No dietary trend is bigger than keto right now. Ketogenic diets might slightly differ from one another, but they all have one thing in common: fat. Eat fat, get slim - sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?
Not if you consume the right fats! Keto diets are all about changing how your body fuels itself as well as your perception about what a certain kind of real, whole food can do for your body. As it turns out, keto’s a pretty effective way to lose some weight, too!
When you go on a keto diet, you’re dieting to put your body through something known as ketosis. When you eat a normal diet, your body turns the carbohydrates found in fruit, vegetables, grains, and dairy into a simple sugar known as glucose. This glucose is used to fuel the body, and excess amounts are stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. Glucose and glycogen are then transported from the liver or intestines to the rest of the body through the bloodstream, and the body tries to keep it stable using insulin to regulate how much the cells take in and how much is absorbed.
So what happens when you take most of it away, as you would on Keto? You go through the aforementioned ketosis, a metabolic process in which the body, deprived of glucose for energy, uses stored fats instead, making energy and a fatty acid known ketones. The liver is key to this, as it makes and stores energy your body needs, releasing and holding back the supply based on hormone signals from insulin and glucagon. When supplies get low, the liver saves glycogen for the parts that really need it: the brain, kidneys, and red blood cells. When this supply gets really low, the liver uses fats to make an alternative fuel from ketones that replaces glucose to supply these parts with the fuel it needs.
The keto diet is specifically designed to help your body get to this ketone-making process and stay in it to burn fat. It is high fat, low protein, and super low carb, which makes it much more restrictive than many other diets. The proportions are roughly:
Right off the bat, this means no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, yams, beer, and anything with sugar: juice, soda, candy, chocolate bars, donuts, cookies, etc. We’re not going to sugarcoat this, because that wouldn’t be keto, so you also can’t eat any of the following: corn, quinoa, bananas, apples, mangoes, pineapples, most beans, chickpeas, lentils, honey, maple syrup, flavoured yogurts, ice cream, etc., etc.. Getting to ketosis is serious business, and requires a serious commitment.
The amount of time it takes for you to enter ketosis depends on your body, metabolism, and genetic makeup; some people achieve ketosis after a few days, while it may take a couple weeks for others. Generally, you know if you’ve hit ketosis when your appetite decreases and your energy goes up, but if you’re not sure, you can buy ketosis strips that measure the ketones in urine. To get to ketosis, you’ll need to count your net carbs and keep below a certain threshold, between 20 and 50 a day. But what are net carbs, and how are they different from regular ol’ carbs?
The thing about carbs is that they aren’t all the same, and these differences factor in to how you keep track of your new diet. Sugars and starches are converted into glucose by the body, whereas fibre passes through the system untouched and unabsorbed until the gut, where it ferments. Because of this, fibre doesn’t raise the glucose level, so it doesn’t need to be counted. This is where the net carbs differ from total carbs, and why it’s important to find high-fibre, low-carb foods.
Calculating net carbs is fairly easy to do: look for Carbohydrates and Fibre on the nutritional information label, and subtract the Fibre from Carbohydrates. Once you know the net carbs of food you’ve eaten, write it down or enter it into an app; you’ll want to keep it between 20 and 50 net carbs a day, which means you’re going to need a lot of high fat foods. However, just like carbs, not all fats are the same!
The keto diet focuses on fat, but it isn’t about eating deep-fried cheese to reach your health goals. It’s about consuming good fats, the real, whole, stable saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. A diet full of avocados, free-range eggs, fish, full-fat dairy, grass-fed butter, ghee, and fatty meat is the way to go. You should also cook with saturated fats, as they have a high smoke point, and while you can consume wholesome sources of poly-unsaturated fats, you shouldn’t heat them up.
Bad fats are broken, processed, and hydrogenated. Vegetable oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil – they’re all bad for you because the high heat used to make them creates free radicals. These fats are the ones giving all fat a bad name, because they increase inflammation, raising the risk of coronary and heart disease, ruining your gut health, and playing havoc with the walls of your cells.
Another culprit is omega-6s. They are already very plentiful in our diet, but an elevated intake without a balance of omega-3s has been linked to inflammatory diseases and autoimmune disorders. Your diet should focus on getting more omega-3s, so up your intake of foods like walnuts, macadamias, salmon, and cod liver oil.
The discovery of the keto diet Ketogenic Diets were initially formulated to help epileptic seizures. In the 1920s, it was found that fasting helped reduce seizures; it wasn’t entirely understood back then, but doctors have discovered that fatty acids created in the state of ketosis – ketones and decanoic acid – reduce seizure risk.[i]
Keto also has proven benefits for those with type-1 or type-2 diabetes. It lowers the body’s need for insulin because it greatly reduces the glucose levels in the blood stream.[ii] A keto diet can help lower insulin dose size and reduce the risk of dosing errors; it also can help anyone at risk of type-2 diabetes. If you have diabetes, talk to a healthcare specialist to see if keto would help you!
While low-carb still stands as a great solution for epilepsy, in the mainstream context, keto is best known as a weight-loss solution. We should all try to reduce carbs in our everyday diets, but something as strict as the keto diet should be used for weight loss in the short term. It’s been known to more benefits than just burning fat, though, and here are some of the benefits keto dieters swear by:
Once you switch your diet to keto, the first week may be a bit rough as your body transitions to ketosis. This is known as the “keto flu”, and symptoms include low energy, aches or chills, headaches, upset stomach, and even nausea. This is completely normal and will pass, so don’t worry! After a week or so, you should start to feel better and get to all the wonderful health benefits. Not everyone experiences the keto flu either, so you may get into ketosis with no negative symptoms at all.
You’ve probably gathered by now that keto can be a tough diet to stick to, even by the modern standards of dieting. It’s not easy only because we can’t comprehend a diet that is mostly fat, and this is because we’ve been conditioned to believe that all fat is bad. Nevertheless, there is so much you can eat! Here are the fats that should be your main focus:
These standards mean you can also eat bacon, lamb, poultry, and steak! Yes! However, for all your choices, you should do your best to be as clean as possible, so stay away from processed and factory farmed meats, conventional offerings of fatty foods like mayo, and genetically modified ingredients. When choosing poultry, go with the dark meat of organic or grass-fed chicken and turkey.
You’ll need more vitamins, minerals, and variety than these three fats can give you. The fruits and vegetables food group is here to help, but you have to be picky. Here are some fruits and veggies to eat:
Avoid large fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, mangoes, pineapple – anything that’s sweet. There’s just way too much sugar involved!
But how can you tide yourself over between meals? On a keto diet, snacking is easy because a) you’ll feel fuller after your meals, and b) there are many filling, delicious foods that accommodate your diet perfectly!
Keto-appropriate drinks are easy to come by:
Make sure to avoid fruit juices, soda, and most alcohol. A glass of red wine now and again won’t hurt though!
If you’re in doubt, do some research and read the nutritional information. You’ll find the keto diet is very easy to follow, and can help you discover new tastes you might never have discovered!
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