The ketogenic diet has been around for many years however in recent times it has come back into popularity. This article is to help you understand the ins and outs of the diet and to help you determine if it is a diet that would be ideal for you.
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that is traditionally used to treat difficult-to-control epilepsy in children. (Around 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrate). However many other benefits have been discovered about this diet including better blood sugar control, weight loss and mental focus to name a few. People looking for these benefits have started to explore the diet as an option for them.
The Ketogenic diet converts the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates as its primary source of fuel. When very few carbohydrates are eaten the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies replace glucose as an energy source. The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to move your body into this metabolic state.
As with any dietary change there is an adaptation period for the ketogenic diet. This is the period of time where your body is adapting to burning fat as fuel instead of glucose from carbohydrates. In this time your body is learning to create the enzymes to break down and use fat as fuel. This period can take a few weeks or a month depending on the person. You may feel tired and lacking energy during this period of time until your body has adapted to the new conditions.
As mentioned above, there are several benefits to the diet that followers of the diet have found:
Weight Loss While Maintaining Lean Muscle Mass
The ketogenic diet essentially uses your body fat as an energy source – so there are obvious weight loss benefits. On this diet, your insulin (the fat storing hormone) levels drop greatly which turns your body into a fat burning machine.
Controls Blood Sugar
A ketogenic diet naturally lowers blood sugar levels due to the type of foods eaten. Studies even show that the ketogenic diet can be an effective way to manage and prevent type II diabetes.
Many people use the ketogenic diet specifically for the increased mental performance. Ketones are a great source of fuel for the brain. When you lower carbohydrate intake, you avoid big spikes in blood sugar. Together, this can result in improved focus and concentration.
Increased Energy and Normalized Hunger
By giving your body a better and more reliable energy source, you may feel more energized during the day. Fats are shown to be the most effective molecule to burn as fuel. On top of that, fat is naturally more satisfying and ends up leaving us in a full state for longer.
Medical Treatment for Epilepsy in Children
30% of children receiving treatment for epilepsy continue to have seizures despite intervention with medication and surgery. A ketogenic diet can be an alternative medical treatment for these children. In general, approximately 50-60% of children show 50% or more reduction in seizures. *1
Some drawbacks to the Ketogenic Diet
- People find this diet quite challenging to adhere to in the long run. You need to have a solid plan in place as it is very restrictive.
- 1-2 weeks of Keto Adaptation or more which can be very uncomfortable.
- Eating keto at restaurants or other social functions can be challenging if you don’t have a plan
- Athletes in high demand aerobic sports such as soccer or basketball will be challenge to perform on a ketogenic diet as the conversion of energy from fats is slower then carbohydrates.
- Extreme versions of the diet can damage your metabolism especially if the diet is low in calories and includes excessive exercise
- 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.
- Constipation is a primary concern for many on this diet.
This diet is NOT ideal for those with serious medical conditions such as type 1 diabetes, high blood pressure, anyone on anti-depressants, gall bladder disease, those who have had stomach bi-pass surgery, pregnant or breastfeeding women, children (other than those under close supervision of a doctor for neurological reasons), those with pancreatic insufficiency, tendency for kidney stones, very thin people or people with anorexia.
Typical foods eaten include:
- Low carb vegetables such as – kale, cauliflower, broccoli
- Meat and poultry
- Coconut Oil
- Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Butter and Cream
- Dark Chocolate
Typical foods avoided:
- Sugary foods
- Grains or starches
- Beans and legumes
- Root vegetables and tubers
- Low fat or diet products
- Unhealthy fats
Taking a holistic approach to the Ketogenic Diet is key to being successful. Since you are eating so much fat it is of the utmost importance to be eating the highest quality fats you can. Ensure there are lots of organic, plant based fats in your diet. Be sure you are eating enough calories, exercising regularly, drink lots of water and getting plenty of rest.
**Note - As with any other matter concerning your health it is important to consult your healthcare provider before starting anything new to understand if it is in the interest of your best health.
*1 – Source - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4731863/