What is the “Keto” Diet?

The ketogenic diet is the new, sexy diet that everyone is talking about. Many companies are jumping on the “weight loss miracle” bandwagon with “exogenous ketones” that will solve all your weight loss problems.

But what is a ketogenic diet? What is it good for? How do you do it?

A ketogenic diet is one that is high in healthy fats, low in carbohydrates, and low to moderate in protein.  When you eat this way, your biochemistry can enter what is called nutritional ketosis. That means your cells are burning fat (in the form of ketones) as their primary fuel instead of carbohydrates/sugar (in the form of glycogen).

For the most part, your body likes burning sugar. It’s easy to get at, and easy for the body to use. Fat, on the other hand, is super-efficient for storage, but less easy to access. Given a choice between the two, your body will typically take sugar (in the form of glycogen) over fat (in the form of ketones).

Plus, the standard North American diet is generally so high in simple carbohydrates, the body never gets a chance to actually burn the fuel we have stored as fat. A highly processed, high sugar/simple carb diet tips the biochemical balance AWAY from fat burning toward carb burning. The ketogenic diet is a way of tipping the scale back again by reducing the carbohydrate supply in the body.

What do we mean by high fat, low carb, and low/moderate protein?

Generally, the macronutrient ratio varies within the following ranges: 60-75% of calories from fat (or even more), 15-30% of calories from protein, and. 5-10% of calories from carbs

What does that mean for you?

Here is a handy little calculator:

What are healthy fats?

What to we mean by “healthy fats”? Not French fries and deep-fried food.:)

Healthy fats include things like:

  • Ghee
  • Coconut oil (MCT)
  • Lard/butter
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Nut oils
  • Fatty fish
  • Grass-fed animal proteins

Is it safe? Should I do it?

For us, the upside of a low-carb or ketogenic diet is that it guides people toward simply eating food that is less processed. By default, when you lower your simple carbs, you end up cutting out a lot of packaged food and added sugars. As a general rule, we always support eating “real food”–things your grandparents or great-grandparents might have actually recognized and eaten.

The idea of a “diet”, especially for weight loss, can be troublesome. Diets are almost always temporary, and when people return to the way they habitually eat, their bodies follow along. The same health issues return, the same body fat distribution returns.

For most people, the goal should be a long-term, sustainable shift toward a healthier lifestyle. That generally means gradually changing to whole foods, a more active lifestyle, and improved emotional health.   Expecting a ketogenic diet to transform your life forever is probably the wrong recipe. Diets come and go–what doesn’t change are the fundamentals of health.

Most people can safely eat far fewer simple carbohydrates than they do, but as always, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor!

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