The Ketogenic Diet
We all know that obesity and metabolic syndrome are fast becoming the largest health problem around the world, and especially in the United States.
You probably know that there are lots of diets out there– low-carb, Paleo, as well as just plain calorie restriction. There is another diet that is receiving a lot of attention lately, and it is called the Ketogenic Diet. What is it, and how does it work?
The ketogenic diet consists of eating meals high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. How can this make you lose weight? Normally, when you consume carbohydrates, your body uses them to fuel your brain and muscles. If you restrict your carb intake, your body has to turn to another source for energy. In the absence of carbs, the liver converts fat into the glucose that your brain and body need. This process is called gluconeogenesis, and the results can be striking.
A ketogenic diet can help you lose weight, but even more than that it can decrease insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity (very important for diabetics and those with metabolic syndrome). It can reduce blood sugar levels, triglyceride levels, and LDL (bad cholesterol). It can also reduce chronic inflammation in the body. There is even some research that shows that the presence of ketones in the body can have benefits for those who have cancer, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy. A ketogenic diet aids in fat loss and at the same time preserves muscle mass.
To get started, here are some basic rules to follow. You will want to eat healthy fats and meats—organic butter and heavy cream, and grass-fed beef and organic chicken and oily fish. Avoid farm-raised fish, as it is not as high in fat and may also contain harmful chemicals. You will be eating unprocessed cheese, whole eggs, olive and coconut oils, nuts, seeds, and low-carb vegetables. Good low-carb and high fiber vegetables to include in your diet are: bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, avocados (which are technically a fruit), cauliflower, green beans, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, celery, tomatoes, radishes, eggplant, cabbage, and artichokes. Garlic and onions are OK to eat as well, even though they have a few more carbs in them, since they are usually eaten in small quantities and are good for flavoring foods.
Eliminate most carbs from your diet. This means being a “label-reader”. You will need to avoid sugar and other sweets, alcohol, grains, bread, pasta, beans, potatoes, low-fat milk, cereals, fruits, and vegetables that are starchy. You should restrict your carb intake to 30-50 grams per day, and your carbs should come from the vegetables that are listed above. This is difficult at first, but you will find that this diet keeps you full, and most will lose the craving for sweets. There are, however, recipes for ketogenic pasta, bread, and sweets using stevia as a sweetener.
How much protein should you consume? A good way to tell the amount of protein that is right for you is to take your ideal weight in pounds, (lean body mass), and divide it by 2.2. This will give you the amount of protein in grams that you should consume daily. For example, if your ideal body weight is 120 pounds, divided by 2.2, gives you an amount of 54 grams of protein per day that you should consume. By eating only moderate amounts of protein, your body will continue to burn fat for energy. As a side note, the more active you are, the more protein you can consume.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to calorie restriction on this diet. Some experts say that you should limit your calories to no more than 2000 per day. But most think that it is not necessary to count your calories, since this diet keeps you full and naturally keeps you from consuming too much.
How can you tell if you are “in ketosis”? Many people will notice that their breath smells bad, and that their urine doesn’t smells “fruity”. Gum or sugar-free mints will take care of the breath issue. You can also buy strips to test your urine for ketones. And if you stick with the diet, you will notice that you are losing weight! Some people have trouble initially with their energy levels being decreased. This is normal, and again, if you stick with the diet, this problem goes away as your body gets used to using fat instead of carbs as fuel. Most people report that their energy levels increase, sometimes even dramatically, after a few weeks of being on this diet.
So give this diet a try—it just may be the one for you!
Blessings to you,