Why you should consider a Ketogenic Diet?
Thinking about trying a ketogenic diet? Being healthy is the most essential quality for happiness, and the best natural way to keep healthy is eat a proper diet and get sufficient exercise. The exercise part has many ways to be done – yoga, running, jogging or simple taking the stairs all the time – and so does the diets. This article will talk in detail about one particular highly known-to-be successful diet – the Ketogenic diet, and its many benefits to the human body.
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Ketogenic diet – What is it?
It is, in essence, a specialised diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates. In its basic form, it is similar to other diets such as the low-carb diet and Atkin’s diet. By reducing the intake of carbohydrates drastically, and in its place consuming aft, the body starts to burn the fat for production of energy. This also generates ketones, as a result of burning fat, which is the energy food for the brain.
The Ketogenic diet is believed to have several benefits for health and well-being in general, and for diseases like seizures, cancer, Alzheimer’s etc. in particular. There are several versions of the ketogenic diet with varying degrees of proportions of carbohydrates and fat and proteins.
How does a Ketogenic diet work?
Now, the aim of the diet is to make a person’s health better by invigorating a change in his metabolism wherein the cells derive energy primarily from fats or the products of fat metabolism, otherwise called ketones i.e. fats become the prime fuel source as opposed to carbohydrates. This shift in metabolic fuel access is made possible through a metabolic process of ketogenesis which results in a state of the body, called ketosis.
What is ketosis?
Simply put, ketosis is the general metabolic state of the body wherein the cells of the body derive energy from ketones (the natural product of fat metabolism) instead of carbohydrates or sugars. This is a natural state of the body and as a matter of fact, the human body’s natural evolution over the years supports this kind of metabolism – our ancestor as hunter-gatherers sometimes would have to go days with no food and in this period, it was the fat stored in their bodies that was converted into ketones that gave them the energy and thus enabled them to survive.
Not to be confused with ketoacidosis!
The common answer you get from physicians is that ketosis is a dangerous thing! But that’s only because they got it all mixed up with another condition of similar name – ketoacidosis. This condition arises in Diabetes Type 1 patients or any individual with insulin reception difficulties – this condition rises when any of these individuals suffer from a sudden heart failure or any other serious infection. It gives rise to a higher blood glucose level and mild to severe dehydration.
Currently, several studies are being conducted on ketones and their abilities to aid the healing of many diseases and their benefits to human health. Treatment of many illnesses is facilitated by augmenting the rate at which metabolic ketogenesis takes place. The very presence of ketones in the body’s blood stream is known to greatly improve human health at the cellular level, particularly in the working of pathways involving cellular energy and also health of mitochondria.
What are the benefits of a ketogenic diet?
There are several pros that one experiences upon following a ketogenic diet. Some people follow this diet for general well-being and health, while some people follow this as treatment and healing for particular illnesses.
The following list is enough to convince you to shift to ketogenic diet soon:
- A ketogenic diet aids weight loss:
The most common reason for anyone to follow a diet is weight loss. Whether you want to just trim the excess fat across the waist or for obesity concerns, the ketogenic diet is extremely effective, if followed properly.
The problem with obesity
In today’s modern fast-paced world, exercise is almost obsolete leading to obesity, which is as common as the cold now. Obesity can lead to several complications and if not checked, can even lead to imminent death. There are many diets which claim to help reduce obesity, but of all these the ketogenic diet has been proven to be of immense benefit.
Ketogenic diet to the rescue!
A ketogenic diet which is high in fat and low in carbs can actually aid in losing the extra fat and preserve the necessary muscle mass. This also helps in eliminating any precursors to diseases that may arrive due to over-weight.
- Rich-protein foods.
Protein is the most beneficial element to promote weight loss- a diet high in protein promotes healthy metabolism, reduces the cravings and appetite and also regulates and maintains the working of important weight-regulating hormones. Also, protein has a higher thermic effect (the amount of calories burnt in digesting food and metabolising it) which means the more protein you eat, the more calories you burn for its digestion itself!
