There are many reasons to go on a diet, and most often people cite weight loss as the top factor for rearranging and revamping their way of eating. While there are several diets you may have already heard of, such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, the Mediterranean Diet, WW® (formerly Weight Watchers®, and Atkins®, there is one particular diet that may help you achieve not only weight loss, but also improve cognition and better control your blood sugar.
The ketogenic diet was originally created to treat drug-resistant epilepsy in children, and is based on a very low carbohydrate way of eating the causes the body to use stored fat in the absence of circulating blood sugar from food (carb-laden foods like breads, pasta, donuts, etc. are where glucose comes from). Because very little carbohydrate is eaten on the keto diet, the body must get its energy from somewhere, so it taps into the fat stores, releasing what are known as ketone bodies into the bloodstream and allowing the generation of energy. This shift from using glucose to broken-down fat stores for energy can occur when eating less than 20 g to 50 g of carbohydrate per day (about two to four days of eating this reduced amount of carbs).
Because the keto diet is extremely low in carbs, it is balanced by eating a considerable amount of fats and protein. Think of meat, eggs, cheese, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds, non-starchy vegetables, and berries, and you’ll see many of the foods included within a keto regimen. It is important to note that quality of the food eaten on keto does matter, as there are what is known as “dirty keto” ways of eating that, while still keeping carbs to a minimum, do not provide enough nutrient-rich foods and feature poor fats and few veggies and fruits. Some of the better quality foods to eat on the keto diet include meats like chicken and fish (go for heavier cuts of chicken like thighs and for fatty fish like salmon), avocados, eggs, blueberries and raspberries, heavy cream, and dark greens. Many people like to make “bullet- proof” coffee which is coffee with butter or MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil mixed into it.
Some people may worry that starting the keto diet will make them feel very tired, or like they have the flu. At the beginning of a ketogenic diet, you may not feel your best, and experience tiredness, bad breath, nausea, and constipation. This is because your body is adjusting to the switch from glucose to ketone bodies, and it needs to build up enough of these ketones to fuel it. You may also experience brain fog or sugar cravings, which can be helped by adding more fat and calories. Symptoms of “keto flu” can last a few days to a few weeks, and on average lasts one week.
To ensure you get into and stay in ketosis, you should monitor your ketone levels. This is most easily accomplished with keto sticks to test urine for ketone bodies. It’s good to know where your levels are because everyone is different, and how the keto diet works for you is highly individualized and may need adjusting. Ask your healthcare practitioner for more information about the keto diet and if it’s a good program to follow for achieving your health goals.