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What is the Keto Diet? An Introduction

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The keto diet has recently flourished in popularity due to claims of its ability to help shed weight and its benefits for people suffering from diabetes and epilepsy. It is a diet that is based on fat burning. People on the keto diet consume a very small amount of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein and a large amount of fat. This fat is then used as the body’s main fuel source, with it being burned quickly and pretty much all hours of the day.

The weight shedding capabilities of the diet are its main drawcard. This kind of high-fat eating allows the body to produce small fuel molecules from the liver, called “ketones”. Ketones are produced by the liver when you eat very few carbs. These ketones are then broken down and converted into blood sugar. These are then used as a fuel source for the entire body, especially the brain, with the entire body switching its complete fuel supply to run mostly on fat. This happens when insulin levels fall below a certain level. When the body reaches this metabolic state, fat burning increases dramatically as fat stores become more easily accessible. When the body is on this diet, it is in a state much like fasting.

The keto diet can be safe for almost everyone, but those who should be wary and talk to their Doctor are:

  • People taking medication for high-blood pressure
  • People on medication for diabetes
  • Women who are breastfeeding

How does it work?

The keto diet requires that no more then 50g of carbohydrates are to be consumed a day. Reaching ketosis is a lot easier, the fewer carbs you consume. Foods included in the keto diet regime include:

  • Butter and Cream: Both contain only a trace of carbs per serving. Formally linked to heart disease, recent studies have debunked this and are linking high-fat dairy to reduced risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
  • Cheese: Cheese is very low in carbs and very high in fats. It may be high in saturated fat but has fortunately not been linked to heart disease. Cheese is so versatile and also contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is linked to weight loss and improvements in body composition.
  • Avocados: Avocados are low in carbs, high in fiber and contain a high-level of potassium. Eating foods high in potassium helps the body transition into the ketogenic state.
  • Fish and seafood: Fish and shellfish are very keto-friendly foods. Salmon and other fish are rich in B vitamins, potassium and selenium and are virtually carb-free
  • Eggs: Eggs are ideal within the keto diet. They are amazing versatile and are also low in carbs. Eat the whole egg to gain all of the advantages of what the egg has to offer the body.
  • Plain Greek Yoghurt and Cottage Cheese: Both are healthy, high protein, quality foods and are perfect for the ketogenic lifestyle. While being low in carbohydrates, both foods have you feeling fuller for longer and are great for decreasing appetite.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are high in fat, low in carbs and are an amazingly healthy choice of food. Eating nuts frequently can decrease the chances of cancer, heart disease and depression. They also help the body to feel fuller for longer and are high in fiber.
  • Meat and Poultry: Both are considered staple foods on the keto diet. Fresh meat and poultry contain B vitamins and many minerals including potassium, selenium and zinc. Also, they are a great source of high-quality protein. Always choose grass-fed wherever possible.
  • Vegies grown above the ground: Most non-starchy vegetables are grown above ground. These are high in nutrients and minerals without the carb-count. It is fun to replicate starchy vegetables from above ground non-starchy foods. For example, “zoodles”, zucchini noodles for pasta or noodles or using cauliflower to replicate mashed potatoes.

Foods that sould be avoided include:

  • Those containing lots of sugar
  • Those containing lots of starch
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Fruit

The keto diet originated to help children suffering from epilepsy. It is important to remember that not all fad-like diets have our best nutritional interests at heart. Although studies have been carried out in healthy adults incorporating the diet into their lives, it is important to remember that there have been limited to no long-term analysis done on the effects of such a high-fat diet.

Kathy McManus, directory of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s hospital has warned that “The keto diet is primarily used to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children. While it also has been tried for weight loss, only short-term results have been studied, and the results have been mixed. We don’t know if it works in the long term, nor whether it’s safe”.

Risks associated with the diet include:

Nutrient deficiencies: McManus has stated that “If you’re not eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and grains, you may be at risk for deficiencies in micronutrients, including selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C”.

  • Liver problems: If you have existing liver problems, eating a high-fat diet is not a good health choice.
  • Kidney problems: Some studies have shown that a high-fat diet can overload and overwork the kidneys.
  • Constipation: Due to the diets its lacking in high-fiber foods.
  • Mood swings: Low-carb diets have been known to cause irritability.

The ketogenic diet has been linked to weight loss, blood sugar control, heightened energy, brain focus and a decrease in trype-2 diabetes. It is a diet that relies on using stored fat as the body’s main energy source. To reach this ketogenic state, the body cannot consume carbohydrates and can only consume a small amount of high-quality protein. Due to this, the body is consuming only high-fat foods, so it is extremely important to choose wisely.

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