- Limited appetite and food intake
Again, due to the high quantity of proteins in this diet, they naturally curb the appetite and prevent cravings. The brain controls your appetite by the action of hormones – higher protein increases the secretion of a particular appetite-reducing hormone such as peptide and GLP-1and decreases the secretion of the hunger hormone called ghrelin.
This is the process in which glucose is generated from non-carbohydrate sources, in this case, from fat. This entire process uses calories during its happening which thus aids in additional weight loss.
- Food elimination
A ketogenic diet, by principle, eliminates a massive amount of carbohydrates, bringing it down to a meagre 5% of the daily diet. This in itself will enable a good amount of weight loss.
- Increased sensitivity to insulin
Insulin has a huge impact in the processes of effective energy utilization and in general metabolic activities.
- Improved burning of fat
With really less carbohydrate intake, the body will turn to another eligible source of fuel – namely, fat. Thus a lot of the fat stores in excess in the body will be utilised for energy production, enabling the body to lose the excess weight.
- Reduced storage of fat
Ditto, from above. If more fat is burned for energy production and assimilation, then the amount of fat stored in the body will drastically reduce. Goodbye weight problems!
Several studies and many success stories prove its superiority in this matter of weight loss, to other diets including the famed “low-fat” diet. One study in particular discovered that people following a ketogenic diet experienced a whopping 2.2 times more weight loss, in a given time, than those following a low fat diet. It was also found that the levels of triglycerides and good HDL cholesterol greatly improved.
Why many people prefer the ketogenic diet for weight loss?
The major factor that draws many people to this diet is because it is such a fulfilling and satiating diet, that there are no additional cravings for food – and also you don’t really have to keep painful count of number of calories and so on. It’s very easy for the body and the mind, with no complex calculations and unease.
- A ketogenic diet helps to fight against Metabolic diseases
Metabolic diseases are now a common occurrence and the only way to naturally combat these diseases without resorting to artificial and sometimes harmful drug medications, id by following a healthy eating habit and good exercise. The ketogenic diet has shown excellent results in helping to reduce the risk factors for metabolic diseases.
The metabolic disease markers
There are five markers which indicate the prospective onset of metabolic diseases like Heart diseases, Diabetes type 2 and obesity namely –Increased blood pressure (BP), Increased sugar levels in the blood, High amount of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), Low amount of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and abdominal obesity otherwise commonly known as belly fat.
These conditions can be easily reduced in effect, or even eliminated in totality, through small changes in food habits and lifestyle.
Insulin and ketogenic diets
Insulin plays the most vital of roles in the control of metabolism and thus in the onset of these above mentioned conditions. If a person who is known or expected to suffer the onset of Diabetes type 2, following a ketogenic diet will greatly help in lowering the level of insulin enzyme in the blood.
- Low intake of carbs
The most obvious point, the lower the carbohydrate intake, the lower the blood glucose levels and thus lower the risk of getting diabetes. If glucose levels are high due to more carb consumption, then the insulin levels will correspondingly increase which may adversely affect cellular functioning and may damage it over time too.
- Lower resistance to Insulin
If the body continues to resist the insulin form functioning, it will lead to high sugar in blood, gain of fat, higher levels of triglycerides and also inflammation.
- Consumption of “healthy” fats
All fats are not unhealthy. In fact, if adequate amounts of good fat are consumed, it increases the levels of the good cholesterol in the blood stream, otherwise known as HDL cholesterol. This helps in clearing the arteries leading to the heart of all the bad or LDL cholesterol and transporting it to the liver, which disintegrates it and removes It from the body.
- The pros of Ketones
Ketones are produced as a result of the natural metabolism of fat. Ketones are highly good elements which help in preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.
- Reduced risk of inflammatory diseases
Ketogenic diets help in decreasing the onset of chronic inflammation which is the major cause of many serious metabolic syndromes
- Belly fat loss
Ketogenic diets enable weight loss in general, as elaborated in the previous section. This diet has specific benefits when it comes to the loss of the dreaded pot belly fat, which is a huge risk factor for metabolic diseases.
Ketogenic diets and Diabetes
Studies have proven the effectiveness of this diet in this particular arena. One study discovered that the body’s sensitivity to insulin increased by a drastic percentage of 75% just within a fortnight of following a ketogenic diet. The blood sugar level was found to have reduced by a total of 1.3mmol/l.
