Keto has captured the imagination of the masses. With a long list of celebrity, blogger, and doctor recommendations, this dietary approach has spread like wildfire! But before you sign up to super low carb, let’s take a look at what keto really is, how to know you are truly in ketosis, and how you can maximize your benefits.
What is keto really?
Keto simply stands for ketogenic.
This style of eating includes a small amount of carbohydrates only, usually between 20–50g per day. Most people get the majority of their daily energy from this macronutrient. However with a ketogenic diet the focus is on low carbohydrate intake with only around five to 10% of calories coming from net carbs.
Carbohydrates include sugars, starches and fiber. Sugars raise blood glucose levels and insulin production, whereas fiber slows down the speed at which glucose hits your bloodstream. So net carbs refers to total carbs minus fiber. This provides a greater understanding of the effect that consumed carbs have on their availability for use as energy.
A keto diet also includes a moderate protein intake, at approximately 20-30% of calories. Most of the day’s calories, however, come from fat: around 60-80% of calories. That’s why it is referred to as a high fat food plan.
What does keto mean?
When you consume a regular Western diet, your cells use glucose as their energy source. When you follow a keto diet your carb intake does not provide sufficient energy to maintain function. So your incredibly intelligent body switches to the energy source now available: fat. This process means ketone bodies become the major source of fuel as opposed to the sugar from carbs.
However, staying in dietary ketosis takes some work as the body is keen to swap back. To ensure you are following a diet that remains ketogenic for you, urinary keto strips or ketone blood meters help. They measure the amount of ketones in your urine or your blood.
The benefits of a keto diet
Now you know what a keto diet really is, let’s look at the wide ranging benefits of this type of eating plan!
In research that compared those on a very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet to those following a low fat diet, the keto group experienced greater body weight loss, lower diastolic blood pressure and increased levels of the good cholesterol, HDL. With obesity increasing the risk of ill health and an early grave, a keto diet may be an effective tool against morbidity and mortality.
Diabetes is growing in prevalence with a staggering 30.3 million Americans afflicted. The study A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes found that this potentially deadly condition can be markedly improved through the keto approach, noting superior glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes following this eating style. The results were so significant that diabetic medications could be reduced or completely discontinued for the majority of participants.
With insulin resistance related to high sugar intake and also linked to cancer risk, researcher have now begun to dig deeper into the possibility of a ketogenic diet as an adjunct treatment for malignancy. The initial evidence looks wonderfully promising, with a number of preclinical trials providing evidence of a role in fighting tumor growth. Stay tuned!
Then there is the original evidence from the 1920s that brought the idea of a ketogenic diet into scientific consciousness: it can help to reduce epileptic seizures. More recent research indicates this diet may also be of benefit for those with a range of neurodegenerative conditions and neural injury like Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, stroke and traumatic brain injury (TMI).
Convinced that keto is worth looking into? We think so, too. While transitioning the way you eat will push you along a learning curve and require much planning, these important tips will help you stay in ketosis…
Staying in ketosis
If your tests reveal you are not in ketosis, you may need to lower your carb intake. The absolute carb intake required varies between people so what works for someone else may not work for you. Plus…
The fat in coconut oil is made from medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). As an article in the British Journal of Nutrition noted, this type of fat is “easily absorbed and metabolized by the liver, and can be converted to ketones.” Many keto lovers use this fat daily and research suggests it may induce a moderate ketosis and help you remain in ketosis.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is simply a ketone body. It is created naturally in the body during the breakdown of fats either following fasting or while on a keto diet. It is the largest of the three ketone sources, with acetoacetate and acetone completing the trio. BHB also comes in supplemental form and is adored for its ability to boost the benefits of a ketogenic diet. For example, a study in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism points to supplemental BHB for easier body fat control and a better blood cholesterol balance. You have to love that!
There is much to learn about a ketotic approach but it is easy to see why it has accumulated such a large, even fanatical, following in a relatively short period of time.