The Ketogenic (Keto) Diet has recently gained a lot of popularity because of some of its health benefits. Many of you know people who have lost weight using this approach and have asked me for my thoughts, so here they are.
The Keto diet is a very low carb, very high-fat diet and it has been shown to help some people lose weight (yes, even with high fat!). It can also help improve certain health conditions, like epilepsy.
It is based on training your body to burn fat (through “ketosis”) instead of glucose.
What is “ketosis?”
Carbohydrates (sugars & starches) that break down to glucose are the preferred fuel for your brain and muscles. They will use glucose first, whenever it’s available. This is why maintaining stable blood sugar impacts your attention, mood, and energy level.
However, when glucose is not available for fuel, your body starts making compounds known as “ketones.” These are your body’s backup fuel made from fat. The term ketogenic actually means “the generation of ketones.”
After being on a low carbohydrate diet for a period of time, your blood level of ketones starts to increase. This is the metabolic state known as “ketosis.” It’s the depleted supply of glucose as fuel that’s the trigger for the body to turn fat into ketones for fuel instead.
NOTE: “Ketosis” from a ketogenic diet is not the same thing as the dangerous condition known as “ketoacidosis.”
Keto and Weight Loss
With a high fat intake, it may be surprising to know that studies show that a ketogenic diet is effective for weight loss.
For example, 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?
One reason is that eating 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.
And by eating enough fat and protein to go into “ketosis,” you will likely feel fuller for longer so that you eat less food overall. And of course, this helps with weight loss.
Keto and Your Health
Some studies show other health benefits of the ketogenic diet.
- One study showed improved blood triglycerides (fat) and cholesterol numbers
- Other studies show lower blood sugar levels, and even up to 75% improvement in insulin sensitivity.
- Several studies show reduced seizures in children who follow a keto diet.
- The keto diet has shown improvements in symptoms of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Changing your metabolism can have health effects that are beneficial for some people.
Not everyone should go on a keto diet. Make sure you speak with a trained healthcare practitioner before you try it. It can have side effects, including the infamous “keto flu.”
The traditional keto diet is restrictive and can be difficult to stay on for a long period of time. It involves eating macronutrients in the following proportions:
- 60-75% of your calories from fat,
- 20-35% from protein, and
- 5% from carbs.
The foods to focus on for a ketogenic diet are meat, fatty fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb vegetables (e.g. cucumber, celery, peppers, zucchini, leafy greens, etc.).
The main thing to avoid are foods that are high in carbs. These include sugary foods and desserts, grains, fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables, and alcohol.
Using any kind of restrictive diet has limitations and can be done in an unhealthy way. For the keto diet, because of the limits placed on carbohydrates such as fruit and vegetables, many people lack adequate amounts of fiber and micronutrients and some experience other unwanted side effects. And, the keto diet can be hard to adhere to long-term.
Due to these concerns, my preferred nutrition plan includes a modified form of these principles that is much easier to sustain with a delicious variety of foods and similar long-term benefits. This is what I teach in my Finding Foodease Program.
The ketogenic diet is very popular since it can be helpful for weight loss, and other health conditions.
It’s not for everyone and can result in missing important nutrients in your diet. So, make sure you check with a knowledgeable practitioner to help you before you begin.