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Keto Diet Basics

I’ve been living a low carb lifestyle for about 6-7 years now.  My husband and my kids eat what I cook. There’s no grocery “cupboard for them” and a “cupboard for me”. It’s became a lifestyle for us. In fact, the easiest lifestyle change I’ve implemented in my life so far.  .

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And yes, I’ve been one of those who always started a diet on a Monday, just to give in on a Tuesday evening, blaming and shaming myself the entire week because I couldn’t stick to a diet long enough to lose 100g.

The word KETO is being searched 823,000/month on google. It has become a buzz word. Celebrities are following the diet, sick people are following the diet. People who just want to lose weight, are following the diet. 

Want to know if the ketogenic diet is for you? Read the below first before you decide.

The Basics

The ketogenic diet is rooted in the idea that limiting your carbohydrate intake and consuming healthy fats instead will put your body into a “fasted state” where it will burn ketones instead of glucose.  It shares a lot of similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets.

The idea is to follow a meal plan that’s about 70% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs, granted that all these macros comes from good quality food.  These percentages can vary depending on what your goal is. Ketones is a secondary energy source that’s created from fat, whether from your body or whether from your diet. 

The ketogenic diet also lowers blood sugar and insulin levels so that your body don’t have to rely on metabolism of carbs (which your body don’t produce, so you must eat it) anymore.

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The History

Originally, the ketogenic diet was developed as therapeutic treatment for difficult-to-control epilepsy in children.  Today, more than half of children and young people with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet saw the number of seizures drop by at least half.

The classic ketogenic diet was developed in 1920’s and was widely used during that time, but it’s popularity declined with the introduction of anticonvulsant medications. Ketosis was achieved by excluding high-carbohydrate foods such as starchy fruits and vegetables, bread, pasta, grains and sugar, while increasing healthy fats such as nuts, cream and butter.

Physicians of ancient Greece treated diseases by altering their patient’s diets.

The Modern Era of The Ketogenic Diet

Today, most people who consider following the ketogenic diet do so for health reasons and ketogenic diets have shown benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease and off course, weight loss.  More and more research now shows that the ketogenic diet is far more effective to the still recommended low-fat diets.  Low-fat diets are still mostly recommended by health care practitioners and fitness professionals. Why you would ask? Because they don’t know the latest research.

What makes the ketogenic diet so sustainable, is that you don’t count calories, you don’t track your food and you can eat until satiety.  One study that was done found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more wight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet.

What is considered ground-breaking, is that the ADA recently released updated guidelines for the treatment of Diabetes and now acknowledges a low carbohydrate as a treatment option for Diabetes and should a patient wish to follow such diet, the doctor should support it.  Think about it – a diabetic cannot product insulin because the function in their liver for creating insulin is broken.  The diabetic eat foods that spike blood sugar – also known as “high in carbohydrates” – they need to inject insulin to get their blood sugar down.

An easy solution is, just don’t eat the food, alias carbohydrates, that spikes the blood sugar.  If you don’t spike your blood sugar, you don’t need insulin and you can restore your body’s ability to re-produce insulin, depending on what the damage is to the cells that produces them. So, the sooner you start, the better.

Even though the ketogenic diet is so effective, there’s still confusion as to what exactly a low carb/ketogenic diet is.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions.

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your body and brain needs carbs to survive

I hear this phrase nearly every single day.  It’s not true.  Protein is an essential nutrient.  Fat is an essential nutrient.  Cells in your body consists of protein and fat molecules, but it cannot produce fat or protein. An essential nutrient is a nutrient required for normal body functioning that cannot be synthesized by the body. Categories of essential nutrient include vitamins, dietary minerals, essential fatty acids (fats) and essential amino acids (protein).

Carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient.  The notion that you need carbohydrates to “survive” comes from the fact that carbohydrates converts to glucose, which gives you energy.

However, your liver is perfectly capable of producing enough glucose to sustain a healthy blood sugar level through a process called gluconeogenesis. Your body can function on the equivalent of 1-2 teaspoons to be exact.  That is all you need, and the liver will produce it for you.

So yes, even though it’s true that your brain needs some glucose to function, your body is amazing and will produce it for that purpose for you.

But, due to the nature of the standard American diet, we have made our bodies dependant on the 21 – 36 teaspoons of sugar the average person consume every day. So, we have made our bodies dependant on a higher blood glucose level just to feel like we can function through-out the day.

Low Carb is not No Carb

Spilling over from the above comment, is the fact that people think low carb is no carb.  You will never be able to NOT consume any carbohydrates.  Even the carnivore (only meat eaters) will get some carbs in their diet. Eggs and all types of meat are close to zero carb. Organ meats are an exception, such as liver, which contains about 5% carbs.

Every single vegetable you consume contains carbs. Some more than others. It’s a myth that cutting carbs means you cut your intake of vegetables.  

Ketosis is dangerous

Ketosis is often confused with ketoacidosis.  Nutritional ketosis occurs when the body starts burning fat instead of glucose. Ketoacidosis (also referred to as diabetic ketoacidosis) is a metabolic state that occurs when the body produces dangerously high levels of ketones as a result of unmanaged Type 1 Diabetes.

The healthy person will never be able to go into a state of ketoacidosis.  Ketosis and ketoacidosis is completely unrelated.

Most of the weight loss comes from water

Stored carbohydrate in your body tends to bind water. When you cut down on carbs, you lose a lot of water weight. Low carb diets also causes your kidneys to shed excess salt and water, which we consume mainly from processed foods and junk food. So even though it’s true that you will shed mostly ‘water weight’ during the first week or two, you are turning your body into a fat burning machine as you go into ketosis.

It is bad for your heart

Low carbohydrate/ketogenic diets tend to be higher in cholesterol and fat, including saturated fat.  Saturated fat has been demonized over the past 50 years, of which most of the information is based on very little scientific evidence, or no scientific evidence at all.

Latest studies suggest that neither dietary cholesterol nor saturated fat have any significant effect on your risk of getting a heart disease.  In fact, ketogenic diets may improve many important heart disease risk factors.

It makes you sick

During the first week of switching to a ketogenic diet, you will experience what we call “carb flu” or “keto flu”.  So yes, you will be sick – literally. The intensity of the symptoms will vary from person to person. It depends on how dependant your body was on sugar and processed carbohydrates.

You are effectively going through carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms.  The same withdrawal symptoms any substance abuser will go through. 

In Summary 

Ketogenic diets and low carbohydrate diets can have amazing health benefits and are especially effective for people with obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistances and type II diabetes.

Just going on a ketogenic diet because everybody else is doing it, is not going to make you compliant.  If you don’t have insulin resistance (stubborn weight to lose), you don’t have any health issues and your blood markers are healthy, just eating a whole food diet, low in processed and sugary foods will give you the health benefits you need.

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About The Author

Petrolene

My name is Petrolene Le Roux, and I’ve been working with people, just like you, on their food addictions over the past years and I’ve spent over 20+ years in healthcare and medical research. I also saw the devastating effects of sugar and processed foods in thousands of patients who struggled to get out of the guilt and shame of binge eating. We are dedicated to help as many people as possible feeling whole again physically and mentally.

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