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    What is the Keto Diet?

    What is the Keto Diet?

    What is the Keto Diet?

    Have you heard of the keto diet? I’m betting you have since just like intermittent fasting, it’s a hot topic in the health and dieting industries. For many who are interested in trying it or are in the beginning stages of making this lifestyle change, the amount of information and misinformation can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

    The ketogenic diet is a very-low-carb and high-fat diet. It can result in significant reductions in blood sugar levels and improvements in glycemic control. We’ve all been told glucose and carbohydrate is where we get fuel from and that’s true – blood glucose is important for fuel – but there’s an alternative fuel source called KETONES.

    And the brain actually prefers it!

    Ketones are an incredible source of energy from fat!

    Living a Keto Lifestyle

    I’ve followed the keto lifestyle for a little over 20 years now and I am not exaggerating when I say that it completely changed my life. I stumbled onto keto after getting extremely sick with Epstein-Barr, battling chronic fatigue syndrome, brain fog, depression, and fibromyalgia. Through my research, I read that a keto diet could help with autoimmune issues and inflammation—at least according to a few trailblazers on the message boards. It sounded like my autoimmune issues didn’t have to hinder me my entire life. They didn’t have to be a death sentence, and there might be some hope. The more I researched the ketogenic diet, nutritional ketosis, and ketone bodies, the more convinced I became that this was the solution to my health woes. After a few weeks following the keto diet, I started noticing an improvement in how I was feeling, and it was becoming noticeable by those around me as well. To say I was thrilled is a huge understatement.

    Keto Food Pyramid

    The keto diet can be beneficial to many people for an assortment of reasons, and it can be customized to fit your bio-individuality. There are three main factors that led me to sticking to the keto diet: it cuts out all nutrient-deficient foods, it helps me to feel full and satisfied and it has cognitive-enhancing effects and there is the weight maintenance effect as well.

    Keto and Diet Studies

    In a review of 23 weight-loss trials published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from Tulane University found that both low-carb and low-fat diets led to weight loss, reduced waist circumference and improved metabolic risk factors with no significant differences between diets. They concluded: “These findings suggest that low-carbohydrate diets are at least as effective as low-fat diets in reducing weight and improving metabolic risk factors. Low-carbohydrate diets could be recommended to obese persons with abnormal metabolic risk factors for the purpose of weight loss.”¹

    One of the best and most reliable examples is the A TO Z Weight Loss Study, a randomized trial conducted by a group of Stanford researchers led by Dr. Christopher Gardner. In the trial, the researchers compared four popular weight-loss diets—Atkins (low-carb and high-fat), LEARN (low-fat), Ornish (low-fat) and Zone (technically considered lower carb)—and they found that women following the Atkins diet lost more weight and experienced more favorable metabolic effects after 12 months compared to the other diets.²

    In another recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association—the DIETFITS clinical trial, which randomized 609 overweight or obese adults to a healthy low-fat or a healthy low-carb diet for 12 months—both diets led to similar weight loss and metabolic health improvement (e.g., reduced fasting glucose and insulin). Notably, the low-carb diet led to more favorable improvements in HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.³

    One of my favorite aspects of the DIETFITS trial was the emphasis on diet quality. The lead physician Dr. Gardner and his team put a tremendous emphasis on high dietary quality for both groups, which is important because traditional low-fat diets often lead to reduced diet quality due to the low-nutrient density of heavily processed, convenient, pre-packaged low-fat foods (e.g., refined grains, added sugar).

    Remembering Bio-individuality When Starting a Keto Diet

    I love sharing my story and experience with keto. There are two important items I want to mention regarding the keto diet or any change to your diet. The first is that you are making a lifestyle change. You have to find what works for your life and your body. Keto worked phenomenally well for me and my lifestyle and while I know it can work for many others, it won’t be a fit for everyone. We have to keep in mind bio-individuality. All of us are different. Our bodies need different things, our lifestyles require different things. Experimentation is one of the most important things to keep in mind. You’ll never find what works for you without it. Experiment with the keto diet to see if it works for you, try carb-cycling, try the Mediterranean diet or the Paleo diet. Find what works for you and don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t—just make adjustments.

