In 2018, the top researched diet term according to Google is the Ketogenic Diet.
In this article, we want to define for you what exactly a Ketogenic Diet is as well as highlight some of its potential health benefits – and some information as to whether the Ketogenic Diet is something you may want to consult your ND about as to whether it would be good to consider for yourself.
The Ketogenic Diet: What is It?
The Ketogenic Diet, also referred to as the Low Carb/High Fat (LCHF) Diet is a diet which consists of a large proportion of healthy fats, moderate protein and a small amount of healthy complex carbohydrates.
One misconception about the LCHF diet is that you can eat large amounts of protein which is not part of the diet.
The reason for this is that protein can be converted into sugar compounds in the body which may create problems in that it may contribute to too many carbohydrates in the diet.
Energy Metabolism Pathways
There are two main energy sources in the body: sugar and fats. The overwhelming majority of individuals burn sugar as an energy source due to the consumption of large amounts of sugar: it is estimated that the average yearly consumption by individuals in North America of sugar exceeds 150 pounds!
And we must not forget that food items such as bread, pasta, rice and other grains get converted into sugar compounds in the body.
The other energy source in the body is burning fats as an energy source: when sugar energy levels get low, a person’s metabolism switches over to burning fats. These fats that are burned for energy are referred to as “ketones or ketone bodies”.
Being in a state of ketosis (i.e. burning fats for energy) is the normal metabolic state that our ancestors, going back some two million years typically functioned in: it is just within the last two hundred years or so as sugar consumption has increased such that the main energy source for individuals has switched to sugars.
The key to getting into a state of ketosis is drastically reducing carbohydrate consumption: the amount varies between individuals however the amount of daily carbohydrate consumption to get into this state is typically between 25 and 50 grams per day of sugar compounds.
Food Quality Matters
Like all healthy diets, the quality of the food you consume is important: organic and grass fed designations are key considerations.
Oils are a good example of this: healthy oils can be an important part of the Ketogenic Diet: oils such as coconut, olive, avocado, macademia hemp etc.
Some oils are not healthy to consume such as: corn, canola, cotton seed and soy bean.
Also the manner in which the oil is processed is important: industrial oils are typically extracted with high heat and pressure which changes the oil and makes it unhealthy: you should always look for oils that are cold pressed or expeller expressed. Don’t get fooled by the label “Organic” – unhealthy oils produced under high heat and pressure can be labeled organic.
Components of a Ketogenic Diet
Here is a list of some of the food items typically consumed on a Ketogenic Diet(1):
Don’t forget to focus on organic and grass fed food items
- Low-carb vegetables
- meat and poultry
- Coconut, olive and other healthy oils
- Plain high fat yogurt and cottage cheese
- Nuts and seeds (in moderation: eating too many can be problematic with the ratio between Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils)
- Butter and cream
- Unsweetened coffee and tea (use healthy sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit if necessary)
- Dark chocolate and cocoa powder
Potential Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
There are many documented benefits associated with the Ketogenic Diet, in fact it was first developed to help children with uncontrolled seizures such as in epilepsy.
Following are some of the documented benefits(2):
- Low-carb diets kill your appetite (in a good way)
- Low-carb diets lead to more weight loss
- A greater proportion of the fat lost comes from the abdominal cavity
- Triglycerides tend to go way down
- Increased Levels of HDL (the “Good”) Cholesterol
- Reduced blood sugar and insulin levels, with a major improvement in Type 2 Diabetes
- Blood pressure tends to go down
- Low-carb diets are the most effective treatment known against metabolic syndrome
- Low-carb diets improve the pattern of LDL cholesterol
- Low-carb diets are therapeutic for several brain disorders – such as dementia and Alzheimer’s)
- A reduction in inflammation
- Helps to turn on good genes and turn off bad genes
Is the Ketogenic Diet Right for You?
An important consideration to remember is that every individual is biochemically unique so a diet that works well for one individual may be disastrous for another.
Long term studies have not been done so we do not know if staying in a ketogenic state over the long term is good for us. What most health care practitioners think is that getting into a ketogenic state periodically – maybe two or three times per year for a month or two can act as a valuable “metabolic reset”.
What can be extremely beneficial is shifting your metabolism such that it can switch back and forth between burning either sugar or fats: this typically involves staying in a ketogenic state for a minimum of six to eight weeks. This is referred to as being “Fat Adapted”.
There are ways to check whether your metabolism is in a ketogenic state: the simplest way to do this is to check your urine with ketone strips.
Your Naturopathic Doctor can provide you with more information on the Ketogenic Diet, how to check if you are in a ketogenic state –and whether the Ketogenic Diet would be a good choice for you.
Contact us to make an appointment.
(1) Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE (2017, January 23) 16 Foods to Eat on a Ketogenic Diet, Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-foods
(2)Kris Gunnars, BSc (2014, January 28) 10 Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets, Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-low-carb-ketogenic-diets