Last updated on October 4th, 2017
When I started this blog many years ago, I was eating a “low-carb” diet. Now I’m eating a “low-carb high-fat (LCHF)” diet. The change in terminology is significant.
The goal is not to replace excessive carbohydrate with excessive protein, but with quality fat.
I’m trying to get more than 70% of my daily calories from fat.
A useful tool for deciding what to eat on an LCHF diet is “Skaldeman’s fat burning quotient.” The quotient is named after Swedish diet guru Sten Sture Skaldeman, who writes about it in his 2011 book Lose Weight by Eating. The essential premise is that to promote healthy weight loss, many of us need to eat meals in which the fat content weighs as much as (or preferably more than) the carbs and the protein combined.
Simply put, the fat burning quotient is a number representing the ratio between fat and the other macro-nutrients in a food item. Take, for example, one of my favorite LCHF snacks: macadamia nuts. One serving of macadamias has about 22 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of protein. The ratio of the fat to the sum of the carbs and protein is 22: 6. Dividing the first number by the second gives us a fat burning quotient of 3.67.
That’s an excellent number. As Skaldeman explains, you want the quotient to be at least 1.0, and preferably greater. That’s when it truly qualifies as a fat burning quotient!
By comparison, a serving of roasted almonds, another popular LCFH snack, has a quotient of only 1.45 (16 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, and 6 grams of protein = 16:11 = 1.45). That’s still a good quotient for burning fat, but not nearly as good as for the macadamias.
Skaldeman recommends using the quotient to analyze the food labels you encounter in the supermarket. The grams of fat in a serving should at least equal the sum of the grams of carbs and protein. If the carbs and protein combined outweigh the fat, then the quotient is under 1.0 and the food is a less than ideal choice.
Of course, knowing that the fat burning quotient of a food is under 1.0, you could take corrective action when eating it. For instance, a half-cup of Greek yogurt has 7 grams of fat, 7.5 grams of carbs, and 4.5 grams of protein. That’s a fat to other macro-nutrients ration of 7:12, resulting in an quotient of 0.58 — well below Skaldeman’s target of 1.0. But I like full-fat yogurt, and want its active cultures in my diet.
A simple solution is to add fat. I like to mix in a tablespoon of softened coconut oil, which contains 14 grams of fat, and no grams of carbs or protein. So, the mixture’s ratio is 21:12, resulting in a good fat burning quotient of 1.75.
That’s much better! (It tastes good, too. Yogurt with coconut oil mix formed the base of my breakfast this morning.)
You could also use the fat burning quotient to evaluate a day’s eating. Yesterday (Thursday July 9), I ate 154 grams of fat, 47 grams of carbohydrates, and 94 grams of protein. That’s a ratio of 154:141, and an quotient of 1.09.
Now, if I deduct the 16 grams of fiber from my carb total, the ratio improves to 154:125 and the quotient to 1.232.
The positive fat burning quotient contributed to a modest weight loss of six-tenths of a pound. My weight this morning was back down to 217.8, my low for the year.
(For more examples of using the fat-burning quotient, see my post about pecans.)