What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
There are a variety of ways of eating that people choose for health and/or philosophical reasons. One of these ways of eating is the ketogenic diet, or keto for short. The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet that focuses on drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it primarily with fat. Someone on the standard keto diet aims to consume 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs.
Glucose, found in abundance in high carb foods, is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy. When glucose is provided in abundance, consumed fats are not needed and are stored in fat cells. On typical high carb diets the body will always default to glucose as the main source of energy, sometimes resulting in more stored fat than is desired.
By lowering the intake of carbs, the body can be put into a metabolic state known as ketosis. Ketosis is the natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. In this state the body breaks down fats in the liver and converts them to ketones which can supply the brain with essential energy.
The goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to sustain the state of ketosis by withholding most carbs. There are a number of benefits once the body is burning fat as its primary energy source.
Controlled Blood Sugar — Because carbohydrates can lead to spikes and drops in the body’s glucose levels, a keto diet can help maintain more consistent blood sugar levels.
Weight Loss — As glucose levels are lowered and stabilized, insulin levels are also lowered. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone, so lower levels result in less stored fat. Also, since the body is burning fat for energy, this may lead to substantial weight loss.
Less Hunger — It is often drops in blood sugar that cause our body to crave carbs and lead us to eat more. Along with fewer cravings, fat is also very satiating so consuming more of it can cause us to feel more satisfied with less food overall.
Mental Focus — Most of our brain tissue is made up of fatty acids, which must be obtained from our diet, so focusing on consuming healthy fat is great for brain health. Ketones have also been shown to be great fuel for the brain, leading to less brain fog and better concentration.
A ketogenic diet is a big shift from our typical North American fare, so what foods should be avoided and included to help your body reach a state of ketosis? Basically any food high in carbs should be limited or avoided so this means you should cut out sugars (obviously), grains, legumes, beans, root vegetables, and most fruit. Instead, base the majority of your diet on foods such as meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, healthy oils, avocados and plenty of low-carb veggies like dark leafy greens, peppers, onions, and tomatoes.
With proper focus on healthy fats the keto diet can be very beneficial for your health.