Another study which was conducted on 21 participants for 16 weeks also proved that there was a total of 16% decrease in the level of blood sugar in all participants. Also, 7 of those participants reported that they could completely stop their drug medications for diabetes.
- Other benefits of the Ketogenic Diet:
- Prevention of Heart Diseases –by the controlling of all risk factors such as high levels of bad cholesterol, blood glucose level, blood pressure and also body weight and fat.
- Treatment of Cancer – As a supplementary treatment, this ketogenic diet is now being used for the treatment of most cancer types and reduces the rate of growth of tumours.
- Alzheimer’s disease – The diet helps in lessening the symptoms of this disease and if followed before the advent of Alzheimer’s, it can prevent it too.
- Epilepsy –The original use of the ketogenic diet – it was found to aid treatment of issues of the brain and nervous system, like epilepsy. It is found to be particularly beneficial in the treatment of focal seizure sin children who are not responding well to other medications.
- Parkinson’s disease – Scientific studies and research prove the ketogenic diet’s positive effects on people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
- Polycystic ovarian Disorder- Otherwise commonly known as PCOD, this is a condition rapidly being reported in women in this modern day and age. It is principally caused by an imbalance in the hormones. It is also influenced by insulin levels in the body, and is a marker for the future onset of diabetes. Since ketogenic diets have proven effects on the control and regulation of insulin, following this diet may help PCOD women sufferers.
- Healing of brain injuries- Some studies show that following a ketogenic diet after any mild or serious brain injuries can help you heal and recover from them, even minor concussions can be helped.
- Acne- Acne either in conjunction with PCOD or as a condition on its own can be treated and helped with lesser amount of glucose rich food.
Who SHOULD follow a ketogenic diet?
Almost everyone can follow the ketogenic diet- it’s good for maintaining overall health and promotes weight loss. In addition to all this, the ketogenic diet is sometimes a mandatory diet for treatment of certain diseases or conditions too. But of Corse it is important tot consider that each individual has his ow body conditions and metabolism status, so it may not be appropriate to follow a ketogenic diet. More on that in the next section
The following list includes those who should follow a ketogenic diet:
- As mentioned in the benefit above, the ketogenic diet can help those who suffer from Diabetes, as the protein rich diet stimulates insulin sensitivity and thus helps control diabetes.
- People who have history of or who are suffering from seizures due to epilepsy can benefit from a ketogenic diet. Especially for children, doctors recommend this diet if the child shows no improvements even after seizure control medications. In this particular ketogenic diet is termed as the “long-chain triglyceride” and by its constituents, it has 4:1 ratio of fats to carbohydrate and protein, respectively.
- People who have or are expected to have and show symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
- A ketogenic diet also shows improvements in those who have any type pf cancer
- Children who have metabolic disorders like autism and such can benefit greatly from the protein-rich diet of ketogenesis.
Are there any contraindications I should be aware of?
It is certainly recommended to approach a certified nutrition specialist before proceeding with this diet, as there may be certain medical conditions (Especially any conditions relating to the heart or the kidney) that you may have, whether you are aware of it or not, that may cause harm if combined with a ketogenic diet.
Consult a doctor/nutritionist before undertaking a ketogenic diet if you have the following list of conditions:
- Pancreatitis – either before, or still existing
- A still present disease in gall bladder
- Improper liver function
- Problems with digestion of fat
- Inadequate nutrition status
- Surgery of gastric bypass nature
- Tumours in the abdomen
- Lowered motility of the gastrointestinal organs – maybe as a side effect of cancer treatment and medication
- Any past kidney failures
- If you are pregnant or currently lactating
Are there any possible side effects from following a ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is completely risk free, save for the contraindications mentioned above. But there may be a little and slight show of mildly unpleasant side effects in the beginning, when your body is trying to adapt to the new shift in diet. This discomfort is known as the keto-flu, and there is nothing to worry about it, it usually disappears in the first week or two.
