Is there anything more divisive than the ‘carb vs. fat’ debate? Once the mainstay of nutritional advice, low-fat, high-carb diets were revered as the optimum way to lead a healthy life. Numerous studies conducted by the scientific community over the past fifteen years have shown a shift in theory regarding low-fat diets, with several of these studies raising questions about the validity of a diet high in carbohydrates. So what is the alternative to a predominantly high carb diet?
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet, or ‘Keto’ as it is more commonly known, consists of eating small amounts of carbohydrates and receiving the bulk of your calorie consumption from fat sources combined with moderate protein intake. By drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat, your body adopts a metabolic state known as ‘ketosis,’ which means that it is burning fat as its primary energy source.
What is the Science Behind It?
Our bodies ‘default’ energy source is blood sugar. The human body typically has approximately 400g of glycogen stored at any given time. If you cut your carb consumption to less than 50 grams a day, your body eventually runs out of this ‘quick’ fuel. For most people, this takes around four days, and it is this period which you will hear some people refer to as the ‘keto flu.’ Once your body begins to break down protein and fat for energy, you are in what is known as a state of ‘ketosis.’
Who Can Benefit from a Keto Diet?
Everybody can benefit from adopting a keto diet, but you should always consult your physician before making any drastic lifestyle changes. Not all fat is created equal, and fat stored around your abdominal area can be particularly problematic. There are two main types of fat, subcutaneous fat, which is stored under your skin and which you can pinch, and visceral fat, which accumulates around your vital organs and mid-section. Visceral fat, in particular, has long been associated with insulin resistance and other chronic diseases. Ketogenic eating plans have been proven to reduce visceral fat, as well as maintain healthy blood triglycerides, and blood sugar levels.
Amazingly, the ketogenic diet has also been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in mice. While these findings are preliminary, the research suggests that the protective brain benefits of healthy fats combined with a reduced intake of sugar can be beneficial to mental health.
What Foods Are Keto Friendly?
There are a lot of ‘keto’ friendly foods that you can enjoy on a ketogenic diet. As a general rule of thumb, aim for foods that are less than 5% carbohydrate. Low carb vegetables such as spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, celery, and kale are wonderful options and provide a source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can also enjoy fruit but be sure to stick to low-sugar fruits such as tomatoes, raspberries, and blackberries.
Protein sources should be high-quality, such as sustainably sourced seafood, organic poultry, and nuts. Wild salmon, tuna and sardines are an excellent source of healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, and nuts such as brazil and macadamia are packed healthy fats and protein.
Which Foods are Not Keto Friendly?
When it comes to eating a ketogenic diet, try to avoid all high-carb or highly processed foods, such as bread, candy, soda, wine, and pasta.
The Bottom Line
A ketogenic diet may help you lose more weight in the first few months than other diets such as a low-fat one. Scientists are unsure why this is but believe it may be because the body uses more calories changing fat into energy than it does to convert carbohydrates. A ketogenic diet has been proven an excellent option in the management of certain medical conditions, such as high blood sugar and obesity. Whether you wish to lose weight or improve your health, it is important to discuss with your doctor to find out if a keto diet is a safe option for you.
By Attorney Valerie B. Calistro Managing Partner, Ventura Law