By now, you have likely heard of an eating program which is commonly referred to as the “ketogenic diet,” or just “keto” for short. However, what you may not understand is just what a keto eating program is, or that it is something other than just the latest fad-diet. That is because there is more to this way of eating than mere rapid weight loss, since it has benefits beyond weight management. This includes improving heart health, brain health, reducing epileptic seizures, and more.
Need more information? We’re here to provide it for you-read on!
What does Ketogenic Mean?
To start, the root word “keto” is short for “ketones,” which are the organic compounds your body produces from fat to use as fuel. Inducing them in a healthy body means limiting the carbohydrates your body is accustomed to running on, and instead providing it with fat as its main source of energy.
Once the majority of your calories come in the form of fats and proteins, your body then finishes off its stored glucose supplies before switching to fat for energy, which is known of as ketosis. (1)
The Keto Eating Program
While low-carb eating is usually referred to as the “ketogenic diet,” it is really more than just a diet, and instead, is an entire eating program. No, you won’t find yourself grinding through loads of monotonous, low-cal eating such as with most fad diets (a big reason why none of them work), although it does require changing your approach to eating.
This is because all the grains, added sugars, starches and other sources of simple carbohydrates you’re accustomed to fueling with need to be eliminated in favor of fats and proteins. Yes, this is a huge change for most of us, although would it help if we told you that bacon (keep it nitrate free!) IS a part of the keto eating plan? Yeah, we thought that would pique your interest.
In fact, not only bacon, but grass-fed meats, poultry, fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts. The main idea is to keep your daily calories down to no more than 10% carbs, while getting between 60-75% of calories from fats and the rest from protein.
For instance, a daily meal plan could be something like:
- Breakfast—Eggs scrambled in grass-fed butter with cauliflower “rice,” and wrapped in an almond flower tortilla. Don’t forget the avocado and fresh salsa!
- Lunch—Coconut butter and almond butter on coconut flour bread with a fresh green salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing and sprinkled with pumpkin (or other favorite nutritious) seeds.
- Dinner—Grass-fed beef burger (try for no more than 80% lean) wrapped in lettuce along with steamed broccoli (or spinach, etc.) and a fresh green salad with plenty of multi-colored organic vegetables and olive oil. You can also add bacon to increase calories and flavor, although remember that nitrates found in conventional bacon can cause high blood pressure, cancer and other dangerous health conditions. Therefore, sticking with nitrate-free bacon (and other meat products) is recommended.
- Snacks—Chocolate chia seed and avocado pudding, nuts, sunflower seeds, berries and raw veggies with nut butter.
Remember that this is a suggested menu, and your caloric intake will vary with your activity level and metabolism. However, so long as you stay within the 10% carb calories/75% fat calories model that consist of good, QUALITY calories (skip the processed foods in favor of healthy fats, veggies and proteins, in other words), you will induce ketosis. (2)
8 Benefits of the Keto Diet
Of course, the main reason many of us are interested in keto eating is that it helps us lose weight, which it works well for. However, the benefits don’t stop there, as it also:
- Induces autophagy—Induces auto-what? Okay, so you may not be familiar with what autophagy is, so let’s start by telling that it is your body’s way of recycling its own cells and proteins. In fact, the literal definition of the word autophagy is “self-eating,” which is what your body does with ineffective and damaged cells under ketosis. This helps by ridding your body of toxic proteins and dead and damaged cells, which it then reuses the materials from to reform new, healthy cells. This not only helps keep you younger and healthier but may help eliminate toxic proteins known to cause Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer. (3)
- Can reduce seizures—Ketosis is known to alter genes necessary in energy metabolism, which can then reduce the occurrence of childhood epileptic seizures. It does this by calming the neurons known to cause seizures through overstimulation and may also limit the progression of epilepsy. (4)
- May reduce pain—Chronic pain can be similar to seizures in that it involves excitable neurons in need of calming, which ketones help do. (5)
- Reduces inflammation—Keto eating further helps ease pain and other conditions associated with inflammation by reducing inflammation in the body. This is because ketone metabolism produces fewer reactive oxygen species than does the metabolism of glycogens. This also produces fewer free radicals, and altogether this helps reduce inflammation along with your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other diseases. (5)
- Is an eating program which cancer hates—Most cancers love simple carbohydrates, which is a key reason a high fat/low carb diet has recently been proposed as an adjuvant treatment in cancer therapy. Plus, some cancers are unable to metabolize ketone bodies, which makes the reduction of circulating glucose levels along with the increase in ketone bodies a likely means of starving these types of cancer cells. Reducing blood glucose levels also reduces blood insulin and insulin-like growth factors, both of which play a key role in cancer cell proliferation. The takeaway? Ketogenic eating is anti-cancer eating! (6)
- Helps you maintain a healthy weight—Of course, the main reason so many are interested in low-carb eating is that it reduces body fat, period. True, you can lose weight on most fad diets, although once you have lost the weight your body then increases its production of ghrelin, AKA, the “hunger hormone.” Since ghrelin increases your appetite, you are then at the mercy of your own willpower when it comes to keeping the weight off, which of course has a LOT to do with why fad diets rarely (if ever) work. Ketogenic eating, on the other hand, does the opposite and helps balance the production of ghrelin along with other hormones which influence appetite and weight control. (7)
- Helps you maintain muscle mass—Unlike other diets which may starve you of key macronutrients such as protein, low-carb eating provides you with plenty of the building blocks your body needs to maintain (or grow) strong, lean muscle mass. In fact, there is a reason many bodybuilders and other athletes swear ketosis is the way to go, which is that it simply works. (8)
- Improves your quality of sleep—While more research needs to be performed, studies show that a very low carbohydrate diet produced less REM sleep (the active dream state of sleep) and better deep, slow wave sleep (SWS) in healthy, non-obese sleepers over a 48-hour period. This may be linked to the metabolism of fat, although this is yet to be determined. However, getting plenty of deep, quality sleep is important to your health, and keto eating can help. (9)
No, a ketogenic eating program is not just another fad diet which offers little more than false hope when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. Instead, it can not only help you safely lose weight while maintaining muscle mass, it can also keep the weight off for the long term along with other health benefits.
Yes, switching to low-carb eating takes discipline, at least in the beginning. This is because it is an entirely new approach to eating, and your body also has to re-accustom to burning fat as its main fuel. This will likely leave you feeling symptoms such as fatigue and carb cravings at first.
However, once you are through the initial acclimation period, this will pass, and you will feel more clear-headed, have more energy, sleep better and more. Plus, as any chef will tell you, fat means flavor, which is another great reason this eating program works where others don’t: satisfying foods, and never having to feel hungry or deal with cravings.
Remember, all you’re cutting out here are the carbohydrates, meaning you can still enjoy foods such as omelets, roast chicken, hearty stews and chilis. So, for weight management and better health, there is a reason ketogenic eating is here to stay!
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