You may have heard of a ketogenic diet before now. If not, you may have heard of it in the terms keto diet, low carb diet or low carb high fat (LCHF), and you may just be wondering what the heck is it. Let’s get into exactly what a ketogenic lifestyle consists of, how you can follow it, the types of foods you can enjoy whilst doing it + inspirational accounts that may help you.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
Firstly, before we delve too deeply, a keto diet is not for those carb lovers among us. In fact, a keto diet is famous for being a low carb diet and it’s low in carbs for two reasons; glucose and insulin. When you eat something that is high in carbs, your body will produce both of these. Glucose is the easiest molecule in our body to convert to use as energy, and so this will be chosen over any other energy source within our body. When glucose is used as the go-to energy source, fats are no longer needed and instead of burning said fats into energy they are then stored. When the body uses glucose, insulin is produced to process it in our bloodstream and works by taking it around the body. When lowering our intake of carbs, the body is induced into a state that is known as ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural process that the body initiates in order to help us survive when our food intake is low, and ketones are produced from the breakdown of the fats in our liver. A well maintained keto diet isn’t about starvation, but more about the starvation of carbs, which then forces our body into a metobolic state. When overloaded with fats and minimal carbohydrates, the body begins to burn ketones as its primary energy source.
What Are The Benefits?
- Weight management is a common benefit when eating a keto diet. As the body is typically eating our fat as its energy source, there will be weight loss. This is due to insulin, which is the hormone that stores our fat, levels dropping and results in our body essentially turning into a fat burning machine.
- Mental performance is another reason people turn to a ketogenic diet. Ketones are like fuel for the brain, and along with the fact that a lower carb intake lessons the spikes in blood sugar, this gives an all round improvement in focus and concentration.
- Increased energy levels is something you may find on a keto diet. The belief is that, by giving your body a more reliable energy source, and fats are known as the most effective molecule to burn as body fuel, you’ll reap the rewards and feel an increase in energy during the day. You may also satiate hunger as fat is naturally more satisfying, leaving us feeling fuller for longer.
What Can I Eat?
So, when considering a new diet, or lifestyle change as I prefer to call it, you’re most likely wondering what the heck you can eat. A keto diet is high in fat, moderate in protein and then very low in carbs. Your food ratio should look like like 70% fats, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates. The lower you keep your carb intake and glucose levels, the better the overall results will be on a keto diet.
- Protein: Meat, fish, poultry and dairy such as eggs are all protein options on a keto diet. When eating meat, try to steer towards organic, pasture-raised and grass-fed meat where possible. Most meals should have a protein source but be mindful that too much protein on a keto diet isn’t a good thing.
- Vegetables: Vegetables should be present at each meal and you should stick to above ground vegetables, avoiding high carb veggies like potatoes and beets. Stick to dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale and swiss chard and above ground vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and cucumber.
- Dairy: The majority of dairy is fine to consume on a keto diet, but be sure to buy farm-fed, full-fat items. Harder types of cheeses typically have fewer carbs so are preferable.
- Nuts & Seeds: Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats and can be used to create a range of textures. Still consume in moderation, and where possible try to choose fattier types of nuts such as macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds and almonds.
- Fats & Oils: Fats will take up the majority of your daily calorie intake on a keto diet so it’s a good idea to switch them up so you don’t get bored, whilst also being mindful of the types to eat. For cooking, use ghee, lard or coconut oil. For a dressing, use avocado or olive oil. And for mixing use butter, cocoa butter or MCT oil.
- Beverages: Water will always be your go-to source for hydration but if you struggle to drink enough of it then perhaps give sparkling water a try as the texture is more like soda or add a little citrus such as lemon or orange into it for a flavored water. Bone broth is a great beverage to sip on, and it’s loaded with vitamins and nutrients and collagen. Coffee can improve mental focus and aid weight loss, however choose organic and grind it yourself fresh daily. Tea works the same way as coffee but you may like to stick to either black or green tea. Coconut and almond milk are great milk alternatives, but make sure you’re buying the unsweetened versions.
Do Not Eat:
- Grains: Whole grains such as wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa should be avoided, as well as wheat products such as pasta, cereal, rice and corn.
- Sugar: Processed foods usually contain high amounts of sugar. You should be eliminating processed foods where possible. Sugar will usually be found in soda, sports drinks, chocolate, ice cream, candy etc.
- Fruit: Avoid large fruits such as apples, oranges and bananas as they’re super high in sugar.
- Starch: As this is a low carb diet, you’ll need to avoid vegetables such as potatoes and yams, as well as oats.
- Low Fat Foods: Whilst labelled low fat, these types of foods are typically higher in carbs and sugar than the full fat versions. Start to read ingredients before buying.
- Trans Fats: Hydrogenated fats are bad for us, so margarine and other spreadable replacement butters should be avoided for this reason.
- Diet soda: Try to severely cut back and ultimately avoid drinking carbonated drinks. Drinking them can lead to sugar cravings and often spikes insulin levels.
- Alcohol: If having alcohol, choose hard liquor over beer and wine as they’re high in carbs. Although frequent consumption of any alcohol with have an affect on weight over time.
Now it’s time to cook up a Keto storm in the kitchen, here’s your bible …
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