Touted for its weight loss benefits, the Keto or Ketogenic diet has been in the spotlight again after a long hiatus. It is a diet that has been used for many different things over the years as this article will explore. There are many questions around how to execute this way of eating, how to stay on track, how to overcome the introduction phase as you enter ketosis, as well as the sustainability of such a diet.
The term Keto stands for “Ketogenic”, which is essentially a low carb, high fat and adequate protein diet that was originally found to be successful in managing epilepsy in children as early as the 1920s.
Ketogenesis is the process of breaking down fatty acids and ketogenic amino acids to produce ‘Ketone bodies’ used for energy. (As opposed to the typical Carbohydrates (glucose) used for energy). Through proper execution of the KETO diet, practitioners have found the ability to help patients and clients:
- Reduce weight (specifically body fat)
- Reverse or improve insulin resistance
- Increase stem cell production
- Increase cognitive function and overall brain health
- Increase energy and elevate mood
There are several ways to measure Ketone levels including Urine Test Strips, Blood Test and/or Strips, Nutritional Range: 0.5 mmol/L- 1.5 mmol/L Optimal Fat Burning: 1.5 mmol/L- 3mmol/L. Other ways to monitor are through increased thirst, smell of breath (sweet/fruity from the acetone), suppressed appetite, increased clarity and energy (but first potential “KETO FLU”) and digestive disturbances.
The first step when considering any new diet is to determine if it is suitable for you. Some things to consider for Keto are whether you are diabetic or insulin resistant, overweight, if you have brain fog, if you have a gallbladder and if are you pregnant and/or breast-feeding. In the case of diabetes/insulin resistance, Keto can be very useful at managing and even reversing diabetes and definitely corrects insulin sensitivity. If you are overweight this diet will be of great interest to you for its fat burning effects and will also address brain fog. This diet is also doable if you do not have a gallbladder with the right food and supplement support. It is not recommended that pregnant or breast-feeding mothers attempt this way of eating as it does not address the needs of the mother or growing fetus/child. As well, you will need to determine if you are willing to track/calculate macronutrients and Ketones, to change your lifestyle and to keep up this way of eating indefinitely.
Once you’ve determined if the keto diet is a good fit for you, next you will inevitably ask what can I eat while following this diet? First focus on, clean, organic, whole foods. More specific foods include:
Non- Starchy Vegetables (Asparagus, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Sea plants, Leafy Greens)
- Dairy (Kefir, Milk, Yogurt (Full fat) )
- Protein (animal and/or plant) (Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Fish, Tofu, Tempeh, Legumes)
- Oils and Fats (Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, MCT, Butter, Cream, Flaxseed oil)
- Nuts and Seeds (Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Hemp, Chia)
- Occasional Legumes and Berries (Beans, Hummus, Lentils, Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Cranberries)
In addition to foods you will be eating, you may want to consider supporting food items/beverages and supplements:
- Protein Powder for extra protein, Coffee and Tea where you can add in extra fats in the form of MTC oil, Keto-friendly Bars as an occasional food, Stevia and Monkfruit (as sweeteners), Konjac Noodles at meals which are high in fiber and low in carbs.
- Potassium to address any deficiency, Digestive Enzymes/gallbladder support (Lipase, OX Bile) to support digestion and more specifically breakdown of fats, Electrolytes to help with any imbalances, Magnesium etc.
- Other tips for managing digestive disturbances include: Hydrating, consuming electrolytes/minerals as needed, making sure to consume leafy greens as they provide fiber, incorporating herbal teas and magnesium to address any constipation and don’t’ forget to keep moving!
Foods to be avoided include:
- Processed Sugary Foods
- Grains and Starches (rice, pasta, cereal etc.)
- Most fruits except limited amounts of berries and lemons/limes
- Root Vegetables and Tubers (carrots, potatoes etc.)
- Low Fat and “Diet” products
- Unhealthy Fats (processed Veg oils)
- Sugary alcoholic drinks
- Sugar-free diet foods high in artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols
- Fast Food (pizza, burgers etc.)
In conclusion, the Ketogenic diet has much to offer in the way of benefits and will continue to be explored by the individual and health communities. It sheds a new light on the benefits of healthy fat consumption and really raises the question of whether our body does need grains.
1. Dr. Mark Hyman M.D. and Dr Sarah Hallberg- The Doctor’s Farmacy Podcast “The Power of a Ketogenic Diet to Reverse Disease”
2. Metagenics Ketogenic Program Guide