Low fat diets became wildly popular in the 1980s along with “fat free” processed foods. Check out below to see that those diets aren’t completely correct anymore:
For decades we’ve been told that fat makes you fat, but have you ever wondered what’s being put in if the fat is being taken out? Unfortunately the answer is sugar (a carbohydrate), which research has shown can be both toxic and addictive.
More and more nutritionists are saying that while some fats, like trans fats, are indeed bad for you, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can be great sources of energy that aid in muscle movement, blood clotting, and vitamin absorption.
Some people aren’t just learning to like fat again; they’re learning to embrace it through the ketogenic diet. The keto diet has actually been around for over a century, but in recent years, this low carb/high fat nutrition plan has been gaining traction. Studies are showing that it is not only a highly effective weight loss method, but that it can also lead to numerous other health benefits that may surprise you.
What is Keto?
The ketogenic diet takes its name from the word “ketosis,” which is a metabolic state where the body is forced to switch to burning fat instead of carbohydrates. Normally our bodies convert carbs into glucose to use as fuel. However, when our diet is lacking in carbohydrates it instead starts to burn fat which creates an alternate fuel known as ketones. When the ketone levels in your blood rise, your body will enter a state of ketosis rather than the usual glycolytic state.
How to Eat Keto
When we say low carb, we mean low carb. In order to follow the ketogenic diet seriously and achieve a state of ketosis, the average adult needs to limit their carbohydrate intake to around 20 to 50 grams of net carbs (grams of carbohydrates minus grams of fiber) per day. To put that in perspective, a bowl of Cheerios has around 17 grams of net carbs alone!
This means that flour, rice, potatoes, sugar, beer, and even some sugary fruits are not on the menu. Instead of carbohydrates, keto focuses on including moderate proteins like meats and fish, lots of non-starchy vegetables, alternate low carb grains, flours like almond, coconut, and chickpea, and fats like butter, nuts, cheese, avocado and oils. When following the ketogenic diet, approximately 75% of your daily caloric intake should come from fats, 20% should come from proteins, and 5% should come from carbohydrates.
This may sound like a difficult diet to follow; however, many find that eating keto can be surprisingly satisfying. You can’t eat that plate of French fries, but you can eat a nice juicy steak with a big dollop of garlic butter on it. For a “diet,” it can actually feel surprisingly indulgent, and many report that achieving ketosis curbs or even eliminates their cravings for starchy and sugary foods.
Ketosis is not to be confused with ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs in type 1 and sometimes type 2 diabetics when their blood sugar and ketone levels are dangerously high, making their blood acidic.
Ketosis on the other hand is a perfectly safe state for the body to be in, but like any diet it can come with minor side effects, and may not be right for everyone. Some reported side effects of keto are constipation, muscle cramps, tiredness, poor mood, dizziness, and flu like symptoms (known as the “keto flu” which usually occur only in the first two to four days).
Many of these symptoms are reported at the start of the diet while your body is adjusting. They can be remedied by eating more vegetables, particularly ones rich in potassium, drinking plenty of water, taking magnesium citrate supplements, and increasing your salt intake to replace your electrolytes. As with any diet, you should consult with your physician before trying keto out.
So now you’re probably wondering, what are the benefits of the ketogenic diet? The possible improvements are endless but here are a few ways that keto could help improve your overall health.
It can sometimes take forever to see results from a new diet, which can be frustrating. However many people who try out keto report seeing rapid weight loss as early as their first week on the diet. Much of this can be attributed to water weight, however that initial loss can be extremely encouraging and can motivate you to stick to the plan.
Beyond the initial water weight loss, keto generally seems to give better and faster weight loss results than other diets. One study pitted obese subjects on a ketogenic diet against others who were following a low fat diet. Those who did keto lost an average of 18.7 lbs. over a course of six months, which is more than twice what the other subjects lost on the low fat diet.
Sugar and other carbohydrates are addictive and the cycle can be difficult to break. They make your blood sugar rise which at first feels great, but later once you’ve crashed, you find yourself wanting more and the cycle keeps repeating.
Keto is a great tool for anyone hoping to kick a sugar or carb addiction. By striving to achieve ketosis, you are breaking the carbohydrate cycle, controlling your blood sugar, and stabilizing your energy levels, which many report greatly lowers and even eliminates their cravings.
Less Visceral Fat
Unfortunately all those crunches you’re doing aren’t going to give you a flat stomach because you can’t target weight loss through exercise. However, the ketogenic diet has shown to cut down on visceral abdominal fat.
Visceral fat is fat tissue that collects around your vital organs and it is linked to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. One study showed that subjects on the keto diet lost 10 percent more visceral fat than those who followed a low fat diet.
Increased Cognitive Function
Many people who go keto say that it makes them think more clearly and helps them focus in a way they couldn’t before. It’s not news that keto can do wonders for the brain considering it has been used since the 1920s to effectively treat neurological disorders, like epilepsy. One study that was conducted on cognitively impaired adults found that the ketogenic diet improved their memory function, suggesting that the diet could even be useful in warding off Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’ve ever been plagued by heartburn in the past you’re probably aware that it can be triggered by starchy foods, nightshade vegetables like tomatoes and potatoes, and sugar. High sugar and carbohydrate diets can also contribute to gallbladder problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and overall gut health. By eliminating these foods you can improve your digestion overall and keep your organs happy.
Lower Blood Pressure
Elevated blood pressure can contribute to a number of diseases including stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease. One study compared the effectiveness of drugs versus a low carb diet on high blood pressure and found that the diet improved blood pressure levels far more than the medication did, much to the surprise of the researchers.
Lessen Pain and Inflammation
Many people who are older or who are living with an autoimmune disease struggle with inflammation and pain, but the ketogenic diet has been found to be anti-inflammatory and can greatly improve the lives of people living with arthritis, chronic pain, or illness. Even skin issues like eczema and psoriasis are linked to inflammation and can be potentially improved through a low carb diet.
Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem in the United States thanks to poor dietary habits and a lack of exercise. However, the keto diet could possibly be a magic solution for people who are diabetic and pre-diabetic. Since the ketogenic diet restricts your intake of bad foods that spike your blood sugar, it’s not surprising that some studies have found that sticking to a ketogenic diet can help both type 1 and 2 diabetics cut down on the amount of insulin they require, can stop a pre-diabetic from developing the condition, and can possibly even reverse type 2 completely.
Better Women’s Reproductive Health
When your blood sugar is out of whack, so are the insulin levels in your blood which can in turn affect other hormones in the body, particularly for women. This means that the ketogenic diet can possibly be helpful to women who are suffering from reproductive issues such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Women with PCOS not only suffer from symptoms like severe cramping and prolonged periods, but can also have difficulty getting pregnant. One study found that keto might even help women who suffer from infertility get pregnant.
Lowered Risk of Heart Disease
For years, we’ve been told that eating fat results in poor cardiovascular health, but emerging research suggests that a keto diet can help lower triglyceride levels, raise the “good” HDL cholesterol levels, and stabilize blood sugar, all of which are contributing factors to a healthy heart.