If you’ve been following the media or popular bloggers, you may have noticed that the ketogenic diet is one of the latest in trending diets. It has made its way up there with paleo and gluten free diets. If you’re searching Pinterest or other sites, often ketogenic recipes come up as the suggested searches. So, what’s the deal with the ketogenic thing anyways? We’re going to give you the lowdown so you can decide whether this diet is a good fit for you.
What exactly is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet has been around for centuries. It was originally used as a treatment for seizures, but in recent trends it has been used as a magic bullet for weight loss. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet. Just to put that into perspective, a standard diet should be comprised of 20-35% protein, 45-65% carbohydrate, and 10-35% fat. In the ketogenic diet, the recommended macronutrients are 80% fat, 15-20% protein, and a mere 5% or less carbohydrates.
So how do you do that? To meet this diet breakdown, you’ll have to cut grains, starches, fruits, breads, sugars, and other major carbohydrate sources. This leaves you with full fat dairy, meats, avocados, nuts and seeds, low carbohydrate leafy green vegetables, coconut, eggs, and other high fat food sources.
What does this do to the body?
Many of you may already know that carbohydrates are our cell’s preferred method of energy. Meaning, all of those starches, grains, fruits, and other carbs are the fuel that gives us energy to make it through daily activities. A diet severely restricted in carbohydrate means that your body must find another form of energy. Enter fat. Ketosis happens when your body relies on fat to fuel the body, which in turn causes the liver to produce ketone bodies. These ketones then go into the energy producing cycle in the body.
Because your body is altering its normal state, it may feel a bit different. Being in ketosis can feel a lot like being fatigued. It is often described as “brain fog”, tiredness, and sometimes even feeling sick. Ketosis also leads to bad breath due to the acetone produced as a byproduct of fat metabolism. Sounding sexy yet?
So, why go keto?
There is some research supporting the ketogenic diet in a number of different health conditions. Some studies suggest that the ketogenic diet is effective in reducing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and epilepsy. There is also slight evidence to suggest that the ketogenic diet may improve glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes and may help to improve cholesterol levels. Other surfacing research shows some evidence supporting the ketogenic diet having a beneficial role in cancer treatment.
How about keto for weight loss?
Aside from the research supporting this diet in the treatment of various health conditions, it is currently being used by many to promote weight loss. Will you lose weight on the ketogenic diet? Simply put, the answer is possibly yes. That’s probably has to do with the fact that you’re eliminating an entire food group from your diet and altering your body’s normal cellular functions. One of the main reasons you will lose weight is due to water loss attributed with lower carbohydrate intake. But, while you might lose weight, the reality is that the ketogenic diet is very strict and often difficult to follow.
The ketogenic diet poses a concern for increasing cholesterol levels in the blood by relying on highly saturated fatty foods as the primary source of food. It may also stress the kidneys due to an increase in protein consumption. On top of those concerns, there is potential for loss of muscle mass when we reduce our glycogen stores (the carbohydrates stored in the muscles). The final, and arguably one of the worst cons of the ketogenic diet, is the risk of constipation. Studies have shown that people on such a low carb diet show higher rates of constipation because we miss out on all of that healthy fiber in grains, fruits, and vegetables.
The ketogenic diet has a place in the medical world. It can be effective for treatment of certain diseases or even short term weight loss. However, when used as a method for weight loss by the average person, it is not a solution for sustained weight loss or healthy living. Think about going to dinner with a loved one and passing on the bread basket, chips & salsa, wine, beer, pasta, and potatoes, and only eating the fatty meat with perhaps some green leafy vegetables… if the menu will allow for it. No dessert. No fruit. Not even quinoa, beans, or sweet potatoes. Sounds a little unrealistic long-term? To us, it definitely is.
For the healthy person, a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, healthy grains and starches, and plant-based proteins has been shown to have many, many health benefits. It also allows you to live life to the fullest by occasionally enjoying indulgences and sweets! Have you tried the ketogenic diet? Let us know about your experience in the comments below. Can’t wait to hear from you!