Is the keto diet good for you?
The ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920’s but for a long time it was considered a “fad,” “unhealthy,” or “dangerous” approach to weight loss. However, one study after another has been demonstrating promising results not only on a weight loss and other metabolic disorders, but also for neurological disorders.
But what’s the deal with this diet?
The keto diet is described as a high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carbohydrate diet (usually < 20g/day). With the inadequate availability of carbohydrates, the body burns fats rather than carbohydrates to provide energy. The liver converts fat into fatty acids and produces ketone bodies (where the diet name comes from), which replace glucose as a primary source. Studies have suggested that burning ketones, and being in a state of ketosis, is a “cleaner” way to stay energized compared to running on carbohydrates and sugar. Keeping the body in this fat-burning metabolic state is where the benefits of this diet are believed to come into play.
So, what are the benefits of the Keto Diet?
WEIGHT LOSS: some studies show that in obese patients, the keto diet had shown great weight loss as compared to other balanced diets. The possible mechanisms for higher weight loss may be controlled hunger due to higher satiety effect of proteins, direct appetite suppressant action of the ketone bodies, and changes in circulating level of several hormones such as ghrelin and leptin which controls appetite. Other mechanism proposed is increased “fat burn”.
DIABETES AND INFAMMATION: dietary carbohydrate restriction can help reduce high blood glucose, leading to the reduction or elimination of medication. The lipid metabolism that happens in the keto diet may also facilitate proper cellular localization of glucose transporters, recycling, and ketone bodies can alleviate certain inflammatory processes.
CHOLESTEROL, TRYGLYCERIDES, BLOOD PRESSURE: in one study, long term keto diet (at least 12 months), resulted in not only weight loss, but decreased triglycerides, blood pressure, increased HDL (the good cholesterol) as compared to a low fat diet.
POLYSCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME (PCOS): it’s known that PCOS is normally associated with overweight or obesity, unbalanced insulin levels, insulin resistance, and reproductive implications. The metabolic and endocrine effects of low carbohydrate ketogenic diet are evidenced by improvements in body weight, free testosterone percentage, luteinizing hormone/follicle-stimulating hormone ration, and normalization of endocrine functions.
BRAIN HEALTH - EPILEPSY, PARKINSON’S, ALZHEIMER’S, MIGRAINE, DEPRESSION, AND OTHER NEUROLOGICAL CONDITIONS: an interesting fact is that the ketogenic diet was first developed for patients with epilepsy. Researchers discovered that fasting and low carbohydrate diet appeared to reduce the frequency of seizures in epileptic patients. Ketosis also causes your brain to create more mitochondria, which has been shown to offer a sharper mental state.
Are there any adverse effects from this diet that you should know?
Common adverse effects can include headache, constipation, diarrhea, insomnia, dehydration and backache. However, these side effects are usually due to unbalanced diets with extreme restriction of carbohydrates of inadequate fluids, macro and micronutrient intake.
What should I include in my keto diet?
High amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, nuts and seeds. A variety of non-starchy vegetables including asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, kale, and romaine. Other vegetables such as cucumber and zucchini, as well as mushrooms and sprouts. Moderate amounts of high quality proteins should be included in the diet: grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, wild-caught fish, bone broth, cage-free eggs and organ meats.
Foods to limit
Full-fat dairy products should be consumed in moderations. Starchy veggies such as peas, carrots, beets, potatoes should also be limited. Legumes like beans, chickpeas, lentils.
Foods to avoid
Any type of sugar, including natural sugars (raw honey or maple syrup). All grains, including oats, wheat, millet, rice, quinoa, pasta, corn, and rye. Processed foods like chips, candy, crackers, and any other packaged foods. Sorry to say, but even your glass of wine or beer must be restricted in this type of diet in order to receive full benefits.