The side effects noticed commonly are:
- Lower body energy
- Poorer mental functioning
- A higher appetite and hunger
- Problems with getting good sleep
- Slight nausea
- Discomforts in digestion
- Lower performance in athletics and exercise
How do I overcome these symptoms?
Firstly, try to ease your body into the new low-carb situation by first following a general low carb duet before entering into a full-on ketogenic diet with extremely less carbs – that is, lower the carbs step by step, over a period of two weeks, until you reach the keto-recommended 5% carbs plan. This will slowly train the body to expect less carbs and burn more fats instead
The ketogenic diet messes a little with the balance between water and minerals in the body – so in the initial stages, adding extra minerals, like salt, can help lower these side effects. Other supplements may also be taken.
The mineral supplements that can be added are – Sodium (3000 to 4000 milligrams per day), Potassium (1000 milligrams per day) and Magnesium (3000 milligrams per day).
How to plan a Ketogenic diet
Now that you know why you should start on a ketogenic diet, let’s get into how to go about it.
The general rule of law is that the body should get calories from foods in the following percentages:
70% from fat; 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates.
Why more fat and moderate protein
There is a reason why it is said that high fat and moderate protein is better.
Fats are extremely neutral and have almost no effect on the level of sugar or insulin in the blood. Proteins, on the other hand, have a major effect on this. If too much protein is consumed, it can lead to a condition called gluconeogenesis which will increase the blood glucose and also the insulin in the body. This increased insulin will also wreak havoc on the production of ketones – the whole basis of the ketogenic diet.
Besides, having really high proteins in your diet can lead to something called “rabbit starvation” and also affect the body’s natural metabolism in general
A list of foods that are ALLOWED:
All kinds of it – from red meat of beef, steak, poultry meat like chicken, duck or turkey, sausages, ham and bacon, pork
Fish with load of healthy fats. Consider salmon, trout and other fish like mackerel and tuna.
Rich in proteins, think of getting them from natural farms – pastured eggs, or go for those enriched with omega-3
- Milk products:
Butter really gets the fat content right, and cream can make for good desserts! Consider sourcing these from natural pastures of grass fed cows.
Its preferable to get the unprocessed version as it holds all the nutrients and fat in it – go for cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, blue varieties, cheddar cheese and goat cheese)
- Healthy nuts, and natural seeds:
Fat and protein sources – all kinds of nuts; walnuts, almonds, cashew nuts, peanuts (if not allergic) and seeds form pumpkins, chia, sunflower and flaxseeds.
- Healthy natural oils:
Oils can make the food richer in terms of taste and fats – look for more organic types like virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil.
A highly nutritional fruit with plenty of healthy vitamins, fibre and potassium and more importantly for our case, a healthy amount of mono-unsaturated fatty acids! You can whip it up into a nice green smoothie or have it as a fresh guacamole.
- Vegetable low in carbohydrates:
Most vegetables fit into the list – greens, cucumbers, cauliflowers, tomatoes, onions, capsicum etc. Try to avoid high carb veggies like potatoes, replace with its low carb brother, sweet potato.
- Spices and condiments:
Salt can be added a little over the normal amount, to balance out the minerals. You are also allowed to use a wide range of healthy spices and condiments like pepper, sesame and so on.
A list of foods that are NOT ALLOWED:
Basically, anything that has a high amount of carbohydrates is strictly off the table.
- Sugar rich foods:
Anything with added or naturally high level of sugar/glucose – fresh fruit juices with added sugars, canned juices, sodas like coke, smoothies, baked items and pastries like cakes and cookies (unless specifically made for ketogenic diet), ice-creams, chocolates and candies etc.
- Any grain products or starches:
Rice, pastas, anything that contains wheat, cereals and pulses.
Though fruits contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, they also contain quantifiable amounts of glucose which is a huge no-no in a ketogenic diet. If you really want to, have really small portions of less glucose-rich fruits, like all berries – strawberries, blueberries etc.
- Beans and legumes:
All kinds of beans, including kidney beans, chickpeas, peas and lentils etc.
- Tubers and vegetables from roots:
Yes, unfortunately you will have to quit the yummy potato French fries. All root tubers contain high amounts of carbohydrates. Carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, radish etc. all these come under the list.
