Paleo, Whole 30, LCHP (Low Carb, High Protein), Vegan… If you’ve done a recipe search on Pinterest recently, you’ve likely seen a plethora of lifestyle diets listed. Among these you may have noticed “keto,” but what exactly IS keto??
The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a low carb, high fat (LCHF) diet. The goal is to switch your body from producing insulin to burn glucose for energy, to producing ketones to burn fat as your body slips into a state of ketosis.
Our bodies naturally default to burning glucose. It’s the easiest, most readily available source for fuel. That means that it doesn’t need the fat we’ve consumed and that just sort of hangs around.
When we remove the “easy fuel” (anything high in carbs), our body adapts to burning the more abundant source: fat. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to weight loss.
- Weight Loss – The most obvious and highly sought after result.
- Improved Blood Sugar Levels – limiting the glucose in the bloodstream also removes the necessity for insulin to break it down, making this an effective way for those with Insulin Resistance or Type II Diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels.
- Improved Focus – Ketones are fantastic brain food and without sugar highs and crashes, mental focus abounds.
- More Energy – Fat is a more reliable and stable source of energy, and makes us feel fuller, longer.
- Lower Cholesterol – Improves triglyceride and cholesterol levels and has been shown to lower blood pressure better than low-fat diets.
- Clearer Skin – Studies have shown a correlation between high-carb diets and increased acne. Eating the ketogenic diet helps reduce acne and other inflammatory skin issues.
Those benefits have you shouting “sign me up!”? Here’s an explanation of where to start:
The extremely simplified answer is “don’t eat carbs.” The goal of eating a keto diet is to get, and keep, your body in a state of nutritional ketosis. To do this you want to follow a macro-nutrient formula of 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. There are tons of apps on the market that can help you track your food and macros. My Fitness Pal or Senza are two great options.
When tracking carbs, we are talking about NET rather than TOTAL. This is the amount of carbs minus the fiber content (example: a serving of baby carrots has 8g carbs – 2g fiber = 6g net carbs). Every person and every BODY is unique, but the average goal is 15-20g net carbs per day to achieve ketosis.
The remainder of the diet focuses on adequate, not excessive, amounts of protein eaten with a surplus of healthy fats. This provides an abundant food energy source for your body that simultaneously helps maintain a satiated feeling (fuller, longer) and tastes good!
To Eat or Not to Eat…
That IS the question, isn’t it?! Here’s a couple of lists to get you started:
- High quality meats like fish, beef, lamb, poultry, and eggs.
- Low carb veggies like spinach, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower.
- High fat dairy like hard cheeses, cream, butter, and sour cream.
- Nuts and seeds like macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and almonds.
- Other fats like coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, and avocado oil.
- Berries like raspberries and blackberries, but these should be in moderation!
- Some low-carb natural sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, and monk fruit are ok!
- All grains, including wheat, corn, rice, and quinoa.
- Sugar, including honey, agave, and maple syrup, as well as the obvious table sugars.
- Most fruit, excluding the berries previously listed.
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams (sweet potatoes), peas and other legumes.
Now with a little keto knowledge in your arsenal, you can evaluate whether or not the low carb, high fat lifestyle is for you!