with a ‘M.’
PUFA (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids)
This is where the rubber begins to meet the road. You’ve been hearing all this talk about Omega-this and Omega-that. Well ~ ta-da ~~! Here it is in living color. Skip down the page a little bit and look at the chart below. See if you can identify the lineage of the Omega varieties of fats. What you should understand by looking at this is that Omega fatty acids are Polyunsaturated fats.
Again, what does polyunsaturated mean? It means they have 2 or more double carbon bonds in the carbon chain.
The way to know if a polyunsaturated fat is Omega-3, 6, or 9 is to count backwards from the end of the fatty chain until you get to the very first double bond. So, if the first double bond is found at the 3rd carbon in the chain from then – it is called an Omega-3 fatty acid. Same goes for the other Omega-x fats.
Omega-6 and Omega-3
Omega-6 fatty acids are rampant in our diet. They play a vital role in the immune system. One of their roles is to be the riot police in cases of outside bacteria intrusion or any situation where INFLAMMATION is needed. Don’t come at Omega-6 abrasively, because they will get ugly and start inflaming. Inflammation is a critical part of the bodies immune system in fighting foreign agents, healing wounds, dealing with almost ANY physical and psychological ailment you can think of.
How does Omega-6 stop it’s inflammation parties? Believe me – Omega-6 loves to party with inflammation. And if there is nothing to stop it, it will inflame inflame inflame. I can hear the words “All ~ night ~ long” in my head right now by Lionel Richie.
Omega 6 is in just about everything you eat. Unless you know better and you are eating the foods high in the anti-inflammatory fats. The (SAD) Standard American Diet socially promotes foods high in omega-6. Again, we need them. But we don’t have enough of the balance. So, who’s going to balance it out?
Omega 3 comes in 3 important categories. ALA, EPA, and DHA.
ALA is an early precursor to the other two varieties EPA and DHA. You can almost think of ALA as a sperm. And not all sperm turn into babies, do they! This explanation is ONLY to help you understand the relationship between these types of Omega-3 fats. Under ordinary circumstances only about 2-4% of ALA converts to EPA or higher. Special studies show that pregnant women can convert as much as 10%. Please don’t go get pregnant just so you can avoid getting good sources of EPA and DHA.
EPA a type of Omega-3 in the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. It competes with omega-6 over the enzymes in the inflammation process to ensure that the infected area doesn’t stay in a state of inflammation. Of course, that isn’t all it does. But, it is a very important immune system fatty acid.
DHA your brain is 60+% DHA. Yes – DHA. “Well, that’s all I have to say about tha~t.” -Forest Gump
If the brain needs it that much, lets get it some.
Take a look at the chart again, so you can see some of the food groups that contribute to ALA, EPA, and DHA.
Notice the difference in food groups where ALA and (EPA/DHA) come from. It’s pretty much cut-and-dry.
You’ll notice if you look around the site that there are lot of places where I talk about eating fish. It’s a core focus of mine in my evangelical effort to promoting a ketogenic lifestyle. Don’t jus simply eat fats. Eat healthy fats and know the difference in the kinds. You want EPA and DHA Omega-3s. You also want Omega 6 – the inflammation fire-starters.
If you search around for how much you need in Omega-6 : Omega 3 ratios, you’ll find anywhere from 1:1 ~ 4:1. I lean more toward getting them as balanced as possible. But, it *is* difficult because you can hardly touch anything without it turning to an omega-6 fat.
So – eat a lot of fish. I promote sardines and mackerel. Bigger fish have all the goods also, but they are also much more contaminated. So, it’s better to stick to the smaller fish. The smaller fish are less contaminated because they are often food for bigger fish, therefore don’t live as long – therefore don’t get exposed to as much contamination.
MUFA (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids)
Monounsaturated fats primarily come from plant-life. Both poly and mono unsaturated fats promote a healthy heart and healthy cholesterol levels.
MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides (Fatty Acids))
The most popular source of MCT is Coconut oil and and Palm oil. MCT gets it’s name because from pretty much what it sounds like. The fatty acids in it are saturated chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms bonded together making a chain- and- medium means that the length of the chain is medium in comparison to other triglyceride chains.
As a rule of thumb, the longer the chain, the longer it takes to break down in the liver to turn into energy or to do much of anything else with, for that matter. So, a medium chain fat would take even less time to break down than a long chain fat. Because it’s fat, it makes a great form of energy and breaks down fairly quickly to get into the bloodstream and to the brain.
The longer the chain the longer the breakdown. Then the really short chains are approaching sugar. Ever heard the term simple sugar or simple carbohydrate. Yep, that’s because it’s super fast at breaking down, and jacking up your insulin and – oh, don’t get me started. Just stay away from sugar. Please ~~ !
Cooking and Fat consumption
We talked about 3 forms of fats. Saturated, poly and mono unsaturated. The fewer double bonds in fat (saturated) the more stable the fat in considered.
This means it doesn’t react negatively to external energy sources as quickly as unsaturated fats. Saturated fats can tolerate higher heat.
Warning: You should not cook with unsaturated fats. It doesn’t matter if it’s extra-virgin or not. Unsaturated fats are unstable and sensitive to external energy. They will malform and turn into trans-fats which are extremely unhealthy.
Cook only with saturated fats. The best fats are :
- pure lard (not crisco or any substitute)
- pure butter (not margarine or any other substitute)
- animal fat including chicken fat.
- coconut oil – excellent choice for cooking. But, I prefer to save it for direct consumption because of the MCTs available in it which are not as commonly available in other sources. I don’t want to waste any in the frying pan.
These are all examples of saturated fat. These are by far the best for your health and for cooking.
I hope I covered enough to at least help you with something you didn’t already know. I Look forward to hearing from you.
Quiz: In what order do you think fats turn hardened the quickest when chilled between the 3 fats of Saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Leave your comments below.