The Keto Craze- Thoughts From a Nutritionist
I'm loving how much fats are IN this year.
The right types of fat are amazing fuel for the body and these days, you might be hearing more and more about low carb/high-fat diets like the ketogenic diet.
Firstly, I think it's awesome that we are stepping away from fearing fat in our food and including more healthy sources of fats into our diet. It's a beautiful thing after all these years of butter bashing.
What is the ketogenic diet exactly?
A ketogenic diet is one that is low carb, moderate protein and high fat. The idea is to put your body into ketosis, a state where the body begins fat as the primary fuel source instead of glucose.
This concept is not a new one! We've seen the ideology behind it come into play in diets like the Atkins diet or the South Beach Diet, but the ketogenic diet has actually been around for nearly 100 years.
Today, the ketogenic diet is being used to help support certain brain disorders (like epilepsy and Alzheimer's) diabetes, certain cancers, weight loss and more. (1)
The Importance of Quality Fats in the Diet
Fats are a macronutrient that offers a variety of important health benefits. Here are some of them:
- Helping us make hormones
- Helping to support blood sugar levels
- Helping to lubricate our joints
- Helping to form our cell membranes
- Providing a sustainable, more long-lasting source of energy
- Our brains are 60% fat, fat helps form our brain and supports and protects our nervous system
- Helping to support healthy, hydrated skin
- Helping to make our meals super satiating (and extra delicious)
SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF GOING KETO
So when in a state of ketosis, your body is burning fat for energy rather than carbohydrates, this is a great diet to help support weight loss-- excess body fat will be used up rapidly for energy. (2)
Blood Sugar Balance/ Diabetes Prevention
When operating in a fat-fueled state instead of glucose, the body experiences more controlled insulin levels. This helps to reverse insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic state) and is hugely important in supporting balanced hormones in general. When insulin levels are more controlled, it means the body doesn’t store extra energy (sugar) in the form of fat for later use, and instead taps into existing fat stores for energy-- hence the weight loss benefits mentioned above. (3)
The lowered insulin response that goes along with the ketogenic diet not only helps support blood sugar but also reduces the cravings experienced from the ups and downs of blood sugar balance. When you are "fat-fueled" people find they don't feel the need to snack as often and don't get "hangry" like they do when they are glucose fueled.
When your body is producing ketones for fuel instead of using glucose, research shows it can actually help reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairment. This is because the brain switches from using cellular energy pathways that typically aren't functioning properly (in people with brain disorders) and uses a ketone energy source instead.
When your body switches to using ketosis, this metabolic change has been shown to help reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairment. Today, we are seeing the ketogenic diet being used therapeutically for things such as Parkinson's disease, headaches, autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and what it was originally found to be beneficial for, epilepsy. (4)
Heart Health + Cholesterol Levels
Even though the keto diet is high in fat, contrary to popular belief, this diet is actually capable of lowering risk factors for cardiovascular disease including lowering LDL cholesterol (and raising HDL), triglycerides and blood glucose. (5) Despite what we used to think about fat and heart health, studies are now debunking our old mindset (6) and we see the benefits of increasing quality fat and decreasing sugar in the diet benefiting our heart health.
Examples of NON-KETO FOODS
- Starchy Veggies
- Tropical Fruits
Examples of KETO FOODS
- Low carb veggies
- Meat (grass fed beef, poultry, fish)
- Oil (olive oil, coconut, avocado, MCT, ghee)
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE BEGINNING
There are a few things I tell my clients to be wary of when jumping into the keto diet:
RAPID WEIGHT LOSS
When you start shedding fat quickly (as many people on this diet do), you need to be aware that many toxins are stored in fat cells. When your body starts burning up this fat, many of these toxins are released. I'm not trying to scare you, I promise! Your body is capable of processing it all, but it's nice to be mindful of the extra stress load and to ensure you are supporting your body with quality nutrition, good water and good fiber. You could try adding a detox tea or liver supportive supplement to your routine for extra support.
DIRTY KETO VS CLEAN KETO
As I mentioned above, it's important to be consuming QUALITY food. People have a tendency to shy away from vegetables because they are carb sources. In doing so, they eat more meat and dairy. I like to remind clients that this is a high fat, moderate protein diet. When excess protein is consumed, what isn't used is converted to glucose and stored-- this can bump a body out of ketosis-- something many people don't realize.
A diet high in meat and dairy, can be quite inflammatory and acidic for the body. It also doesn't do much to help with the above point (about supporting the body with all the good stuff --especially during rapid weight loss). Meat and dairy don't contain fiber for starters and by cutting out vegetables, you'll be missing out on some really nutrient dense nutrition. For optimal health benefits, I believe in burning clean sources of fat in combination with quality protein and a healthy balance of veggies.
When starting out on a ketogenic diet, there are some not so fun symptoms that may arise-- this is because you are shaking up your metabolic state and your body is adjusting!
Some examples of symptoms you may experience are:
- Brain Fog
- Muscle Weakness
- Constipation or Nausea
- Bad Breath
- Feeling Moody
The keto diet is a great way to break away from sugar cravings, shed weight and transform your health, especially if you struggle with any of the issues mentioned above. The thing is, not every diet works for every body and it really depends on how you feel.
My advice? Try it out and see how it feels for you.
If you do have more serious health issues, I recommend being monitored by a professional to make sure you are keeping things safe.
In any sense, cutting out the sugar is a great way to reduce inflammation, help support blood sugar and start bringing the body back into balance. I don't think anyone can go wrong with cutting out crappy sugar sources.
Let me know how it goes for you!