Ketogenic Diet 101

If you haven’t heard the term Ketogenic or Keto in the last little while, I can only imagine that you’ve been living on a beautiful, caribbean island, unplugged from the rest of the world. (and I might be slightly jealous)

But don’t worry…I got you! Today, I’m going to break down the ins and outs of the ketogenic diet and you’ll be able to decide if it’s an eating style that would work for you.

In the most simple terms, the ketogenic diet is a very low carb, very high-fat diet with moderate amounts of protein. It has recently gained a lot of popularity in the wellness sphere because of some of its health benefits. It has been shown to help some people with weight loss and also to help improve certain health conditions, like epilepsy in children.

Read on for some of the lowdown on how it reprograms your metabolism (for “ketosis”), and whether or not it’s something for you to consider.

Let’s start with the end goal – getting your body into ketosis. But what is “ketosis?”

Carbs (sugars & starches) are the preferred fuel for your brain and muscles. They use carbs first, whenever they’re available. This is why not maintaining stable blood sugar can affect your attention, mood, and energy level. It is also the reason why you crave carbs when you are tired – you’re body is trying to get a fuel source that it can easily use.

However, when very low amounts of carbs are available for fuel, your body starts making compounds known as “ketones.” These are your body’s “backup fuel.” And your body makes them from fat (is the lightbulb going off yet?).

When you are a diet very low in carbs, your blood level of ketones increases. This is the metabolic state known as “ketosis.” It’s the same process that your body goes through if you’ve fasted for 72 hours and depleted your supply of carbs as fuel. That’s the trigger for turning fat into ketones.

Ketogenic literally means “the generation of ketones.”

Before I go any further, I want to be clear on one thing. “Ketosis” from a ketogenic diet is not the same thing as the dangerous condition known as “ketoacidosis.”

I’m sure I peeked your interest when I mentioned the Ketogenic diet has been successfully used for weight loss. With a high fat intake, it may be surprising to know that studies show that a ketogenic diet is effective for weight loss….but it’s true! Whoop, whoop!

It can also have better results than low-fat diets. At least one study showed that people lost 2.2 times more weight on a ketogenic diet than those on low-fat or calorie-controlled diets. Ok people, that definitely needs some major whoop, whoop!

So that begs the question…what is it about the ketogenic diet that makes this weightloss possible?

Simple. Eating all that fat and protein is filling! It helps release satiety hormones that tell us that we’re full and satisfied, and we don’t need to eat anymore. It also reprograms your metabolism to use fat as fuel.

Some studies show other health benefits of the ketogenic diet. As you can imagine, having very low levels of carbs can help reduce blood sugar and insulin issues. Some studies show lower blood sugar levels, and even up to 75% improvement in insulin sensitivity. Another study showed improved blood triglycerides (fat) and cholesterol numbers.  Several studies show reduced seizures in children who follow a ketogenic diet.

As with all nutritional changes, this type of diet can be beneficial for some people.

“How To” Keto

Not everyone should go on a ketogenic diet. Make sure you speak with a trained healthcare practitioner before diving in. It can have side effects, including the infamous “keto flu.”

The ketogenic diet involves getting 75-80% of your calories from fat, 10-15% from protein, and just 5-15% from carbs. This a major stretch from what most people eat on a daily basis and can make for a challenging switch.

But there are lots of resources available to you that can help you navigate the Ketogenic eating style. As a starting point, I suggest checking out The Keto Beginning. I love this resource because it focuses on whole foods, it walks you through the keto lifestyle ‘beginning’ and explains everything you can expect in the first 30 days. It’s full of valuable, real-life information, a 30 day meal plan, macro breakdown for each day, grocery lists and recipes! And there’s also a thriving community of Keto-ers who support each other in this eating style. (There’s also a bunch of other resources that you can check out in your keto lifestyle journey)

In general, the foods to focus on for a ketogenic diet are meat, fatty fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocados,  low-carb vegetables and low-sugar fruits.

The main thing to avoid are foods that are high in carbs. These include sugary foods and desserts, grains, most fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables, alcohol and “diet foods.”

And because of the limits on fruit and starchy vegetables, many people on the ketogenic diet need to take supplements. This is because, in addition to their sugar and starch, fruits and starchy veggies are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. So, if you’re cutting those foods out, you still need to give your body those nutrients. And often, it means needing supplements (such as electrolyte powder, himalayan rock salt, magnesium powder).

The ketogenic diet is very popular these days. It can be helpful for weight loss, and other health conditions. Again, it’s not for everyone, so make sure you check with a knowledgeable practitioner before you begin.

Recipe (Ketogenic): Peppermint Hemp Fat Bombs/Fudge*

Peppermint fat bombs
Photo credit: http://www.healthfulpursuit.com
* Recipe courtesy of http://www.healthfulpursuit.com

Serves 16

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup (100 grams) stevia-sweetened dark chocolate chips, melted
  • ⅓ cup (50 grams) Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, soaked overnight, strained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch finely ground Himalayan rock salt
Instructions
  1. Place a silicone mold with rectangular cavities on a baking sheet, set aside.
  2. Place all ingredients in the jug of your blender, and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared mold and transfer to the fridge to set for 20 minutes, or until fudge is hard to the touch.
  4. Remove the fudge pieces from the silicone mold and place on a plate.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: These are (high fat) super-rich desserts. Don’t eat too many if you’re not going full keto.

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