Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet and What to Eat
What Is Ketogenisis?
Ketogenesis is the normal process the body goes through to turn stored fat into energy when other forms of energy, usually sugars in the form of carbohydrates, aren't sufficient.
While ketogenesis takes place constantly in a healthy body, many people try to encourage the process for weight-loss by following a low-carb diet, forcing their bodies to burn body fat.
What Is a Ketogenic Diet?
When you eat with the goal of getting your body to burn stored fat, you change the way you think about dietary fats. It may seem crazy, but eating lots of dietary fat, and fewer carbs, is what makes the diet work, keeping the body in a state of ketosis, which burns fat.
Daily food portions should be as follows:
- 70% fats
- 20% protein
- 10% low-carb vegetables (no more than 45 grams a day)
Some people have trouble with the concept of high-fat and a moderate amount of protein. I have to admit. It was hard for me to wrap my head around it at first. Now I have even given up artificial sugar substitutes and diet products of any kind. It's even hard for me to call this a diet. After researching this eating style, I've learned it's a way of life.
The diet was originally created to treat children with epilepsy. Over the years, it was adapted by patients with type 2 diabetes and there is evidence that a ketogenic diet can be help control blood sugar levels.
I will go through recommended food lists, things to watch out for, and some of the benefits of eating a ketogenic diet. I hope this article makes it easier for people to understand and follow the ketogenic diet plan!
I have also included information from a mom who, like me, has a child with the neuro-genetic disorder Angelman Syndrome. She has used this eating plan to improve her son's health, including his seizures.
Don't forget! Please see a medical professional or doctor before starting this type of program.
A Word of Caution From a Nutritionist
Using this diet for weight loss is controversial, says Miriam Amselem, a Holistic Nutritionist in Hollywood. While most people will lose weight, they are likely to gain it all back when they come off the diet.
She also cautions people with kidney disease to use caution with this diet. Eating lots of protein can lead to high uric acid levels that impaired kidneys won't be able to process. Others who may want to avoid this diet include those with high cholesterol, heart disease, constipation, and even sleep issues.
"That being said, using this diet as a kick start for two weeks and then following it with a healthier way of eating is not a bad thing," Amselem says. "For example, one can start on the ketogenic diet for a two-week period and then follow a plan that is healthy and sustainable for life by limiting the high-fat red meat and dairy and adding fish, olive oil, fruit, and healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, sweet potato, brown rice and quinoa."
Top Foods to Eat on the Keto Diet
Avoid These Foods
Kale, spinach, and other leafy greens
Root vegetables (except moderate amounts of carrots
Nuts and seeds
Transfats (processed or fried foods)
Benefits of Ketogenic Diets
Some reported benefits of a low-carb ketogenic diet are:
- reduced appetite
- weight loss
- loss of belly fat
- increased "good" cholesterol levels
This list of fats and oils can be used in sauces, dressings, or toppings on your food. The type you want to avoid is hydrogenated fats, like margarine. Also, limit your trans fat intake, which includes battered, fried, and processed foods. If you, choose to use vegetable oils, select the "cold press" options.
The Best Fat Choices
- Macadamia nuts
- Egg yolks
- Coconut oil
Good Oils List
When frying, use these non-hydrogenated fats. This way you will get essential fatty acids In your diet.
- Beef tallow
- Coconut oil
Good Protein Sources
Best animal proteins are wild salmon, tuna, trout, shellfish, red meats, and poultry. The oil, protein sources will help balance your omega 3s. You only need 70 to 80 grams of protein a day, depending on your lifestyle and your body's physical needs. Protein requirements are different for everyone. Here are some good protein sources to include in your diet.
- Seafood, including salmon, shrimp, and crab
- Grass-fed beef
- Nuts and seeds
Nuts and Seeds
Some of these nuts should be eaten, in small amounts. Avoid peanuts! Keep track of how many nuts and seeds you eat. These nuts are a source of carbs, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and almonds. Cashews and pistachios are good for you and high in omega 6, fatty acids.
Recommended Raw Nuts & Seeds
- Coconut (unsweetened)
- Flax seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
Flours to Use
- Almond flour
- Milled flax seed
You can bake anything with these flours. Note: They still need to be used in moderation.
When choosing dairy, make sure it's full-fat (no low-fat or non-fat). Choose heavy cream, hard or soft cheese, sour cream, and cottage cheese.
- Cottage cheese
- Swiss cheese
- Whole or 2% milk
Avoid all of these if you have milk allergies or are lactose intolerant.
Veggies and the Ketogenic Diet
Vegetables are a very important part of a healthy diet. The best ones are dark, leafy, and high in nutrients. These include kale, spinach, and romaine lettuce.
Try to use vegetables that are, grown above ground. Opt for organic, when you can. One reason for this is they have less pesticide and residue. If you can't get organic, then just make sure you wash and rinse before using. The nutrient value will still be the same. Vegetables are a vital part of a healthy diet.
Vegetables to Eat
- Bell pepper
- Carrots (in moderation)
- Green beans
- Snow peas
- Squash (choose a variety of types and colors)
Carrots are an excellent nutrient source, but only eat in moderation. They are one of the higher-carb vegetables.
Most fruit has too many carbohydrates to be allowed on the ketogenic diet, but berries are an exception.
- Blackberries are the lowest in carbohydrates.
