Keto, ketogenic, low carb, high fat…
First were told that to avoid fat like the plague, all kinds. Then we were trained to think that in order to lose weight we need to restrict calories, eat less… especially fat. But now we’re hearing something new that some find hard to wrap their brains around. What if the key to losing fat, to become a fat-burning machine, was to eat more fat?
It’s true! You need to eat fat, and lots of it.
How does the ketogenic diet work?
A ketogenic diet, or “keto” as many now refer to it, focuses on eating real, whole foods. Basically it is this: high in fat, moderate amounts of protein, and low carbohydrates. Eating this way switches our body from using carbohydrates and insulin for energy to producing ketones in the liver from dietary fat. You will quite literally change your metabolism (the way your body processes food).
Ketones take the place of glucose which we use for fuel. With a high level of ketones and a low level of glucose, the body produces less insulin.
Three types of carbohydrates:
1. Sugars (simple carbohydrate)
Sugars are simple carbs. They are quickly digested and instantly spike your blood glucose. This leads to the notorious sugar rush, followed by the inevitable sugar crash, all while taxing your pancreas and elevating insulin levels. Most of us have been advised to stay away from simple sugars. Generally, everyone agrees that sugar is not good for your health and should be avoided.
2. Starches (complex carbohydrate)
Starches take a little longer to digest because they are broken down into simple sugar first, leading to a slower rise in blood glucose levels. This delayed rise in blood sugar has led to the belief that starches are “good carbs” in many nutrition circles. However, the body actually treats sugars and starches very similar, so both must be avoided on a low carb ketogenic diet.
Fiber is the only carbohydrate that does not impact the blood sugar. A low carb ketogenic diet encourages more fiber intake for this reason. When consumed, dietary fiber is mostly passed through the digestive system instead of being broken down, contributing more to digestive health rather than nutrition. Fiber keeps you regular and does not contribute to your total carb count. You can eat fiber on a low carb ketogenic diet.
What are the benefits of the ketogenic diet?
The Ketogenic diet was originally used in treating conditions such as epilepsy.
Studies show that diets low in carbohydrates can increase weight loss.
Eating a high-fat diet is beneficial for neurological diseases and can help with Alzheimer’s disease.
A Ketogenic diet can slow tumor growth in cancer patients. Cancer feeds off of sugar and insulin. By decreasing or eliminating these, cancer has nothing to feed on.
Studies show that a ketogenic diet may help balance hormone levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Blood sugar levels and blood pressure may level out.
Those on a ketogenic diet may see changes in their skin, less acne among other conditions.
This diet helps reduce your appetite. Once you are in ketosis, you will notice that you do not get hungry like before. Unlike many restrictive diets that leave you feeling deprived and hungry, the increase in fat helps to satiate you for hours.
Healthy triglyceride levels. One study showed that levels of HDL cholesterol (good), triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (bad) all improved to optimal levels when patients followed a ketogenic diet.
How to get into ketosis
The standard ketogenic diet is very low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high in fat. Macronutrients are typically around 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs.
A ketogenic diet is comparable to the Atkins diet, however with the ketogenic diet protein is lowered. This is because our body processes excess protein as glucose in the body, this process has a fancy name called gluconeogenesis.
What to eat on a ketogenic diet
Exact macronutrient ranges differ for every individual. The exact amount of fat, protein, and carbs your body needs each day is greatly dependent on your activity level.
Carbohydrates– these should be limited or avoided altogether: sugary foods, cakes, cookies, candy, grains, beans, root vegetables like carrots, beets, and potatoes, high-sugar fruits, low-fat/sugar-free products, and alcohol
Protein– meat, fish (especially fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, tuna), eggs
Fats – butter, full-fat cream and cheese (if tolerant to dairy), nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, MCT oil, avocados, olives
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