Animal Fats versus Plant Fats

The age old debate of whether animal fats versus plant fats and which are better has been going on for a long time. Results are typically inconclusive, with most new studies pointing towards the positive effects that having a healthy balance of both can provide.

Usually, this wouldn’t be a debate that great concerns the typical person. But if you’re on the keto diet, where 60-70% of your diet will be made up of fat, this question suddenly becomes an important one.

While being able to eat fat for most of your meals seems like a great deal, a keto diet is still a diet, meaning that you have to take care to only eat healthy fats – at least, as much as possible. When choosing between fats and trying to figure out what the best options are, you are likely to stumble across both animal and plant fats and might just start wondering which one is the best for you.

To begin, let’s get one thing out of the way: neither animal nor plant fats are better than the other. In fact, sticking to only one type of fat can do more harm than good to the body. You need a healthy balance of both healthy plant fats and healthy animal fats in order to be at optimum health. So it’s not a question of whether to eat plant or animal fat, it’s what kinds to eat, and in what amounts.

Let’s talk about what each type of fat is in greater detail and what they have to offer.

Animal Fats

Animal fat has been given a bad rep for decades, and is still wrongfully considered bad for health, all because of its higher saturated fat content. Early research suggested at the time that saturated fat was responsible for obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, and other similar diseases. But modern research has completely overturned those ideas, and any updated expert today will tell you that it’s sugar that causes all the aforementioned diseases and that saturated fat is actually really good for you.

What does this mean? You should eat just as much animal fat as you do plant fat! Animal fats are wonderful sources of nutrients and are often more filling than plant fats. Just remember to have a good amount of both and not to do either in extreme, because too much animal fat and too much saturated fat isn’t good for you.

Here are some examples of great Animal Fats you can choose from on the keto diet:

• Butter
• Ghee
• Red meat
• Poultry fat
• Cream
• Lard
• Eggs

Plant Fats


No one’s really said anything negative about plant fats, especially when it comes to vegetable oils. But, like what happens with anything you eat too much of, exclusively choosing plant fats over animal fats can have serious negative consequences and overall just be more trouble than it’s worth. Vegetable oils also often have a tendency to appear wholesome on the outside but actually be very processed, sneaking unwanted food classes into your diet when you least expect it. On top of all that, the heart disease that saturated fat is blamed for? That’s actually the fault of too much liquid vegetable oils!

With that being said, nothing should stop you from consuming plant fats in balance with animal fats. Plant fat isn’t bad for you in itself, not by far – it’s just no good in excess. You can even slightly skew the balance either way depending on what works best for you, as long as you don’t overdo either side. Plant fats are essential to the keto diet, just like animal fats mostly are.

Here are some great Plant Fats you can choose from on the keto diet:

• Extra virgin olive oil
• Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
• Sesame oil
• Chia seeds
• Nut and nut oils
• Avocados and avocado oil
• Coconut oil
• Palm oil
• Cocoa butter

The Real Decisions Around Fat You Should Be Concerned With:

As you can see, there isn’t much difference between the animal and plant fat in terms of healthiness. Both share some of the same qualities and a combination and balance of the two fats is the best way to go when planning your meals.

Instead of choosing between animal and plant fats, the more important thing to do is to choose which kinds of fat to eat. Fats are divided into a few different categories, and there are three kinds of fats that you should be eating on the keto diet. Here are the categories of fat and what to expect from them.

1. Saturated fats

There has been plenty of negative press around saturated fats, but they are incredibly important to the body. They allow for good levels of bone density, maintain hormone levels, and ensure that your immune system is in tip top shape. Countless studies have proven that saturated fats are a necessary part of a diet and that they are not linked to heart disease in any way at all!

There is also a particular type of saturated fat that contains medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs. These are typically found in coconut oil, but are also found in smaller amounts in palm oil and some kinds of butter. They’re incredibly easy to digest and are well known for being able to pass almost straight away to the liver upon consumption, allowing them to be used for immediate energy.

This makes it the best kind of fat for athletes, and also a great fat burner. Saturated fats also have a high smoke point, making them great for cooking for a ketogenic diet.

Here are some great sources of saturated fats:

• Red meat
• Butter
• Ghee
• Eggs
• Lard
• Cocoa butter
• Cream
• Coconut oil
• Palm oil

2. Monounsaturated fats


These fats have slowly but surely begun to be accepted by the wider community of the world as relatively healthy. Eating enough monounsaturated fats can do wonders for your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, and they’re known to improve insulin sensitivity and resistance. On top of that, they are said to lower heart disease risk and help lessen belly fat.

