The classic ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet plan that was originally designed in the 1920s for patients with epilepsy by researchers working at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. (1) Researchers found that fasting — avoiding consumption of all foods for a brief period of time (such as with intermittent fasting), including those that provide carbohydrates — helped reduce the amount of seizures patients suffered, in addition to having other positive effects on body fat, blood sugar, cholesterol and hunger levels. (2)
Sleep enough – for most people at least seven hours per night on average – and keep stress under control. Sleep deprivation and stress hormones raise blood sugar levels, slowing ketosis and weight loss a bit. Plus they make much it harder to stick to a keto diet, and resist temptations. So while handling sleep and stress will not get you into ketosis on it’s own, it’s still worth thinking about.
This means that if you have risk factors for heart disease — such as elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure (hypertension), or a strong family history of the disease — you should use caution when following this diet. The diet's heavy reliance on fat, especially saturated fat, can elevate cholesterol levels, further increasing your chances of developing heart disease in the future. (7)
At the core of the classic ketogenic diet is severely restricting intake of all or most foods with sugar and starch (carbohydrates). These foods are broken down into sugar (insulin and glucose) in our blood once we eat them, and if these levels become too high, extra calories are much more easily stored as body fat and results in unwanted weight gain. However, when glucose levels are cut off due to low-carb dieting, the body starts to burn fat instead and produces ketones that can be measured in the blood (using urine strips, for example).
The keto diet changes the way your body converts food into energy. Eating a lot of fat and very few carbs puts you in ketosis, a metabolic state where your body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel. When your body is unable to get glucose from carbs, your liver converts fatty acids from your diet into ketones, an alternative source of energy. Burning ketones in place of glucose reduces inflammation and spurs weight loss.
The book contains a two week menu for beginners. (Face it, there's a 90% chance you won't follow it to the letter, but it does help set your thinking in the right direction.) For each individual week there's a shopping list which, by itself, will help you adjust your kitchen quite a bit. There are tips on the best sweeteners (Swerve over Splenda), the oils you'll need, produce, canned and bottled items, pantry items, and meats. Something to consider as you go along is that some items, like almond and coconut flour are expensive items to stock up on, but you'll use considerably less than non-keto recipes will use for regular flour. Do what you can afford. Just know that there are some must-have staples like coconut oil and olive oil.
That said, I think the biggest changes are the result of me dropping the sugars and breads. Tracking my eating and being more conscious about my foods has made a difference. I definitely plan to keep on this track for a while and slowly work towards a fuller keto-adapted diet/body. I’m not going with the “all-in” that some recommend, cutting out all artificial sweeteners and such, though I have limited them. I’m not really tempted to indulge in the sweets that have been tempting in the past.
As far as fruits are concerned, most berries are low in carbs and can be consumed from time to time, and in limited amounts. These include raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Blueberries are a bit higher in carbs and should be eaten sparingly. Most other fruits, however, have too many carbs in just one serving, so it is best to avoid them.
It also interferes with some of the social aspects of food, considering how limiting it is. No cake on your birthday. No pie on Thanksgiving. No chocolate truffles on Valentine's Day. Boo to that! If you consider yourself someone who loves to eat and takes great joy in the social experience of a good meal, then the restriction of this diet may be emotionally unhealthy.
Unfortunately, long-term fasting is not a feasible option for more than a few days, therefore the ketogenic diet was developed to mimic the same beneficial effects of fasting. Essentially the keto diet works by “tricking” the body into thinking it is fasting, through a strict elimination of glucose that is found in carbohydrate foods. Today the standard ketogenic diet goes by several different names, including the “no-carb diet” or “very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet”(LCKD or VLCKD for short).
The keto diet is known for helping people lose a few pounds very quickly, says Becky Kerkenbush, RD, a clinical dietitian at Watertown Regional Medical Center. Carbs hold on to more water than protein or fat, so when you stop eating them, your body releases all that extra H2O by making you pee more. As a result, the scale might read a few pounds lower, and you may look a bit leaner.
If you do try the diet outside of medical supervision, Kizer says it’s important to test your urine with urinalysis ketone test strips to ensure your ketone levels don’t become dangerously high. Ketone urine test strips are also used by people with diabetes to determine if they’re at risk for ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening complication that occurs when an individual doesn’t have enough insulin in their body. (Healthy ketosis is considered 0.5 to 3.0 mM blood ketones.)
Increasing numbers of people around the world are suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, and the main culprit is usually the food they eat. The standard American diet, for example, consists of excessive amounts of protein, processed grains and carbohydrates — particularly in the form of refined, added sugars — none of which is good for your health.
Oh man, this is a great read. Entertaining and full or resources and digestible content even though it is a long article. But I appreciate the research you went through it. I remember 5 years ago researching about Keto diet took forever because of how spread out the sources were. This is great work as a guide. Thanks for the article. Before reading this article I thought the requirements were too strict, but now that I read it, I am already doing a third of that list. I am trying IF right now, but I think this will help me with my satiety problem with meals, plus help me with weight loss. Thanks for the motivation and information Steve. I am starting my plan of attack and try a Keto diet.
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