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To Keto or not to Keto

  • Published at 01:14 pm November 3rd, 2019
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The Ketogenic diet, or simply ‘Keto’ has been circling the web for quite some time now

If you are someone who has not yet been inspired to give up your beloved carbs by this diet’s hashtag pictures on Instagram then the following breakdown is for you! Hollywood stars like Halle Berry have vouched for it and never mentioned anything about feeling hungry, angry or deprived, so if you want to know the secret to all that keep reading and know in detail about all of Keto’s truths.

First off, a Ketogenic diet is not for everyone. It is specifically beneficial for people who are overweight or diabetic. You can also get on this diet if you are looking to improve your metabolic health, which means it is a less suitable plan for athletes wishing to add large amounts of muscle or weight.

Unlike the often recommended low-fat diet, the ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that is so filling that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake. One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet.

It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. The fastest way to get to ketosis is by fasting – not eating anything – but nobody can fast forever. When ketosis happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat. It turns that fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain. The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose, or ketones.

What are ketones? Ketones are small fuel molecules produced from this diet which are alternative fuel sources for the body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.

On a ketogenic diet, your insulin levels become very low, for which fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.

Ketogenic diet consists of an increased protein intake, causes improvement in triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels, and can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. Hence there is no doubt that aside from losing your weight, you can gain a variety of other health benefits from sticking to this diet plan. 

For example, diabetes is a disease characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar and impaired insulin function. The ketogenic diet can help you lose excess fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and the metabolic syndrome. One study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by 75%. Another study in people with type 2 diabetes found that 7 of the 21 participants were able to stop using all diabetes medications. The reduced insulin levels can also play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and improve acne.

Additionally, the ketogenic diet has shown to be an effective tool for treating neurological diseases such as epilepsy, and even aid recovery after brain injury. Since it can also improve risk factors like body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar, it is a great solution for heart patients. The diet is also currently being used to treat several types of cancer and slow tumor growth. It may reduce symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and slow down its progression. 

The different types of ketogenic diet include the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), which is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet that typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs. There’s also the high-protein ketogenic diet, which is similar to SKD, but with a ratio of 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs. 

Two other types of ketogenic diet include the cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD), which involves periods of higher-carb refeeds such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days, and targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) that allows you to add carbs around workouts. These are both more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.

Now let’s have a look at all the great things you are actually allowed to eat in this diet plan! It may seem counterintuitive – eat fat to lose fat? But that’s exactly what happens on keto. It is best to base your diet mostly on whole, single-ingredient foods. Such as:

• Meat: red meat/ steak/ sausage/ chicken.

• Fatty fish/ seafood: salmon/ trout/ tuna/ mackerel.

• Eggs: pastured/ omega-3 whole eggs.

• Cheese: unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella)

• Nuts and seeds: almonds/ walnuts/ flax seeds/ pumpkin seeds/ chia seeds, etc.

• Healthy oils: primarily extra virgin olive oil/ coconut oil.

• Low-carb vegetables: most green veggies/ tomatoes/ onions/ peppers, etc.

But, as you can understand, with any health conscious decision there really are a lot of food you need to avoid, especially whatever that is high on carbohydrates. More on that list:

• Sugary foods: cold fizzy soft drinks, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.

• Grains or starches: wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc

• Fruit: all fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries

• Beans: peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.

• Root vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.

• Unhealthy fats: processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.

• Alcohol: due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.

• Sugar-free diet foods: these are often high in sugar alcohols and also tend to be highly processed, which can affect ketone levels in some cases.

Here’s a fun fact -- unlike most diets, ketogenic plans do not require supplements. But some, such as caffeine, can be useful because of its benefits for energy, fat loss and performance. So no need to give up that morning booster before work!

As with any diet or treatment, it is safe to know a few possible side effects, however rare they may be, and how to deal with them. Because even though the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while the body adapts. This is often referred to as the keto flu and is usually over within a few days.

Keto flu includes poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, digestive discomfort and decreased exercise performance. To minimize this, you can try a regular low-carb diet for the first few weeks. This may teach your body to burn more fat before you completely eliminate carbs.

A ketogenic diet can also change the water and mineral balance of your body, so adding extra salt to your meals or taking mineral supplements can help. At least in the beginning, it is important to eat until you’re full and avoid restricting calories too much. Usually, a ketogenic diet causes weight loss without intentional calorie restriction.

Having now known all of the above, if you are willing to start yourself on the ketogenic plan, gear up for reduced cravings and more energy on a diet you will actually enjoy!