By Cindy Hardie
The high fat low carb diet is hot right now. Also known as the keto diet, this diet, is about changing how your body fuels itself, as well as changing your perception that fat will make you fat.
When you go on a keto diet, you’re putting your body through something known as ketosis, a metabolic process in which the body, deprived of glucose for energy, uses stored fats instead, making energy and a fatty acid known as ketones.
More specifically, by limiting your carbs and increasing your fat intake your body will go into a state of ketosis. The body adapts, and fat becomes the primary fuel source for your body and brain instead of carbs. When you are burning fat, your liver produces ketone bodies, which are used as fuel. As your body becomes fat-adapted you can utilize both the fat you ingest and your own body fat as fuel. Ketosis is the metabolic state of having ketones in the blood, typically above 0.5mmol/L. This metabolic adaptation is what allowed our ancestors to survive periods of famine.
Once you are fat adapted insulin levels become very low, it is easy to access your own body fat as energy. Many people lose weight, other benefits include less hunger, which means less cravings and better compliance. Many people report feeling a steady supply of energy, clearer thinking and focus. Less sugar and processed foods in your diet will lead to less chronic inflammation throughout your body.
Let’s Get Started!
For most people on the ketogenic diet the calorie breakdown is low carb (5-10%), moderate protein (15-20%) and high healthy fat consumption (70%). A key component is to focus on nutrient dense whole foods and eliminate processed foods and sugar.
Best carbs are low starch vegetables, fermented foods, and resistant starch in moderation. All starchy carbs (grains, breads, beans, legumes), root vegetables, and most fruit is eliminated.
Choose broccoli, spinach, kale, parsley, cilantro, swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, beet greens, brussels sprouts, asparagus, mushrooms, cucumber, tomatoes, and cauliflower. In moderations choose raspberries, blackberries, blueberries. For example: 1/2 Cup blueberries 7g net carb, ½ cup broccoli 2g net, 1 cup mixed greens 0.5g net carbs.
Moderate protein is about portion size. Red meat, pork, poultry and seafood average 6 to 9 grams of protein per ounce, so a 3-ounce serving of meat or seafood will provide about 18 to 27 grams of protein. Eggs contain about 6 to 8 grams of protein per egg, so an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12 to 16 grams of protein. Seeds and nuts contain on average 4 to 8 grams of protein per quarter cup, but usually contain carbs as well. Most vegetables contain about 1 to 2 grams of protein per ounce.
Healthy fat usually requires a mental shift. Unprocessed, non-oxidized fats are healthy, can be used as fuel, and have no impact on insulin. Sauté foods in grass-fed butter, ghee, lard, tallow, duck fat, bacon fat, coconut oil or palm oil as these have high smoke points and are very stable for cooking. Avocados, coconut butter, cream and oil, pastured eggs, olives, cacao butter, MCT and pasture raised grass fed or wild animal meats. Grass-fed meat is a source of protein and healthy fats. Shown to have higher levels of omega 3 fats vs inflammatory omega 6 fats, as well as higher nutrient content, CLA levels, and lower toxin residues. Lamb chops, bacon, chicken thighs, ground pork, beef brisket, salmon, sardines, liver. In moderation, raw nuts such as macadamia, almonds and pecans and raw seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, chia and hemp.
Dairy products contain not only milk sugar (lactose), but also milk protein (casein), which stimulates insulin secretion more than other types of protein and is linked to inflammation in many people. If you choose to add in dairy products do so in moderation and make sure that they are made from raw or organic, grass fed milk.
Sweeten with berries, spices, dark chocolate, stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, yacon syrup and lucuma powder. Use inulin, maltitol, xylitol and other sugar alcohols in moderation as may cause gastrointestinal upset.
Spices are an easy way of adding more flavor, vitamins and antioxidants into your food. Furthermore, they are low in carbohydrates. Make sure that you're using fresh, organic spices for maximum flavor and nutrients.
