The Keto Diet

Turn fat to energy: All you need to know to go Keto!

The Introduction

At first glance, the ketogenic diet is a scene straight out of a nutritionist’s nightmare. A diet high in saturated fat and very low in carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet essentially allows your body to burn fat as its primary fuel source.

To to be more precise, when the body is deprived of dietary carbohydrates (~<50g/day), the production of glucose (which is food for our organs) entirely becomes a function of our liver.  The liver derives ketone bodies from our stored fat or fatty acids in the diet which results in the buildup of ketones (Hydroxybutyrate (BHB), acetoacetate and acetone) in our bloodstream. This is a metabolic state called ketosis. And this is a perfectly natural process.

The diet prescribed to produce this metabolic state in our body is called a ketogenic diet. This metabolic state is achieved through restriction of carbohydrates instead of a flat out restriction of calories.  In the past, about two and a half thousand years (500 BC) ago, fasting and new dietary regimes were already being practised to treat epilepsy, among other ailments.

Many of these treatments involved the excess or limitation of almost every nutritional requirement (mineral, animal, or vegetable). It was observed that the state of fasting, i.e. when the body is deprived of its main fuel source, carbohydrates, led to a decrease in the incidence of various physical and mental incidents such as seizures. To recreate the state of fasting, the ketogenic diet was introduced as a treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s. Upon the advent of modern medicine, this treatment’s popularity declined.

Over the past 20 years, research has led to the discovery of the many health benefits the ketogenic diet has to offer including weight loss, increased energy, hunger normalization, mental focus, aiding in the control of blood sugar and pressure levels as well as improve skin health. This led to a renewed interest in ketogenic diet and the fervour around it has made it one of the most popular diets in the U.S and globally.

The diet lowdown :

Like all diets, the ketogenic diet also involves a bit of planning to kick-start your process as soon as possible. The ketogenic diet in its most simple form is a diet that is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. These are the main 3 macronutrients (macros, if you will) in our diet or “the big 3”. The average split of calories on keto should consist of about 70% fats, 25 % protein and 5% carbohydrate. The sooner you restrict the number of carbohydrates consumed, the sooner you enter ketosis.

To start off measuring your carbohydrate intake, you need to familiarize yourself with the term “Net Carbs”. Net Carbs are the total dietary carbohydrates, minus the total fiber.

And because this is a metabolic state attained by the body, it is highly important to understand that the concept of ‘cheat day’ does not exist in the ketogenic diet.

Let’s take a look at the food groups you can eat on a ketogenic diet:

Fats and Oils: It’s best to source the fat in your diet from natural sources like meat and nuts supplemented with saturated and monounsaturated fats like coconut oil, butter, and olive oil.

Protein:  Try to obtain the protein from organic, pasture-raised, and grass-fed meat where possible. Always remember, too much protein on a ketogenic diet is not a good thing. The body can break amino acids from protein down into urea and glucose. Enough glucose from protein will put you out of ketosis.

Vegetables: Try to grab them fresh, if not, frozen works just as well. Just try to stick to the ones that grow above the ground, especially the leafy/green ones.

Dairy: Most dairy items contain lactose, which is a sugar. Just avoid lactose heavy products and you’ll be good  (Hint: Harder cheeses typically contain fewer carbs).

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are a perfect way to add more punch and texture to your diet. Try to munch on the fattier nuts like macadamias and almonds.

Beverages: For those on keto, water is your best friend. And if you like some flavor in your beverages, hey, life always gives you lemons! Squeeze them into your glass of water and relish your flavored beverage.

Let’s quickly go over the do and don’t food groups to give you a general idea of what your grocery list might look like on a ketogenic diet.

Do eat:

  1. Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
  2. Leafy Greens- spinach, kale, etc.
  3. Above ground vegetables- broccoli, cauliflower, etc
  4. High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
  5. Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
  6. Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries and other low glycemic berries (fewer carbs).
  7. Other fats- coconut oil, saturated fats, etc.

Do not eat:

  1. Grains- wheat, rice, cereal, corn, etc.
  2. Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
  3. Sugar – agave, honey, maple syrup, etc.
  4. Tubers – potato, yams, etc.

Every diet, just like every imaginable thing under the sun, has pros and cons. Let’s take a look at the yin and yang of a ketogenic diet:

Pros:

1. Insulin Regulation: Insulin is a hormone whose one important function among others is to transport glucose to the muscles and the tissues (for energy) from the bloodstream.

Higher insulin levels in the blood have been related to increased inflammation, and that’s as bad for the body as it sounds.

In a ketogenic environment, insulin levels in the blood are reduced, thereby limiting the harmful effects associated with inflammation.

2. Weight Loss Potential: Ketosis offers you an opportunity to cut down extensively on carbs and sugars. And this intervention itself can help avoid weight gain and along with the right physical workouts can help shed unwanted weight on your body.

Sugar and Carb-heavy are generally loaded with sodium. This is an additional trigger for water retention, so a low carbohydrate diet would help lose that weight as well.

There is also a case to be made that in a fat-fuelled diet, there is increased satiety. Fat’s are slow to digest and maintain blood glucose levels for a longer period of time.

Cons:

1. A pinch of salt: Like all other dietary regimens, keto too can be restrictive or appealing based on personal preference. It’s best to understand your body by making observations and recording them.

2. You need to be able to distinguish the ‘good’ fats from the ‘bad’. Saturated fats are not health promoting in nature. Trying to source organic and well-sourced meat might be inconvenient, but is well worth the overhead.

3. Fibre Hangover: Because of a diet lower in plant-based healthy nutrients, there is less fiber in the diet. This might lead to constipation but drinking plenty of water along with fiber supplements like psyllium husk will ease any trouble.

Like all dietary interventions, willpower and the means to achieve a well-maintained diet using the resources available to you makes all the difference.

That’s all you need to know to kickstart your own journey of ketosis!  So what are you waiting for? Go keto already!

Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thyrve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.