The ketogenic or ‘keto’ diet has rocketed in popularity in recent years, thanks to its many associated health benefits. Following a high fat and low carb diet can help to prevent disease and promote weight loss. What’s more, it’s based on some simple core principles rather than an extensive list of diet do’s and don’ts – making it easier to follow and more sustainable in the long-term. Our compact guide is here to clear the confusion and explain the evidence behind all things keto!
A Brief Intro to Keto
Training your body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates is the basis of the ketogenic diet, and something which has been shown to have many health benefits. This can be achieved by consuming a diet which is high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbohydrate.
This holy trinity is the key to encouraging a process called ‘ketosis’ – your body’s natural metabolic reaction to a low-carb diet. Put simply, when carbohydrate intake is low your body doesn’t have enough blood glucose for energy and so its turns to fat for fuel. Hey presto – achieving ketosis!
Why do I want to be in Ketosis?
Drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake helps your body to become very efficient at burning fat for fuel. Not only doe this help to utilise energy more quickly, but it means that you’re less likely to store fat on the body. With high carbohydrate intake, energy is stored in blood (as glucose) or in muscles (as glycogen). Getting the bulk of your energy from fat in place of carbs means that blood sugar and insulin levels are reduced, which is the reason behind many of the health benefits of a keto diet.
Put simply, when in ketosis your body use energy more efficiently – and is less likely to store energy as harmful blood sugars or excess weight.
How do I know I’m in Ketosis?
When fat is metabolised, it generates molecules called ketones. Measuring levels of ketones in blood or urine will determine if a person is in a state of ketosis or not. This may sound intense but ketone levels can actually be quickly, easily and accurately measured with test strips that detect ketone levels in our urine https://www.nkdliving.com/products/ketone-test-strips-125-test-strips
The end game to a ketogenic diet is ketosis – so make sure you monitor ketone levels to confirm your diet is working.
Getting the Diet Right
Reaching ketosis is all about getting the right balance of macronutrients, the nutrients we need more of; fats, protein and carbs. There are many variations of the keto diet (https://www.ruled.me/3-ketogenic-diets-skd-ckd-tkd/) but the standard keto diet follows a macro split that provides energy from around 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs. If you’re new to keto it can be really helpful to download an app to track your macros (https://blog.bulletproof.com/best-macronutrient-calculator-food-tracker/) and help you to reach these targets.
A Foreword on Fats
If on hearing the recommendation to eat more fat you recoiled in horror, bear with us! The world of nutrition has evolved substantially over the past few decades, and it goes without saying that ideas and recommendations have changed drastically during this time. A prime example of this is the case of dietary fat.
Once seen as the devil of all nutrients, we now know that fat is an essential part of any diet, let alone a keto diet. But old habits die hard and actively seeking out high fat foods can be a bit of a learning curve.
Knowing which fats are the ‘healthy’ ones can help you to plan your diet and gain some confidence in your fat-filled ventures.
Here’s a few examples of which fats to include and which to avoid;
Medium Chain Triglycerides https://www.nkdliving.com/products/mct-oil-premium-c8-and-c10-100-from-coconuts
Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Unsaturated Fats
Artificial Trans Fats, Hydrogenated Fats, Some Saturated Fats (mainly found in animal products)
As a general rule, fats found naturally in real foods (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/21-reasons-to-eat-real-food) will be better for you than those in processed or junk foods.
Foods to Include….
There are lots of foods which are naturally high in fat and low in carbohydrate, making them great additions to a ketogenic diet. The following foods provide a high dose of healthy fats, and a very low dose of carbs:
Avocados, Nuts, Seeds, Good Quality Meat, Oily Fish, Eggs, Coconuts, Butter, Cream, Cheese.
Foods to Avoid…
Carbohydrates should provide around only 5% of a ketogenic diet, so it goes without saying that avoiding foods with a high-carb content is rule number one! Carbs can come in the form of sugars, starches, fibre and ‘oligosaccharides’ – which are somewhere between starches and sugars.
Here’s some examples of high-carb foods that you’ll learn to leave out of your kept diet: Starchy Veg, Processed Junk Food, Alcohol, Potatoes, Pasta, Bread, Rice,Sweets and Chocolate.
The Health Benefits
Keto diets are most commonly adopted for two reasons; to help with weight loss and to manage diabetes.
Keto for Weight Loss
The benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet for weight loss are supported by heaps of evidence. We now know that fats aren’t the enemy, and that balancing where your energy is coming from is the key to gearing your body’s natural metabolism toward weight loss.
A ketogenic diet has been shown to be more effective for weight loss when compared with a low-fat diet. Unlike many so-called ‘diets’ which focus on fast (but unsustainable) weight loss, studies have shown that a keto diet can help to reduce body weight and body mass index (BMI) in the long-term.
What’s more, increasing your protein intake with a Ketogenic diet also helps to conserve muscle mass, boost metabolism and increase satiety, all helping to shed those pounds!
Keto for Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes
The biggest effect a keto diet will have on your body is a reduction in blood sugars. This can have an amazing impact on insulin-related conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and pre-diabetes.
The ketogenic diet works in synergy to reduce blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Not only does this reduce the risk of developing Type 2, but it also makes the management of Type 1 Diabetes easier. Having lower blood sugars means a reduced need for insulin – great news for Type 1 diabetics!
And remember, being overweight is a key factor in the development of Type 2 Diabetes. So the fact that a keto diet can help you to lose weight makes it an all-round good guy for diabetics!
Wider Health Benefits
Research has found that following a ketogenic diet can also have therapeutic effects for the following conditions:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Adopting a ketogenic diet has been shown to have an amazing impact on certain conditions, as well as overall health. I hope that you now have a better understanding of not only this but also the wider benefits of a Ketogenic lifestyle.
Reducing overall sugar intake is the first step you should make on your journey to go keto. Replacing sugar with natural alternatives will drastically lower your carbohydrate intake, whilst eliminating the adverse effects sugar has on health.
Author: Stephanie Masterman @NutriNoggin
- Bueno, N, de Melo, I., de Oliveira, S. and da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013). Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Nutrition, 110(07), pp.1178-1187.
- A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet Versus a Low-Fat Diet to Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. (2006). Yearbook of Pediatrics, 2006, pp.427-431.
- Davis, N., Tomuta, N., Schechter, C., Isasi, C., Segal-Isaacson, C., Stein, D., Zonszein, J. and Wylie-Rosett, J. (2009). Comparative Study of the Effects of a 1-Year Dietary Intervention of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Versus a Low-Fat Diet on Weight and Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 32(7), pp.1147-1152.
- Volek, J. and Sharman, M. (2004). Cardiovascular and Hormonal Aspects of Very-Low-Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diets. Obesity Research, 12(S11), pp.115S-123S.
- Westman, E., Yancy, W., Mavropoulos, J., Marquart, M. and McDuffie, J. (2008). The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition & Metabolism, 5(1).