Ketogenic Diet 101
The ketogenic diet is a very low carb, very high-fat diet.
It's recently gained a lot of popularity in wellness circles because of some of its health benefits. A ketogenic diet has been shown to help some people lose weight (yes, even with high fat). It can also help improve certain health conditions, like epilepsy in children. In fact, the ketogenic diet originated as a treatment for epilepsy....crazy right?!
Read on for the lowdown on keto & how it reprograms your metabolism and whether or not it’s something for you to consider.
What is “ketosis?”
Carbs (sugars and starches) are what our bodies (brain and muscles) use for fuel. Sugars and starches break down into glucose and this is what the body uses for energy. It’s a little known fact that the body can actually burn fat as fuel. But for most of us it is a very inefficient process because there is usually so much glucose to use up that the body never switches over to burning fat.
However, when very low amounts of carbs are available for fuel, your body will start to burn fat. It does this by making compounds known as “ketones.” These are your body’s “backup fuel.”
Ketogenic literally means “the generation of ketones.”
Over time if you minimize carbohydrates, ketone production will increase. This is a metabolic state known as “nutritional ketosis.” It’s the same process that your body goes through if you’ve fasted for 72 hours and have deleted your carb stores. When little or no carbs are present the body will turn fat into ketones.
This is a natural adaptation that gives the body the ability to maintain a stable state of balanced fuel for your organs. Nutritional ketosis is a beneficial process. “Ketosis” is not the same thing as the dangerous condition known as “ketoacidosis.” This occurs mostly in Type 1 diabetics or late stage type 2 diabetics with advanced pancreatic burnout.
Ketogenic diet for weight loss
With a high fat intake, it may be surprising to know studies show that a ketogenic diet is effective for weight loss. But it’s true!
It can also have better results than low-fat diets. At least one study showed that people lost 2.2 times more weight on a ketogenic diet than those on low-fat or calorie-controlled diets. How is this possible?
Eating all that fat and protein is filling! It helps release satiety hormones that tell us that we’re full and satisfied, and we don’t need to eat anymore. Many people don’t need to count calories or track food intake, as they do with low-fat or calorie-controlled diets. So, by eating enough fat and protein to go into “ketosis,” you can actually feel fuller and eat less food overall. Of course, this can help with weight loss.
Ketogenic diet for improved health
Some studies show other health benefits of the ketogenic diet. As you can imagine, having very low levels of carbs can help reduce blood sugar and insulin issues. One study showed improved blood triglycerides (fat) and cholesterol numbers. Others show lower blood sugar levels, and even up to 75% improvement in insulin sensitivity. Several studies show reduced seizures in children who follow a ketogenic diet. There is also some evidence that a ketogenic diet can be beneficial in lowering risk, even preventing and treating, some types of cancers. And it could be viewed that eating a ketogenic diet which eliminates sugars and processed refined foods is anti-inflammatory and therefore beneficial for other chronic illnesses.
What exactly is a ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet involves getting 60-75% of your calories from fat, 20-35% from protein, and just 5% from carbs.
The foods to focus on for a ketogenic diet are meat, poultry, fatty fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb vegetables (cucumber, celery, peppers, zucchini, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower etc.) The main thing to avoid are foods that are high in carbs. These include highly refined sugary foods and desserts, grains, fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables, alcohol and “diet foods.
Should I try a ketogenic diet?
Not everyone should go on a ketogenic diet. Make sure you speak with a trained healthcare practitioner before you try it. You should expect to go through a transition period where you could experience some side effects as you move from burning glucose to fat. Some people experience flu like symptoms called the “keto flu.” Including symptoms such as digestive upset, bad breath, fatigue, frequent urination and constipation. But if you stick with it, these symptoms should pass. Many people also find it restrictive and are unable to stay on it for a long time. I have found this happens more often than not, and people tend to gain back the weight they have lost over time......
A ketogenic diet might NOT be right for you if you have issues with gallbladder, kidney stones or pancreas, if breastfeeding, pregnant or have a history of disordered eating.
So what does this all mean??
The ketogenic diet is super popular these days. While it has been shown to have some benefits for weight loss, it's my personal opinion that it should be reserved as a therapeutic diet for specific health conditions. It has been used since the 1920's as a therapeutic intervention for diseases like epilepsy, obesity, diabetes, neurological disorders, cancer and many other pathological diseases.
It’s now going mainstream, but it’s not for everyone. I truly believe that it all depends on your health goals, the current state of your health, and any conditions you are dealing with. You’ll want to consider these before jumping on the bandwagon.
As with any dietary changes I always recommend listening to your body and trying things out with an experimental mindset.
There are definitely some insider tricks and tips for doing keto the right way. Before you embark on a keto diet, do your research and find a knowledgeable practitioner who can guide you through it.
Super easy (Ketogenic) Frozen Coconut Macadamia Bark
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (shredded works too but I like the bigger flakes)
1 1/2 cups raw, unsalted macadamia nuts
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 tablespoon chia seeds – black or white
Pinch of sea salt
Place the flaked coconut in a skillet on the stove top, heat to medium high and stir it constantly until it lightly browns. Process the macadamia nuts and coconut oil in a food processor until very smooth. Add the coconut flakes and chia seeds and pulse a few times. Pour the batter onto a small baking sheet with a lip. Sprinkle the sea salt over top. Freeze for about 1 hour. When ready break the bark into chunks and enjoy straight out of the freezer.
Coach Tip: These are (high fat) and super rich. Don’t eat too many!
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