- “Low-fat” products:
The problem with these so called “low=fat” products and diet-enforcing products are that they are processed to a very high amount and are stripped off most of the vital fat and nutrients. And they also contain a lot of carbs. So it’s better to steer clear of these marketing gimmicks and go natural instead.
- Certain condiments:
First on the list is sauces and ketchups. These ae very processed and contain only unhealthy fats, and they also contain sugar added during the processing. Always read the labels before purchasing. When in doubt, don’t buy!
- Unhealthy fats:
Yes, that includes the mayonnaise you love to lather on your sandwiches. These don’t have any traces of healthy fat at all, Some processed vegetable oils are also not to be included.
No more Friday night booze parties. Alcohol is processed from grains and is thus contains a huge quantity of carbohydrates. This could break the body’s balance and state in ketosis.
- Foods that claim to be “sugar-free”
Don’t fall for the slogan. Though they may not contain glucose, they may contain glucose alcohols which are even worse than the natural glucose and will affect the body’s ketosis condition.
A sample one-week Ketogenic meal plan
Knowing what foods to eat and what foods to avoid, it’s quite a simple straight-forwards step to draw up a simple meal plan you can follow to avoid going off the track.
Some general tips:
- Try to keep the fats to a maximum and protein moderate, with carbohydrates really low in quantity.
- Stick to allowed foods, and mix and match with appropriate ingredients
- Try to rotate between the given meat types and the vegetables.
- There are many ketogenic recipes available online that you could go through, if you have any doubts
Here’s a sample meal plan as an example, to get a good kick-start on the ketogenesis:
Breakfast – Some good meat for protein – Bacon, some boiled or poached eggs and vegetable salad.
Lunch – A tossed chicken salad with vegetable oils, like olive oil; with cheese sticks for sides
Dinner –Poached salmon with butter soaked asparagus
Breakfast – Cheese omelette made with pasture eggs and goat cheese; Tomato and basil salad with olive oil.
Lunch – Milkshake of almond milk with chocolate powder and peanut butter with added stevia
Dinner – Meatballs with Vegetable sides with cheddar cheese.
Breakfast – A peanut butter and almond milk-milkshake, or a strawberry with heavy cream milkshake. Add in a tablespoon of coconut oil for taste!
Lunch – An olive oil tossed shrimp salad with avocado pieces or juice.
Dinner – Pork chops served with any kind of cheese; salad with broccoli
Breakfast – Egg boiled or omelette filled with vegetables, made frittata style – with broccoli, onions, red or yellow peppers, salsa and other spices
Lunch – Salted celery sticks with added necessary spices; a fistful of nuts and avocado or guacamole
Dinner – Stuffed and roasted chicken, with either pesto or any cheese; vegetables fried in olive oil.
Breakfast – No sugar yogurt (preferably fresh) and peanut butter, chocolate and stevia shake.
Lunch – Beef stirred and fried using coconut oil, and side served with vegetable salad
Dinner – A burger with no buns made of some bacon, slices of boiled egg and any type of cheese.
Breakfast – Cheese omelette with tossed vegetables, and ham
Lunch – Nuts and cheese cubes or slices, with ham
Dinner – Any fish cooked in coconut oil, with eggs and greens, like spinach.
Breakfast – Eggs fried with bacon strips and few stalks of mushroom
Lunch – A burger with no buns, made of cheese slices and guacamole spiced up with salsa sprinkles
Dinner – Eggs with sizzling steak, a vegetable and mayonnaise side salad
Snacks allowed on a ketogenic diet:
If you find yourself hungry in between meals, here are a few recommended snacks to munch on before the next meal time arrives:
- Fat-filled meats strips, or fish left-overs from meals
- A fistful of delicious nuts, like almonds and peanuts
- Seeds like flax or sunflower – salted or toasted
- Cheese slice, or cube
- Cheese with a handful of olives
- One or two boiled eggs, plain or with cheese
- Dark chocolate, with over 90% cocoa content
- A milk shake made of almond milk, any nutty butters and cocoa powder for taste
- Complete fat yogurt with any nut butter and cocoa shake or smoothie
- Fresh full fat cream with strawberries
- Salted celery sticks with salsa seasoning, and some guacamole
- Any leftover portions from previous meals
Additional supplements needed to considered while on a Ketogenic diet:
It is not very necessary that supplements be taken, but some of these may end up being beneficial to you:
- MCT oil
This can be added as an extra flavouring in milkshakes or smoothies. This enables an increase in amount of ketones and also boosts energy
It’s better to add a few minerals to your meals, like a dash of extra salt, especially in the beginning in order to maintain the balance of minerals in the body
Caffeine actually helps in providing a little extra energy, in aiding loss of weight and also in better performance. Extra cups of coffee are good!
