Intrinsic fats vs added fats

While some perceptions of the LCHF diet include large amounts of added cream, butter, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, this is not always the case, because many wholefoods that are suitable for LCHF diets are intrinsically high in fat, e.g. nuts, salmon, avocado, coconut, lamb and other meats, eggs, cheeses, olives. These foods are rich sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals and it is possible for many people – those with low bodyweight or low energy requirements - to be well nourished without ever eating added fats in amounts greater than the relatively small amounts needed in cooking, or to dress vegetables.

Added fats provide what are called discretionary calories – the extra energy that someone needs after the core nutritional requirements of the body have been realised. This can be a relatively small amount of energy, even if one is trying to maintain a high fat-to-carbohydrate ratio, and in many cases is easily supplied by wholefoods, while those with larger frames or greater energy outputs can benefit from the energy density and high digestibility of added fats.

This often appears as a gender difference, with women having less need for added fats to maintain a LCHF or even a ketogenic diet. The vitamin E content of wholefood vegetable fats, e.g. nuts, seeds, avocadoes and olives, supplements the low vitamin E concentrations in animal fats, which by themselves are unlikely to supply optimal levels of this vitamin for everyone.

How much fat do you need to eat on a LCHF diet?

Because a primary benefit of LCHF diets is an improvement in appetite control, due to greater satiety from the current meals and easier ability to access the energy already stored in the body from previous meals, any increase in fat intake is often small in terms of real amounts eaten, and can be offset by an improvement in the quality of fat and its nutritional content.

An exception is the case of athletes with high energy requirements who trade high carbohydrate intakes for high fat intakes on LCHF diets. Athletes are highly aware of their fitness, and follow LCHF diets either because their fitness and performance improves, or because other aspects of health improve, and fitness and performance do not suffer.

LCHF, and Paleo, are nutritional principles, or templates, that can be used in the design of diets, and are not absolutely rigid prescriptions. The key is adaptability; dietary needs can change over time, and the ability to adjust and vary the amounts and types of foods eaten on a LCHF diet, including the amounts, types, and sources of fat and carbohydrate, provides a form of nutritional insurance, if such is needed.