Since Mark Sisson’s 2017 best-selling book, The Keto Reset Diet hit shelves, there’s been a tremendous buzz around “eating keto” and an accompanying surge of keto-friendly products. Some consider this method of eating to have evolved out of the paleo and low-carb movement. Keto shares a similar goal: using stored body fat for energy. Comparatively, keto is low-carb and higher fat, while emphasizing macronutrients and their proper ratios. For the non-nutritionist, it can all sound a bit puzzling. So, what is keto, and what exactly does “going keto” involve?
This article will prime you with a basic understanding of the keto (aka, ketogenic) diet. Whether or not a ‘keto journey’ fits your nutrition needs should be discussed with a registered dietitian. In the meantime, if you want to learn the key concepts behind eating keto, read on!
To understand the main premise of the keto diet, you need to know how our bodies usually get energy. Typically, we get our fuel from blood glucose–sugars present in our bloodstream–most of which come from the carbohydrates in our daily diet. However, we can also reach a state where the body metabolizes fat at a rapid rate and converts fatty acid into ketones.
Ketone bodies are produced in your liver, and The Harvard Medical Dictionary of Health defines them as “substances produced when the body burns fat for energy[…]”.
A metabolic state in which your body burns ketones for energy. You may hear the term keto, ketogenic, ketonic, or ketone-burning used interchangeably in reference to this state. Sisson’s aforementioned book suggests ketosis should be our usual metabolic state and may have been the default state in which our ancestors once lived and thrived.
It’s important to make a distinction between ketosis and ketoacidosis. The Mayo Clinic describes ketoacidosis as “a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones.” The condition arises when your body can’t produce enough insulin.
A metabolic state (which most of us are in) whereby we’re fueled by glucose. Carbohydrates are present in many foods, such as grains, starches, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and sweets. These all convert to glucose.
Micronutrients are a combination of nearly 30 vitamins and minerals which must be consumed in sufficient quantities for optimal health. Lack of proper micronutrients can cause major health impact. You’ve likely heard them referred to as ‘essential’ nutrients.
Going into Ketosis
Ketosis can occur while following a low carbohydrate diet, during fasting, after a period of prolonged heavy exercise, or if you have unmanaged Type I diabetes. When you’re not dependent on high-carbohydrate foods, your body will eventually go into a state of ketosis in approximately two days to one week (depending on your physiology, exercise level, and foods consumed). Your muscles will then burn mostly fat for fuel, and ketones in the liver will be used to support brain function.
Experts suggest that a keto regimen is an effective way to achieve weight loss, disease protection and reach your peak athletic and cognitive abilities. The keto diet encourages increasing and varying one’s consumption of fresh, colorful vegetables, and making a shift towards getting a daily ratio of 65-75% fat, 15-25% protein, and 5-10% carbs. Typically, this means complete elimination of all sugar, grains, and starches. Carbohydrate intake may vary depending on your level of activity.
Typical Keto Meals
Here’s an example of what you might eat during the first few days of a keto regimen:
Breakfast: Omelette with mushrooms, and spinach cooked in olive oil
Lunch: Line caught tuna tomato salad, drizzled with olive oil
Dinner: Keto Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce
Breakfast: Poached eggs, sautéed greens cooked in avocado oil
Lunch: A seasonal salad with antibiotic-free grilled chicken
Dinner: Keto Chicken Casserole
Breakfast: Smoked wild salmon with arugula and smashed avocado
Lunch: Thai beef salad with tamari dressing
Dinner: Keto Chicken Korma
A keto regimen is one way to recalibrate our diets, and it may help move people away from sugar and carbohydrate-dependancy. We do not suggest the keto diet as a quick-fix, cleanse, or “detox.” Those who are interested in trying a ketogenic diet should always speak to their doctor first, as a low-carbohydrate diet is not suitable for everyone.
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