- Raspberries and strawberries are also low-carb fruits.
- Blueberries have slightly more carbs but are still allowed on this diet.
Drinks and Sweeteners
Always consider what you drink. Some drinks are full of empty calories and sugar. No alcohol!
Beverages to Reach For
- 8-10 cups of water a day
- 2-3 cups of sugar-free coffee
- Herbal tea
- Monk fruit
- Agave nectar
How to Get Enough Fiber on the Keto Diet
Whole grains are important for gastro-intestinal health. Since you'll be avoiding grains on this diet, here's how to keep your gut healthy.
- Drink enough water
- Get enough exercise. Walking is great!
- Eat only good fats, not trans-fats.
- Don't overdo it on the protein.
- Eat chia, flax, and pumpkin seeds, which are high in fiber but low in carbs.
Other Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
Weight loss isn't the only benefit of this way of eating. Here is a piece from my friend Sybille Bellamy. We each have a child with Angelman Syndrome, which can lead to seizures. Our children not only have a better life on Ketogenic foods, but their brain function has also improved. Studies show similar benefits for people with epilepsy. Ketogenic diets may also help children on the autism spectrum.
Here is how ketogenic and low-glycemic index diets have benefited Sybille's family, in her words. Sybille is one of the most knowledgeable people I know. Not only is she healing her son, but she is also helping others help themselves and their children as well.
To avoid the overload of stress, I find my relief by being the person at the origin of my son’s quality of life. I am not a doctor, a pharmacist, or a research person. I am just Max’s mother. For almost 15 years I have been using food to treat the adverse side effects of his syndrome. Angelman Syndrome (AS) is one of many neurological disorders that can be treated with therapeutic diets.
Ketogenic diets are over 100 years old, and today they are regaining an extraordinary medical interest. Indeed, the number of ketogenic studies has grown over 300% in the last 20 years according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM).
Studies show that in some patients seizures are significantly reduced, and in others, seizure activity completely stops.
LGIT is one of the eating plans that have shown the most efficacy for patients with AS, delivering a 90% seizure reduction. The main reason for this incredible result is in the way we gently and slowly modify our children’s diet, while maintaining the tastiness and ease of preparation of the meals. In fact, the entire family can switch to this very healthy way of eating. Less stress for mom! I prepare the same meal for the whole family, and I adjust Max’s fat ratio for his plate only. As a result, Max’s metabolism is very well-adapted to this way of eating and when he is getting sick, we have the fantastic option to modify and adjust his fat ratio so he can be in full ketosis and have extra protection against seizures.
You can prepare ketogenic and LGIT meals today. My kitchen looks like a regular kitchen with a small medicine cabinet and a lot of spices, nuts, seeds, oils, and a fridge full of vegetables, butter, eggs, and meat. Nothing special. Just food.
Flavour is the spice of life! Keep herbs and spices on hand. Your food will never be boring! So pick up a jar and flavour away.
Tips for Success With the Keto Diet
- Keto sticks, which are supposed to measure ketone levels in urine, aren't an accurate way to measure ketosis. If you drink large amounts of water, it dilutes the urine and will change the reading.
- Keep your glucose levels stable and low. The best way to check your levels is to use a glucometer, which is what people with diabetes use. These are available at your pharmacy.
- Don't eat too much food protein. You only need 70 to 80 grams, depending on your lifestyle and your body's physical needs. Protein requirements are different for everyone.
- Don't overeat. If you want to lose weight, keep your portion sizes in check.
What Do you Believe?
Where you raised to think fat is bad?
Beginners Please Watch
Summing It All Up
- While some nutritionists question the safety of diets that restricts consumption of healthy grains, research shows that very overweight people can benefit from eating a ketogenic diet to jump-start a healthy weight-loss plan.
- On a low-carb ketogenic diet, your largest dietary food source should be healthy fats. Make sure to choose fats from a variety of sources, including oil, butter, fish, nuts, and seeds. Your body needs the different nutrients each type supplies. No more low-fat or non-fat foods! Remember: Not all fat is bad. Healthy fats are non-hydrogenated, cold-pressed, and plant- or seed-based.
- Keep track of the amount of carbohydrates you eat.
- Dairy is an important part of keto dieting. Not only is it a good source of calcium and minerals, it provides healthy fats. Keep track of how much dairy you consume and watch its source. Try to get your nutrients from organic vegetables (not root vegetables).
- Nuts and seeds have carbs, so keep track of portion servings.
- Be careful about what you drink! You don't need empty calories.
- Ketogenic eating improves heart function by raising good cholesterol. Improvement is shown in brain health and even seizure control.
In conclusion, I'd like you to remember three things.
- Eating a variety of good healthy food is the key to better health.
- Just because you believed fats were bad, doesn't mean you can't change that belief.
- Good health and happiness to all!
- Dashti, H. M., Mathew, T. C., Hussein, T., Asfar, S. K., Behbahani, A., Khoursheed, M. A., . . . Al-Zaid, N. S. (2004). Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/
- Ketogenic diet. (2016, December 02). Retrieved November 16, 2017, from https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/ketogenic-diet#.Wg3ilrT81mA
- Napoli, E., Dueñas, N., & Giulivi, C. (2014). Potential Therapeutic Use of the Ketogenic Diet in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4074854/
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 Terrie Lynn