- Exogenous ketones
These extra supplements can increase the ketone levels in the body
This plays a huge role in improving health – it can be of special use If you’re following the ketogenic diet for athletic performance improvements
Adding some whey to your daily drinks, juices or shakes can increase the amount of protein intake
Ultimatum – The BASIC rules of a Ketogenic Diet:
Now that you know why you should start on a ketogenic diet, let’s get into how to go about it.
The rules are quite simple and straightforward:
- Cut out the Carbs
Whatever you buy, check the labels. Make sure you don’t cross the mark of 30 grams of carbs in a day
- Buy and store Staples
Whole organic eggs, meat, cream, fresh seafood like fish, cheese, nuts and seeds, avocados and other natural oils – these are now your only foods. Buy and store them up!
- Go heavy on the vegetables
Vegetables are a wonder house of minerals and vitamins, and pack very little carbs. Make them a large part of the diet.
- Keep drinking water
Initially, the kidneys will constantly be excreting the excess of water left over from the previous assimilation of carbohydrates. So it is better to drink a lot of water to compensate for this sudden loss of water.
- Check the web or experiment
There are tons of blogs and website giving really good recipes for a ketogenic diet. It need not be a boring and dry affair, you can make ketogenic desserts, breads, muffins cakes etc. Just experiment with the basic ingredients!
- Have a plan
Yes, it is really difficult to follow a diet in your current lifestyle, especially one that involves saying no to the foods that are the only available ones around everywhere. In that case, it’s essential to keep the benefits in mind, and have a plan for other go-to snacks or meals which you carry on you at all times.
- Track your own progress
Over time, keep a diary or a note on how and well you have progressed and what are the key points in your chart, and what was the cause for that. This also helps you experiment around and find what you love and do it. Also, it can be of help if you find any strange side effects.
Besides, it’s always nice to see how far you have come!
- Take some tests
In order to see if your body has carbohydrate levels low enough to get it into a state of ketosis, you can take periodic tests of body fluid, like blood and urinary tests, which will indicate the level of carbs and project overall health condition.
- Get some mineral supplements
The thing with ketogenic diets is that it kind of sets your minerals on imbalance. So it’s quite necessary to get some mineral supplements such as magnesium and also add a little extra salt in your meals for electrolyte balance.
There are specified ketone mineral supplements you get on the market, or you can go the natural way and just add more coconut oil in your diet.
- Be confident and consistent
As is the case with all diets, it matters to be consistent and not let slip in the middle or give up. Be confident that the results will show in due time, and not lose hope and go back to your normal diet.
- Handle social situations
Someone offers a homemade chocolate cake to you, or you’re out at a party and all your friends are having some beer – it’s all so easy to just give in! But learn to handle these sticky situations with ease. Explain the diet, and proceed to eat your allowed foods.
If you’re at a restaurant, for example, you can easily make the meal a little more keto-friendly. Order any dish with meat or fish, and replace the French fries with some veggie fries. You can even go with anything with egg – omelettes, frittatas, boiled eggs etc.
All that said and done, ketogenic diets are becoming popular, now being followed by many fitness enthusiasts and its helping many lose their weight and achieve their fitness goals. It’s effects on the treatment and care of Diabetes and seizures has long been proven scientifically, and doctors recommend any difficult patients to follow ketogenesis. The positives of this diet far outweigh the minimum negatives.
The ketogenic diet is highly effective, and is also easy and accessible by everyone who wishes to with very less difficulty and calorie tracking involved in it. To help you get started on keto, I created a 30 day program to help you get started.