Keto seems to be all the rage these days as many people are adopting this new diet to lose weight, balance their blood sugar and increase their energy levels.
But what is the keto diet? Is it safe? What does it include? Find out the answers to all of your questions below!
What is the ketogenic diet?
The keto diet focuses on using ketones for energy instead of glucose, by restricting carbohydrate intake.
Ketones are a byproduct of fat metabolism and an alternate energy source that is utilized in times of starvation, carbohydrate restriction, or excessive exercise. When your body has no means of getting glucose from foods, it converts fatty acids from fats into ketones, which has been shown to promote fat burning, lower inflammation, improve blood sugar and brain function, and increase energy levels.
In order to reach a state of ketosis, an individual needs to follow a diet consisting of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate intake. Guidelines must be followed strictly.
Typically the keto diet follows a ratio of around 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs. Carbs are severely restricted to about 50 grams per day, though some individuals may need to restrict even more to reach a state of ketosis.
Who is the ketogenic diet for?
The ketogenic diet was initially created in the 1920’s to treat cases of epilepsy that didn't respond well to anti-epileptic drugs.
Nowadays, the keto diet has been adopted for many conditions and cases such as type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, PCOS, obesity, depression, autism, cancer, ADHD and schizophrenia.
What does a ketogenic diet look like?
In order to follow the keto diet properly there are some rules to follow around the foods you consume and allow:
Green salad with wild salmon cooked in grass-fed butter, ghee, or coconut oil
What are the benefits of keto?
Boosts energy levels: Though starting the keto diet can leave you fatigued, over time it can improve mitochondrial function (the powerhouse of your cells) and thus increase energy levels. You can also improve your blood sugar levels by reducing sugar and focusing on fats and protein which provide a steady supply of energy over a longer period of time.
Balances blood sugar: Sugar spikes insulin and blood sugar which can result in diabetes over time and poor blood sugar control, which are linked with many chronic diseases. Insulin is the storage hormone that responds to sugar and carb consumption by ushering glucose into the cells for energy or storing as fat for later.
The keto diet helps re-sensitive insulin receptors, which lowers fat storing and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
Fights inflammation: By decreasing sugar, you lower free radicals and inflammatory byproducts improving your overall inflammatory status. Ketones have been shown to stimulate cellular repair and create certain anti-inflammatory pathways whilst inhibiting other inflammatory pathways in the body. Improved blood sugar and lipid levels, also shown on the keto diet, are significant contributors to improving inflammatory levels in the body.
Promotes weight loss: As one of the main factors for following a keto diet these days, keto helps enhance weight loss by transitioning from a “sugar burning” state to a “fat burning” state.
By lowering carbs and focusing on fats and protein, you improve hunger signals, lower cravings, and promote satiety; which are all supportive of weight loss. As we saw, this also supports blood sugar and insulin balance by releasing less insulin and encouraging the body to reach into its fat stores for energy use instead of sugar.
Supports brain function: Ketones provide an immediate source of fuel for cognitive function, and fats are an important component of a healthy brain (which is made up of about 60% fat). The keto diet has been shown to supply neuroprotective properties, improve mood, support the development and growth of brain cells, and improve communication between neurons.
What are the dangers of keto?
The keto diet focuses on high fat and moderate animal protein and limits carbohydrates, which can result in a more acidic state and lowered phytonutrients, electrolytes and fibre.
When followed correctly, there are some side effects and symptoms (usually temporary) that you should be aware of and be prepared for. These include keto breath (metallic taste in your mouth), flu-like symptoms (headaches, chills, lightheadedness), constipation, moodiness, and fatigue.
Keto may be dangerous for those who do not exercise because ketones need to be released as energy through movement. If you are new to exercise and keto, take it slow and ask for guidance from a professional if needed.
Be cautious with the ketogenic diet and check in with your health care provider if you fit into the following:
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
History of kidney stones
History of anorexia or disordered eating
Low pancreatic function
The right way and the wrong way to do keto
The keto diet follows specific protocols and focuses on the quantity of different food groups, but does not necessarily emphasize the quality of these foods. You could follow the keto diet to a T but only eat factory farmed animal products, pre-packaged foods filled with additives, preservatives, colors, and chemicals, and hydrogenated oils like canola and sunflower oil, that can promote inflammation.
The keto diet is recommended primarily as a short-term diet as it is quite restrictive and eliminates many foods.
There are many healthy foods that usually make up a balanced diet that are omitted from the keto diet, such as bananas, quinoa, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, legumes, rice, buckwheat, oranges, dates, apples and oats.
Many foods that are not allowed provide vital vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fibre, which are crucial for good health and proper digestive function. The lack of fibre and nutrients that are commonly low on the keto diet can explain why constipation and low electrolytes are common symptoms on the diet.
If you do decide to follow the ketogenic diet, there are some things to be aware of in order to get the best health benefits:
Add as many vegetables and low sugar fruits as you can in order to get enough fibre, antioxidants and vital nutrients
Choose quality: organic/grass-fed/pasture raised animal products, healthy fats like coconut, avocado, cold-pressed virgin olive oil, and raw nuts and seeds
Focus on whole foods, rather than keto treats and packaged foods
Drink plenty of water
Ensure you are getting enough electrolytes by supplementing or consuming bone broth, leafy greens, nuts, avocado, mushrooms, and healthy salt like sea salt or Himalayan salt.
Always check with your health care provider before starting any drastic diet to make sure it is the right decision for you.