If you tune into health related news, you’ll likely have heard about the ketogenic diet—keto diet for short. It’s all the rage at the moment, and for good reason. While much of the evidence as to its effectiveness is mainly anecdotal, many people are following the keto diet, with a great deal of success in weight loss, control of blood sugars and overall healthier lifestyles.
What is a Keto Diet?
The keto diet basically boils down to: eating few carbs, little sugar, a lot of fat and a moderate amount of protein. The goal is to eliminate foods that are high in, or turn into, sugar (glucose) in your bloodstream. Carbs that your body doesn’t need for fuel get turned into glucose, which then gets stored as fat in our bodies.
Your body needs fuel and it will look to carbohydrates that you’ve ingested to keep going. Limit those carbs and your body has to look elsewhere for its much needed fuel, such as in the fat stores that you might have been walking around with for a while. This transition of fueling the body from carbs to fuelling from fat is called ketosis.
The ketogenic diet isn’t very different from vegan or paleo diets, though each has its quirks. Proponents of the keto diet claim that they’ve experienced dramatic and sustainable weight loss eating things like bacon, eggs, steak and avocados. And thanks to the healthy dose of protein, they’ve done it without feeling hungry all the time.
What You Can and Can’t Eat While On a Keto Diet
What you can eat:
- Oils—olive and vegetable
- Butter, full fat cream
- Berry fruits
- Green leaf vegetables
Foods to be avoided:
- Starchy vegetables, like potatoes
- High sugar fruits
- Refined, processed sugars
- Most processed foods
Is a Keto Diet Healthy?
The short answer is: it can be. Boxed, processed foods have never been healthy. They contain more sodium, carbs and sugars than your body needs in a week, never mind in a day. It’s also no surprise that white bread and processed flours aren’t ideal. So the keto diet does have interesting benefits in that the really unhealthy foods that might have been part of your everyday will be eliminated.
However, the keto diet also eschews whole grains, legumes and beans—typically thought as important to a healthy diet. Do you need chickpeas to survive? Probably not. Do you enjoy them in a hummus or as part of a veggie stew? Probably.
In order to enter a state of ketosis, where your body is burning fat for fuel, you have to be strict about your carbohydrate consumption. Your net carb intake (which is total carbs LESS grams of fibre) must be between 20-50 grams per day. To put that in perspective, a slice of multigrain toast contains 10 grams of net carbs!
Since it’s also important to get all of your other vitamins and minerals, to ensure healthy muscles, bones, and brains, it’s best to keep in mind that the key to any good diet is to eat a wide a variety of healthy foods. You can enjoy the weight loss and lower blood sugar benefits of a keto diet without doing away completely with the foods you enjoy, like chickpeas or nuts. Moderation is the key!
Focusing On Protein
Ultimately, when you are making food choices, proteins are what help people who are following any diet feel full, for longer. This simple fact helps eliminate snacking, which often leads us to choose sugary, ready to eat foods.
In addition, animal based protein—otherwise known as a complete protein—contains all nine of the amino acids we need to get from food, in order to maintain a healthy diet and repair and maintain muscles. So, as fabulous as eating bacon all day might seem, it’s not very healthy. Just the nitrates alone make it one of those foods you will want to enjoy in moderation.
You can, however, get the animal based proteins you need in a low carb option if you use a high quality protein powder in a daily delicious smoothie, with berries of all types and full fat greek yogurt. Experiment with different flavour combinations and keep a stock of mixed berries in your freezer!
Do you follow the keto diet? We’d love to hear about how you’ve been doing on it!