Lectins are plant proteins that irritate the gut lining and increase inflammation. They're found in most plant foods, and we can tolerate some lectins in our diet. We want to reduce our total lectin exposure, this can be done by peeling and deseeding your fruits and vegetables, sprouting and fermenting. Fermented vegetables not only have reduced lectin content, but also an improved nutritional profile. The good news is by avoiding grains and dairy you are already significantly reducing the lectin in your diet.
For beverages drink lots of filtered water and herbal teas. Limit organic coffee to 2-3 cups per day. Try bone broth, and water with a pinch of salt or squeeze of lemon.
Keto Flu: A Case for Easing In
There is a lot going on in the body during the first week or two. Removing processed foods, sugar, grains, legumes and dairy will be cleansing for most people. This can lead to the removal of toxins from the body. The body needs to clear excess insulin and this takes a week to normalize, and finally it takes time to get fat adapted so at first you are struggling to fuel the body adequately. Any major dietary change will be both a physical and mental stressor, removing carbs and sugar especially. The combination of all these factors may create symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, headache, rashes, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, irritability, poor concentration, cravings and brain fog.
What can we do to limit these factors? Number one is to ease in to ketosis. You don’t have the ability to burn ketones as fuel until you are fat adapted, so what is the rush. Take a week to remove processed foods, grains, legumes, and sugar and lower your carbs to 50-100g, whatever feels good, ensuring they are all non-starchy carbs. Increase good fats and eat to satiety. Stick to three meals a day, and if you get hungry and need a snack make it fat and protein. For most people this will make the transition a lot more pleasant. Light exercise like walking and yoga is encouraged but decrease high intensity exercise for a week or two as your energy production may not be up to the challenge.
Number one clear out what you will not be eating from the house. Give your bread, naan, chips, and sugary treats away to a good friend. What is in your fridge and freezer now? Take a few minutes and adapt your usual week of meals. Record your plan in the Notes Section. The goal for dinner is meat with 1-2 veggies and some fat. Lamb chops roasted with steamed green beans and broccoli with butter, Taco salad night with ground beef or pork, some veggies, salsa and avocado. For lunch leftovers or a salad with protein and fat dressing - chicken thighs, tuna, prawns on a bed of greens with as much dressing as you like. Upgrade your dressing this week. Breakfast can be coffee or tea with a tablespoon of fat, bacon, eggs, leftovers, miso soup, smoothie, deviled eggs. Just get rid of the toast for greens and leave out the oatmeal. Remember, all we need to do this week is remove processed foods, grains, legumes, and sugar, and introduce more fat options and our body will start adapting gently. You can also dip your toes in and test out a few recipes from the 2-week plan.
Testing your ketone levels. If you are staying under 30g of carbs, physiologically you will be in ketosis. It can be motivating to see the results of your efforts. There are expensive blood and breath monitors, however keto urine strips are inexpensive and can show you your body is producing ketones. Ketone strips are accurate when you're just entering ketosis, that is in the first week or two of a ketogenic diet. Once fat adapted most ketones are fully metabolized as energy and few will appear in the urine, even though they are being produced. Other signs of ketosis are decreased appetite, weight loss, and increased focus and energy.
Tips before getting started
In ketosis your kidneys excrete more water and electrolytes. Make sure you’re getting the sodium and potassium your body needs to function well. Salt your foods with quality sea salt, drink salted bone broths, and you may want to add in a keto friendly electrolyte drink.
We are shifting your fiber intake from primarily grains to fiber in vegetables. We can certainly get enough fiber from vegetables however there is an adaptation phase and some people experience constipation. Be sure to hydrate, eat your veggies and if needed add in a keto friendly fiber source.
Trying something new and cooking a lot of new meals can be a stressor to the body. Protect your hormones by moderating other stress in your life, following the meal plan is one way to keep things simpler, be sure to get enough sleep, and have the mindset that this is fun or an adventure, remember the benefits to your health, then just breathe, smile and enjoy the process.
Products Featured in this Article