With a high number of studies recently surfacing that show the potential benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet, people across the world have fully embraced something that was previously avoided like the plague – fat.
The ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920’s and takes a different approach to weight loss and health to other common diets based upon an understanding of physiology and nutritional science. The underlying concept of the ketogenic diet in simple terms is to change the body’s primary fuel source from glucose to fat.
What The Keto Diet Is All About
The ketogenic diet was originally developed for patients with epilepsy. Researchers discovered that fasting appeared to reduce the frequency of seizures in epileptic patients. The ketogenic diet was developed to mimic the same effects of fasting through the strict elimination of glucose that is found in carbohydrate foods. Researchers discovered that this diet also had other positive side effects in that it helped to reduce body fat, lower blood sugar levels and ward off hunger.
The human body does not make glucose and can only store around 24 hours’ worth in muscle tissue and the liver. Upon eliminating glucose, the body then switches to burn dietary fat or stored fat. The keto diet has shown when people make this switch, excess body fat can be lost relatively quickly, even though a high amount of fat and calories are still being consumed.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis occurs when the liver breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol. In particular, three primary types of ketone bodies are produced. Once ketone levels in the blood rise to a certain point, the body enters into a state of ketosis. Rather than drawing energy from glucose, a person in ketosis stays fueled off of these circulating ketones or ketone bodies.
Studies have suggested that burning ketones, and being in a state of ketosis, is a ‘cleaner’ way to stay energized compared to running on carbohydrates and sugar. Keeping the body in this fat-burning metabolic state is where the benefits of this diet are believed to come into play.
Benefits of the Keto Diet
WEIGHT LOSS:Weight loss has been shown to be successful and oftentimes immediate on a keto diet. In one Spanish study of 20 obese adults, participants were put on a low-calorie keto diet and lost an average of 40 pounds over four months.
HEART DISEASE:Recent research shines light on how low-carb diets can optimize cholesterol levels and, in fact, improve heart health.
BRAIN HEALTH:A European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study pointed to emerging data that suggested the benefits of a ketogenic diet for multiple neurological disorders beyond epilepsy and Alzheimer’s, including headaches, neurotrauma, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disorders, autism and Multiple Sclerosis.
TYPE 2 DIABETES:When the body consumes carbohydrates, insulin is released as a reaction to elevated blood glucose causing insulin levels to rise. Insulin is a signal for cells to store as much available energy as possible, initially as glycogen and then as body fat. The ketogenic diet keeps the body’s carbohydrate stores almost empty, which levels out blood sugar levels and may also reverse insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes.
A ketogenic diet significantly changes the human body and side effects are commonplace – some positive and others less so. It’s not uncommon to experience some negative reactions when transitioning into this way of eating. The ‘keto flu’ is a common term that umbrellas many the most likely and less serious side effects. A comprehensive list of possible side effects includes: Headaches, bad breath, fatigue, lack of energy, muscle weakness, muscle pain, poor sleep, constipation, nausea or upset stomach, brain fog, moodiness, lowered libido, reduction in bone density, risk of kidney stones, low mucous production.
FOODS TO INCLUDE
High amounts of healthy fats including olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, palm oil, and some nuts and seeds. All sorts of unsweetened, non-starchy vegetables including broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, all types of leafy greens, asparagus, cucumber, and zucchini. Moderate amounts of protein including grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, cage-free eggs, bone broth, wild-caught fish, organ meats and some full-fat (ideally raw) dairy products.
FOODS TO LIMIT
Full-fat dairy such as cow and goat milk. Medium-starchy veggies like sweet peas, carrots, beets and any kind of potatoes. Legumes, beans and soy foods. Nuts, seeds and nut butters
FOODS TO AVOID
Any type of sugar, including natural sugars like raw honey or maple syrup. All grains, including oats, wheat, rice, quinoa, pasta and corn. Processed foods like chips, cakes, candy, crackers, pre made packaged foods. Alcohol, soda and sweetened beverages