Most monounsaturated fats are vegetable fats and oils, and while you may be tempted to use them for cooking, they are actually better for finishing up meals, throwing in a little extra fat at the end of cooking, or garnishing and drizzling over plated meals. Basically, they’re best for cold use, as they’re less stable than saturated fats are.

Here are some great sources of monounsaturated fats:

• Olive oil
• Avocados and avocado oil
• Macadamia nut oil
• Egg yolks
• Goose fat
• Lard and bacon fat

3. Polyunsaturated fats

Once again, these are mostly plant fats and vegetable oils. However, not all polyunsaturated fat is good for you, and they’re one of the trickier classes of fats. This is because many sources of polyunsaturated fats are highly processed. “Heart healthy” oil spreads like margarine and “wholesome” liquid vegetable oils are known to contribute to heart disease.

Processed, non-natural polyunsaturated fats contain a ton of double bonds in their chemistry that causes them to react to oxygen when heated.

This causes them to dispel compounds like free radicals that are not good for you, and there are actually links between the oxidative damage that this process causes and heart disease, and even cancer.

At its best, these double bonds cause more inflammation within our bodies, meaning that there aren’t many redeeming qualities to them,

However, not all polyunsaturated fat is bad – plenty are very healthy and are great for you! Polyunsaturated fats are your main source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which are both essential for our bodies. Eating a balance of both omega fatty acids is vital for your health.

Do keep in mind that the oils that are made from polyunsaturated fat are really not great options for high-heat cooking. In fact, they’re much more unstable than other members of the fat family and are best for light cooking, or, even better, as a garnish or drizzle over finished meals.

So what’s the verdict on polyunsaturated fats? Eat them, but less of them than you do saturated and monounsaturated fats, and at the same time, don’t fear those healthy fats!

You can find the healthy kinds of polyunsaturated fats in their naturally occurring states in fatty fish and animal protein. It’s the processed fats you want to stay away from, as they will negatively affect your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, while good, natural polyunsaturated fats will positively improve them.

Good versions of these fats will also reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders.

Here are some great examples of healthy polyunsaturated fats:

• Fatty fish and fish oil
• Walnuts
• Nut oils
• Chia seeds
• Sesame oil
• Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
• Olive oil
• Avocado oil

4. Trans fats

This kind of processed fat is the worst kind of fat there is and should be avoided at all costs. Trans fats are designed in order to last longer and have a big shelf life, but the reason this is possible is because they have been chemically processed and modified.

This is done through a process known as hydrogenation, whereby hydrogen is added to fats. When consumed, they worsen HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, and these kinds of fats have the strongest link to heart disease of all fats.

If you’re planning on buying something and read the word “hydrogenated” on the ingredients label or see that it has trans fats, put the product down and buy something else.

But could there be a good side to trans fats? Contrary to popular belief, yes, there is a good side – sort of. As usual, the bad kinds of trans fat are all heavily processed, but did you know that trans fats can occur naturally? That’s right!

A particular kind of trans fat known as vaccenic acid is a natural part of some foods and can reduce the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, and some have even theorized that it plays a role in preventing cancer and lowering your risks of developing cancer.

Vaccenic acid isn’t something you’ll see on ingredient labels, which is why any kind of listed trans fats or hydrogenated ingredients on a nutrition sheet are bad. Instead, this kind of fat will come naturally when you eat grass-fed animal products and is also present in high quality dairy fats, such as yogurt and butter.

So what’s the bottom line with fats?

When choosing what kinds of fat to use, the decision between animal and plant fat isn’t really something you need to concern yourself with. You need a balance of both kinds, and the trick to using them healthily is knowing what they are best used for. Instead of focusing so much on whether a fat comes from a plant or an animal, focus on the overall quality of the fat. Here are some points to look out for.

1. Smoke points. Oils that have high smoke points can be used for high heat cooking without worrying about any chemical reactions taking place. “Burning” oil, or cooking it above its smoke point, will damage it and jumpstart a bunch of dangerous chemical processes that result in free radicals being released into your meals. Make sure you know which oils and fats are best used for cooking and which are best used as a finishing touch.

2. Oxidation rate. This ties in with smoke points, as when an oil reaches its smoke point, its oxidation rate will increase. However, oils and fats can also oxidize due to exposure to certain elements, like light, moisture, and even oxygen, all while they’re sitting on the shelf well below smoke point. Be sure to research your fats before purchasing!

3. Shelf life. Saturated fats last between one and two years, monounsaturated fats last between six and twelve months, and polyunsaturated fat lasts for just two to six months. There’s nothing wrong with buying oils with a low shelf life; just make sure to throw them out, use them all, or replace them by the time they’re turning rancid. Rancid oil means there are free radicals in them, and they won’t taste great, either.

In short, both animal fats and plant fats are decent choices; just use them in moderation, and learn to use them well!

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