There’s been a lot of news lately about how to lose weight or manage health conditions with a ketogenic (keto) diet. We turned to nutritionist and registered dietician Julie McGinnis at our south Boulder store to find out how it works and why it might be a good diet for us.
The keto diet fuels your body with fat instead of carbohydrates.
Most of us consume a significant amount of carbohydrates in our diet (grains, pasta, fruits, dairy, beans and starchy vegetables) that produce energy for all our body’s functions. In the keto diet, we change the source of our energy from carbs to fats like red meat, fatty fish, cheese, eggs, nuts and healthy oils. Leafy greens and vegetables that are low in starch like cauliflower, zucchini and especially fat-rich avocado are part of the diet, too. Overall, a keto diet is made up of about 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and 5 percent carbs.
The keto diet puts your body into a state of ketosis.
Because you are consuming very low amounts of carbohydrates (usually 20-50 g per day), your body seeks a new fuel source and starts burning stored and dietary fat, a metabolic state called ketosis. During ketosis, fat is converted by your liver into ketones, which are organic compounds that fuel muscles and other tissues.
Doctors have discovered that the keto diet has health benefits beyond losing weight.
Studies have shown that the keto diet can be beneficial for those trying to manage chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes (and illnesses where spikes in glucose levels are a concern) or for children with autism spectrum disorder or seizures from epilepsy, these conditions. Though it may seem counterintuitive, switching to a high-fat keto diet can help you lose weight fairly rapidly, too, as your body burns fat for fuel. Since we all have different blood chemistries and health needs, be sure to talk with your health care practitioner when starting any new diet.
You might experience the “keto flu” when you first start the diet.
If a keto diet is a pretty drastic change from your usual diet, you may experience mild flu-like symptoms for the first week or two. Achiness, tiredness, headaches, nausea, brain fog (and sugar cravings!) are some common symptoms that can arise as your body adapts to the diet.
Supplements can help ease keto flu and support your transition to the diet.
A good way to help your digestive tract process the increased fats is with Dr. Mercola Organic Keto Cider, made with apple cider vinegar, ginger and turmeric. If you don’t have time to prepare a keto meal, Ancient Nutrition Keto FEAST (in Chocolate or Vanilla) is a good on-the-go substitute. A shake made with water (or even better, almond milk) provides caffeine, protein and fat from chicken bone broth, and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) from coconut, which are fats that are absorbed more efficiently in our body. A good choice for pure MCT, without additional protein or caffeine, is Onnit MCT Oil, which is 100 percent coconut derived so it’s readily absorbed and helps convert fat into energy quickly.
Keeping your electrolyte levels up is also important since a keto diet minimizes your intake of foods that contain potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. Your kidneys will excrete excess water, too, so electrolytes often need to be replaced. Try Vega Sport Sugar-Free Energizer, featuring electrolyte minerals like sodium and potassium along with coconut seed oil, turmeric and ginseng.