During the month of July, we are focusing on debunking diets at Healthoholics. Ketogenic diets are all the rage right now! It seems you can’t turn a corner, have a conversation, or scroll through the internet without seeing or hearing something about Keto. So, we’re covering the most popular current “fad” diet this week — The Ketogenic (aka “Keto“) Diet!
What is Keto?
The Ketogenic diet, also known as Keto, is a very low carbohydrate (5 – 10%), high fat (70 – 80%), moderate protein (20 – 25%) diet.
If nothing else, I’m glad to see the idea that “fat makes you fat” being pushed to the wayside. We need fat! Every single cell in your body is made with a phospholipid membrane. LIPIDS are fats!
When you eat high fat and low carb it sends the body into a process called “ketosis”, where fat is used as a primary source for energy. To achieve this, carbohydrates must be kept low since the body will use carbs as a preference, since it is less work. Your body can also turn protein to sugars through a fancy process called “gluconeogenisis” (more on that next week), so moderate protein is also advised.
It can take between 2 – 7 days to enter ketosis when being very strict. If you lapse a little with a glass of wine or have an accidental lower fat day it can take longer to get there. If you lapse when already in ketosis, that may bump you out.
How To Do A Keto Diet?
Where to get all your fat:
- Eggs *if tolerated
- Seeds (Chia, Pumpkin, Sunflower)
- High-fat nuts (Brazil nuts, Pecans, Macadamia, Walnut)
What else can you eat?
- Dark leafy greens: beet, collard and dandelion greens, arugula, bok choy, chard, cilantro, parsley, lettuce, spinach romaine
- Other green foods: artichoke, asparagus, avocado, cabbage, celery, cucumber, peppers, kale, zucchini
- Colourful food: beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, peppers, radicchio, radishes, rutabagas, sea vegetables, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips
- Lower glycemic fruit with the preference going to berries: apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, kiwi, lemons, limes, strawberries, plums, raspberries, rhubarb
- Animal protein (organically raised and wild, pastured or grass-fed is preferred): beef, bison, chicken, duck, elk, fish, lamb, pork, shellfish, turkey, venison and the organs of these animals
Also, don’t forget you’ll need to drink more water. While there is no set amount, drinking enough water so urine output is clear and pale is a good guide.
Foods to Avoid:
- All grains (wheat, rye, barley, corn, quinoa, oats)
- Processed meats (especially those that contain gluten or nitrates)
- Legumes and beans, including peanuts and green beans
- vegetable oils (corn, canola, soybean) and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
- soy (coconut sauce/previously known as coconut aminos are a good substitute)
- all foods sweetened with sugar, HFCS, and artificial sweeteners
- all foods containing MSG
My experience with Keto:
I first explored the idea of a strictly Ketogenic diet when working with a client who was trying to manage her Multiple Sclerosis and found the work of Dr. Terry Wahls. In her work Dr. Wahls has found keto helpful for a variety of “dis”-eases including Neurodegenerative Disease (ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s), Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Traumatic Brain Injury or Concussion and Auto-Immunity.
Benefits of Keto:
The Ketogenic diet has been shown to facilitate weight and fat loss, improve memory and mental focus, and has been shown to reduce and even reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s, cancer, cardio vascular disease, depression, epilepsy, inflammation, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), infertility and migraines.
Weight loss – This occurs for a variety of reasons.
- A reduction in appetite due to higher satiety from fat and protein.
- Better balance of hormones that control appetite with lowered insulin response due to lower carbohydrate intake.
- Reduction in fat storage coupled with an increase in fat burning.
- Increased metabolic energy expenditure to convert fats to ketones in the liver.
Blood Sugar Balancing
Too much sugar, whether from sweeteners, refined carbs or simply over indulging in fruits and “healthy” whole grains, can impair brain function. Dr. Mark Hyman says in the film Fed Up, “You can have a bowl of cornflakes with no added sugar, or you can have a bowl of sugar with no added cornflakes. Metabolically, it’s the same breakfast!” Yet what do most of us eat for breakfast? It’s cereal, toast, bagels or instant oatmeal, providing almost instant blood sugar spikes. High blood sugar can cause plaque build-up in the brain and in the arteries. Preventing and reversing these plaques improves brain function and heart health. Lowering overall inflammation caused by excess carbohydrate intake improves mood, memory and joint health.
Furthermore, there can not be hormone balance without first establishing blood sugar balance. It is a systemic impossibility. The evidence suggests many ways in which insulin can increase androgen (male sex hormone) production, making a ketogenic approach a promising option for those with PCOS and infertility.
Keto flu. It’s a real thing. While your body adjusts to a lower carb diet you can feel a variety of unpleasant symptoms including body aches and nausea.
Constipation. If you get all caught up in upping fat and forget about fibre from vegetables, chia or berries, and don’t drink enough water things can get a bit uncomfortable.
It’s next to impossible to feel good and absorb all the necessary nutrients from a Ketogenic diet if you have any sort of gallbladder issues or have had your gallbladder removed. So, if you have gallbladder issues, this may not be the diet for you, or you may need to take some digestive enzymes and supplementary bile.
Things to consider:
With keto, like most ways of eating there is a way to do it poorly: think aerosol cheez, hot dogs, artificial sweeteners and next to no plant food. And, like most ways of eating there is a way to do keto to promote overall health: high quality fat and well raised protein coupled with naturally low carb vegetables like leafy greens and a little fruit.
If you’re already familiar with the Ketogenic diet you may have noticed above that I didn’t include dairy in the Keto-approved list. That’s not because it isn’t keto-compliant, but because over 70% of North American’s do not tolerate it well. I recommend going 3 – 6 weeks without dairy, then, once you’re seeing improvements, do a slow reintroduction of dairy and watch for signs and symptoms that it is may not be agreeing with you. If your weight loss plateaus, your pain and inflammation return, or you notice other changes, listen to your body and take it back out of your diet. You don’t need dairy to be on a Keto diet.
In short, make sure you’re consuming adequate plant foods, lots of leafy greens, and high-quality proteins and fats even while doing a keto-diet. Take some time to transition from your current diet to a keto lifestyle over the course of several weeks. This will help avoid the nausea and digestive discomfort that can arise from rapid change. Once you enter ketosis and become fat-adapted, you’ll likely experience better weight management, improved blood sugar balance, and mental clarity, among the many other benefits.