Understanding the Ketogenic Diet

Oct-KetoDiet-imageFor those who are trying to get healthy and perhaps lose a few pounds, the amount of contradictory information on the web and in books about how to “lose weight and feel great” can be overwhelming. In a country where over 600,000 people die of heart disease each year, however, a new approach to diet and how we relate to food/eating may be needed now more than ever. One philosophy that is beginning to gain traction throughout America and the rest of the world is the ketogenic diet—a low-carb approach to eating that sits in contrast to what most people grew up with and may come along with numerous health benefits.

What exactly is the ketogenic diet, and why is it worth considering? Here are a few things you need to know.

Ketosis and the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet gets its name from the desired effects of eating foods high in fats and extremely low in carbohydrates. For most people, glucose is the primary source of fuel for brain functionality. While highly effective, glucose also comes along with a number of unwanted side effects—especially when taken in excess. From mood swings to weight gain and blood sugar instability, the effects of a carbohydrate-based diet can be problematic, and sensitivity varies from individual to individual.

When carbohydrate-rich foods are cut out of the diet and replaced with healthy fats such as avocado and coconut oil, the liver begins to produce ketones to augment the lack of glucose in the body. This process, known as ketosis, is the primary reason why most people decide to “eat keto” in the first place.

The Benefits of “Eating Keto”

To enter and remain in a state of ketosis, the basic rule is to focus on your macros—that is, a daily diet consisting of 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbohydrates. Hitting this golden ratio can take practice and will generally mean avoiding starches, wheat, sugar, processed foods and refined fats/oils. Focus should be placed on healthy fats and proteins, with best results attained by following a ketogenic meal plan.

Why “eat keto?” Here are just a few potential benefits to consider:

  • Reduced Appetite
  • Enhanced Weight Loss
  • Lowered Levels of Triglycerides 
  • Increased LDL (“Good”) Cholesterol Levels
  • Regulated Blood Sugar Levels
  • Reduced Blood Pressure 
  • Enhanced Mental Clarity and Focus

While benefits of the ketogenic diet can take time to see and may even follow a period of feeling sluggish and run-down as your body transitions from being a glucose burner to being fat-adapted (referred to as the “keto flu”), weight loss and reduction in appetite in particular tend to occur extremely fast.

The Bottom Line

The ketogenic diet may not be for everyone. As with any other type of diet, sticking to the constraints can be difficult at times, and falling in and out of ketosis is generally ill-advised—retention is key to success. For those who are looking for a new approach to shedding weight and eating healthier, however, “eating keto” may be worth a shot.