Many of you have likely heard of the keto diet, but you may not be sure what it is or how it's done. In recent years, there have been so many high fat, low carbohydrate diets promoted in the health space that it can get quite confusing. The keto diet has been promoted as an effective weight loss tool, but is it safe and effective?
Basically, a ketogenic diet (keto for short) focuses on consuming healthy fats over carbohydrates and proteins as to train your body to burn fat instead of sugar for fuel. When you're not eating carbs, your body is devoid of much of the sugar (glucose) it would be burning. Therefore, your liver converts fatty acids into ketones, and ketones are burned as the body's energy source instead of glucose. This can lead to rapid weight loss and a decrease in inflammation.
The keto diet has many applications, but it is widely used today not only for weight loss, but to treat epilepsy in children as well. It has been shown that those who do not respond well to anti-epileptic medications may respond well to a keto diet.
Other benefits of the keto diet include:
Fat burning and weight loss: Because you're burning fat as fuel instead of sugar, your body has extra ketones around. Ketones actually supress ghrelin (an important hunger hormone), which keeps you feeling full longer.
Fights inflammation: The keto diet has the potential to reduce inflammation in your body, which could be protective against cancer, Alzhemier's, and even dry eye disease. In the case of cancer, it is thought that ketosis may "starve" cancer cells because they are unable to use fat as fuel.
Increase in energy: Ketosis (more on this later) increases the production of mitochondria in your body, and these little workhorses are the power houses for your cells.
Lowers blood sugar: This could be amazing for those with type 2 diabetes, and ketosis has the potential to reverse diabetes. The keto diet reduces insulin and stabilizes blood sugar, which are both extremely important when dealing with diabetes.
When starting a keto diet, it's important to realize that there are many different ratios that people will use. Tracking your fat, protein, and carbohydrate ratio is important during a keto diet to know that you're actually burning fat as fuel.
The standard keto diet suggests that 75% of your calories should come from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbohydrates. In general, you're going to choose low carb, high nutrient density foods such as vegetables, healthy fats, meat, fish, and eggs. You'll stay away from all processed foods, starches, and sugar. Below are nine foods to incorporate into your keto diet:
Avocado oil. This healthy oil should be included in your daily diet and can be used in a variety of ways, including for cooking and in homemade salad dressings. Other healthy fats to consume include MCT oil, virgin coconut oil, grass-fed butter and ghee, sunflower lecithin, and egg yolks. Try to use olive oil and nut oils sparingly. Avoid trans fats and vegetable oils, and limit your intake of unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids.
Wild caught tuna. This animal protein has very little, if any, carbs and is a great source of protein. Other great protein options include wild caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. Stay away from farmed fish and any meat from grain-fed animals.
Avocado. Our favorite food on this list! If you're vegan or vegetarian and interested in trying keto, this will be a staple in your diet and it should be a staple in any keto diet. This high fat fruit is the perfect keto diet food, and you can have it with organic eggs, make guacamole, or enjoy it all by itself.
Broccoli. Another favorite! Low starchy veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and leafy greens (spinach, kale) are great additions to the keto diet because they have very few carbs and keep you feeling full. Throw them together in a salad at lunch along with some avocado and healthy oil. You'll want to avoid starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and pumpkin.
Coconut. We love coconut, and it's easy to add into a high fat, low carb diet. Use organic coconut in smoothies, salads, plant-based yogurt bowls, and the like.
Organic eggs. Eggs are a wonderful source of protein with very little carbs, and they're a great option for those vegetarians out there as well. Enjoy eggs for any meal of the day, as they're easy to incorporate into many delicious dishes.
Apple cider vinegar. This little powerhouse is perfect for the keto diet because it's low carb and great for detoxing the body. You can drink an ounce or two in the morning with a dash of cinnamon and lemon juice, mix it into your favorite homemade dressing, or incorporate it into a marinade.
Strawberries. Berries of all kinds, including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, are low sugar fruits that can be used in a variety of dishes to provide flavor and help battle a sweet tooth. Craving sweets? Grab a handful of berries, and chow down!
Grass-fed, organic beef. We save this one for last because we're not big meat eaters and we don't promote it often. However, when following a keto diet, grass-fed, fatty meats can be a staple for many people. Other choices include lamb, venison, and organ meats, and you can include whey protein as well (although keep your protein ratio in mind!) Try to avoid chicken, and stay away from anything factory farmed or breaded.
After all this talk about the keto diet, we still have yet to dive into what ketosis actually is. And how do you know you're actually burning fat as fuel? Ketosis is simply a metabolic state which is characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in your system, and this is often the consequence of a low carboydrate diet. Diabetes can also cause ketosis in a pathological way, and fasting for days will also leave you in ketosis.
In order to get into ketosis, it is generally accepted that you will be eating roughly 30-50 net grams of carbohydrates per day, and no more. Once you're more accustomed to ketosis, you could drop down to 20 net grams although everyone is a bit different in how they react to the keto diet. Before beginning this diet, it's necessary to speak with your doctor and make sure it's right for you. For women, this is especially true because fasting and ketosis can cause hormone fluctuations that can actually make this diet much more complicated.
So, how do you know you're in ketosis? There are tests for ketones in your blood and urine, which is likely the best way to know, but a few other ways are as follows:
You're losing weight (a byproduct of burning fat as your body's fuel)
You have bad breath (this is the result of extra ketone bodies in your blood)
Loss of appetite (due to changes in your hunger hormones)
Increase in energy and focus (because your body is burning fat and increasing mitochondria in your cells)
Are you ready to try the keto diet? If you've already given it a try, let us know how it worked for you!