    The second is that when making a lifestyle change, you must grant yourself grace. I know that it’s great to imagine your life on keto—to feel the renewed energy of eating clean whole foods and being free of sugar addiction—but I also know that imagining the keto life and adopting it can be two vastly different things.

    I am a firm believer that nothing needs to be done perfectly. Even I can get thrown off my diet when life gets crazy, or I get too busy, or I find myself in an airport with only 40 minutes between flights. So, when life gets crazy, and you grab a cookie or two don’t despair and throw all of your hard work out the window. Just get back on track with your next meal.

    More Keto Tips

    If you follow me on social media, you’ll notice that I frequently share posts about my favorite keto products, keto foods to choose from when you’re making meals and snacks, and how I order when I go out to eat. These are some great ideas for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by all of the information out there. And if you’re still struggling with how to implement this into your life, I recommend not overcomplicating it. Start slowly by focusing on the types of whole foods I list in my 7 Keto Foods to Boost Energy post.

    Make sure you also follow The ENERGY Formula Facebook Group as we share our favorite keto recipes.

    Original article may be found directly on Shawn's site. 

    Stay connected with Shawn Wells:

    Want to be featured by ICON Meals? Submit your stories to info@iconmeals.com or send us a DM on IG or Facebook!

     

    “low-carbohydrate diets are at least as effective as low-fat diets” Hu, T., Mills, K. T., Yao, L., Demanelis, K., Eloustaz, M., Yancy Jr, W. S., … & Bazzano, L. A. (2012). Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. American journal of epidemiology, 176(suppl_7), S44-S54.

    A TO Z Weight Loss Study” Gardner, C. D., Kiazand, A., Alhassan, S., Kim, S., Stafford, R. S., Balise, R. R., … & King, A. C. (2007). Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial. Jama, 297(9), 969-977.

    ^the DIETFITS clinical trial” Gardner, C. D., Trepanowski, J. F., Del Gobbo, L. C., Hauser, M. E., Rigdon, J., Ioannidis, J. P., … & King, A. C. (2018). Effect of low-fat vs low-carbohydrate diet on 12-month weight loss in overweight adults and the association with genotype pattern or insulin secretion: the DIETFITS randomized clinical trial. Jama, 319(7), 667-679.

    The Science Behind the Ketogenic Diet

    The Science Behind the Ketogenic Diet

    The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet which puts the body into a state known as ketosis: a metabolic shift in which the body is burning fats rather than carbohydrates as its primary source of fuel. This is a pretty simple definition, but in order to fully understand how the ketogenic diet works and its benefits, it is important to have a grasp on exactly how the body uses energy in the first place:

     

    Normally, when carbohydrates are consumed in the diet, they are converted to glucose and insulin.

    • Glucose is the simplest form of sugar, meaning that it is easy for your body to convert and use as energy. This is why glucose is the body’s preferred source of energy.
    • Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas to process the glucose in your blood steam by transporting it around the body to where it is needed. When energy levels are sufficient, insulin will convert glucose to adipose tissue (fat) for later use.

     

    With the average high-carbohydrate diet, glucose is the main energy source because there is an abundance of it. However, the body can only store a limited amount of glucose—only enough to last for a couple of days. Therefore, if we forgo eating carbohydrates for a few days, our body relies on other means for energy through a biochemical process known as ketogenesis.

     

    In ketogenesis, the liver begins to break down fat as a usable energy source instead of carbohydrates. Ketones or ketone bodies are produced as an alternative energy source to glucose. Once ketogenesis kicks in and ketone levels are elevated, the body is in ketosis.

