Disclaimer: As with any big change in lifestyle or diet you should always consult your doctor for whether these changes are appropriate for you and to monitor you throughout the change. The following information is not medical advice and only my experiences with the ketogenic lifestyle.
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I get a lot of questions regarding what keto is, what you can and can’t eat, how to start, etc. so I thought it might be helpful to do a Keto Basics Series. Each week I’ll cover a different topic on the basics of keto so hopefully by the end, you’ll feel informed enough to give it a shot and maybe even feel like you know what you’re doing!
So what is it?
First things first… keto is an abbreviation for the Ketogenic Diet. It is also referred to as the Low Carb, High Fat (or LCHF) diet. Put very simply, this is an ultra low carb, moderate protein, high fat way of eating. Although you stop eating carbs and sugar, you replace those with healthy fats that taste delicious and keep you feeling satisfied! The ultimate goal being to reprogram your body to start burning fat for fuel instead of glucose.
When you eat carbs, your body produces glucose from those carbs to be used as energy. Glucose is the easiest thing for your body to burn as an energy source and when it does, it does not need the fats you’ve eaten, so instead it stores them. This is why the traditional high carb + high fat diet = fat people! Your body doesn’t need all that fat because you’re giving it enough carbs to run so it stores the fat in case it needs it later, and in turn, you get fatter. By reducing your carb intake to a very low level (typically less than 20g carbs per day), your body quickly burns through its glucose stores forcing it to turn to both dietary fat and stored fat for energy. When your body burns fat, it breaks down the fat in your liver for energy and the byproduct is ketones. This switches your body from being a glucose burning machine to a fat burning machine, putting you in a metabolic state of nutritional ketosis. Hence the name, the ketogenic diet!
It’s just a fad, right?
While keto has enjoyed a recent resurgence, it has actually been around for quite some time. Our bodies are able to adapt and thrive on what food sources are available. Out of necessity, our ancestors commonly ate a ketogenic diet by way of eating what they found around them. They didn’t have year round access to many grains, carbs, and highly processed foods that make up the modern diet. Instead, they ate all the fat they could get their hands on with minimal carbs, putting them in a state of ketosis.
In the 1920s, the ketogenic diet was discovered as an effective treatment for epilepsy and is still in use today. Researchers found that increased levels of ketones in patients with epilepsy resulted in fewer seizures. Further research has found it to be beneficial in conjunction with other treatments for many health problems such as diabetes, cancer, PCOS, skin conditions, neurological conditions, and more. For me personally, I have been able to stop taking medication for a skin condition. As soon as carbs are reintroduced to my diet, I can count on a flare up and almost immediately need to take meds.
So, that’s keto in a nutshell. Next week I’ll be talking about the basics of what to eat and what not to eat on keto, so be sure to check back for that!
If you would like more info about the ketogenic diet, check out the following:
Leanne Vogel has a website that contains tons of info, recipes, podcasts, meal plans, audiobooks, cookbooks and more which can be found here*. Her podcasts are some of my favorites and were some of the first that I listened to when I first started keto! She’s a wealth of information!
Jimmy Moore has a plethora of info including blog posts, books, podcasts, and more. His site can be found here. One of my favorite books by him for someone wanting to learn more is Keto Clarity, which can be found here.
Go here for the most comprehensive list for medical research on keto I’ve personally found.