     

    How to Enter Ketosis

     

    There are a few ways to body can enter ketosis. One is by fasting: when you stop eating altogether for an extended period of time, the body will ramp up fat burning for fuel and decrease its use of glucose. Another way to get into ketosis is by eating less than 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day (it will vary per individual). Therefore, people on a ketogenic diet get only about 5% of their calories from carbohydrates.

     

    Steps to enter ketosis:

    1. Cut down on carbs (less than 5% of calorie intake).
    2. Increase your consumption of (up to 80% of calorie intake).
    3. Without glucose being used for energy, your body is now forces to burn fat and produce ketones instead.
    4. Once the blood levels of Ketones rise to a certain point, you officially enter into ketosis.
    5. This state results in consistent, fairly quick weight loss until your body reaches a health and stable weight.

     

    Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

     

    Unlike many fad-diets that come and go, the ketogenic diet has been practiced for more than nine decades (since the 1920s) and is based upon a solid understanding of physiology and nutrition science. This diet works well for so many people because it targets several key, underlying causes of weight gain—including hormonal imbalances, elevated insulin and high blood sugar levels. A ketogenic diet has even shown to offer therapeutic benefits for several brain disorders.

     

    1. Weight loss

     

    A diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates, such as the ketogenic diet, helps to diminish hunger and boost weight loss through hormonal effects. When we eat foods that supply us with carbohydrates, we release insulin. But with lower levels of insulin, the body is less likely to store extra energy in the form of fat and instead able to use existing fat stores for energy. A diet high in healthy fats and protein is also much more filling, which can help curb appetite and reduce the overconsumption of empty calories, such as sweets and junk food.

     

    1. Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

     

    A ketogenic diet has shown to improve triglyceride and cholesterol levels most associated with arterial buildup. More specifically low-carb, high-fat diets show a dramatic increase in high density lipoprotein (HDL) and decrease low density lipoprotein (LDL) particle counts as compared to traditional low-fat diets. Many studies also show better improvement in blood pressure. High blood pressure issues are often associated with excess weight, which is a bonus because the ketogenic diet tends to lead to weight loss as well.

     

    1. Controls Blood Sugar

     

    A ketogenic diet also helps with lowering blood sugar levels by controlling the release of insulin. This can help reverse problems such as insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. Studies have shown ketogenic diet to reduce HbA1c levels—a long term measure of blood glucose control (1). Therefore, because this diet works so well at reducing blood sugar levels, it also has the additional benefit of helping people with type 2 diabetes to reduce their dependence on diabetes medication, however, it is important to speak with your doctor prior to starting a ketogenic diet or adjusting any medications.

     

    1. Fights Neurological Disorders

     

    Over the past century, ketogenic diets have been used to treat and even help reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairments, including epilepsy. Research shows that cutting off glucose levels with a very low-carb diet makes your body produce ketones for fuel. This change can help to reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairment. The brain is able to use this alternative source of energy instead of the cellular energy pathways that aren’t functioning normally in patients with brain disorders. In a study of children who suffer from epilepsy, over half had a greater than 50% reduction in seizures when eating a ketogenic diet, while 16% even became seizure free (2). The benefits of a ketogenic diet are now even being studied for other brain disorders, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease (3). 

     

    So, what can I eat on a ketogenic diet?

    A keto meal should contain high amounts of healthy fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, palm oil, avocado, tree nuts, seeds, and fatty cuts of wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef or bison, and free range poultry. Fats are a critical part of every ketogenic diet because fat is what is providing energy for your body and preventing hunger, weakness, and fatigue. Keto meals also need a good amount of non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, leafy greens, asparagus, cucumber, zucchini, and other cruciferous vegetables.

     

    The types of food you will want to avoid when eating a ketogenic diet include items like fruit, processed foods or drinks high in sugar, those made with any grains of white/wheat flour, conventional dairy products.

     

    For a more detailed list of foods: Click here to download my KETO FOOD LIST.