By Sneh Jaisingh
Ketogenic or Keto- diet is the new buzz, everyone is talking about it. My clients and even friends are starting to ask me about “going keto,” because they’ve heard it will help them lose weight, improve athletic ability and even boost brain power.
Though not new, it has become more and more popular in recent times. There are many claims that keto-diet not only helps with weight loss but aids in many health conditions. So, let find out if ketogenic diet is right for you, or is it just another fad?
What is ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is basically high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carb diet. It mimics starvation, allowing the body to go into a metabolic state called ketosis. The purpose of the ketogenic diet is to switch our bodies from using carbohydrates for fuel to burning ketones instead. When the body is starved of carbohydrates, fat is broken down and ketones are formed by the liver and then burned for energy instead of glucose there by entering into “nutritional ketosis”
One extremely popular version of a keto diet is the Atkins diet.
Mounting research suggests nutritional ketosis is the answer to a long list of health problems, starting with obesity but before we go all crazy and think of this diet as the “universal remedy” let’s look at some pros and cons and decided if keto lifestyle is right for you.
What consist of keto diet?
Ketogenic diet consists of limiting carbohydrate intake anywhere between 20–50 grams per day. “The exact ratio of recommended macronutrients or “macros”( carbohydrate, protein and fat are called macronutrients) in your diet may vary depending on your specific goals and current state of health, age, gender and level of activity.
What is included in the diet?
How to enter into KETOSIS?
You’ll need to cut down to 50 grams or less of carbs per day, or about 5 percent of your total calories. Just as a reference point, the average carb intake is around 250-300 grams per day, give or take. 1 cup cooked rice is 30 gms, 1 slice of bread is 12 gms, 1 medium banana is 20 gms, 1 medium potato is 20 gms. Just to give you an idea. Next comes proteins, 15- 30 percent of your calories should come from protein. This is about 50-100 grams roughly. And the major chunk comes from consumption of good fat, 60-75 percent (or even more) of your calories. That’s roughly 5 avocados or about 11 tablespoons of coconut oil.
How does one stay in ketosis?
There are several tips for getting into and staying in ketosis, but you basically have to follow the very low carb, moderate protein and higher fat plan for at least 7 days, give or take, to even get there. You can get into ketosis quickly by fasting and burning up all your carbs. Some people combine “intermittent fasting” with ketogenic diets for this reason. It can take up to 2 weeks to get into ketosis, and during this time you can feel super crappy (called the “KETO- flu”) as your body is making the switch from glucose to fat. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, constipation, brain fog, dizziness, muscle cramps, etc.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) per Wikipedia, is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period.
There are many different kind of intermittent fast but some of the most popular ones are:
- 16/8 – Fasting for 16 hrs and eating for 8 hrs
- 5:2 diet – Fast for 2 days per week
- Eat-Stop-Eat – Do a 24 hour fast once or twice a week
- Alternate day fasting – Fast every other day
- The warrior diet – Fat during the day and eat a huge meal at night
Note– Intermittent Fasting is not for everyone especially women. It is always advisable to consult with your health care provider or Nutritionist before starting on such drastic fasts.
BENEFITS OF A KETOGENIC DIET
The ketogenic diet has been used for many years, mostly in clinical settings like hospitals, as part of the treatment protocol for children and adults. Some of the claimed benefits include:
- Fast weight loss and improvement in cholesterol, lipids, and glucose levels
- Blood sugar balance and enhanced insulin sensitivity
- Cancer treatment and prevention
- Increased satiety, decreased food cravings (not having to eat every few hours)
- Improved energy levels
- Ketones are awesome for brain health, and a ketogenic diet has neuroprotective benefits. Can be useful to treat epilepsy, seizure disorders, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, memory, cognitive function, Parkinson’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.
- Mood stabilization in bipolar disorder
- Cardiovascular: Stroke prevention, metabolic syndrome management, improved cholesterol levels
- Inflammation management
- Endurance enhancement
CONCERNS WITH A KETOGENIC DIET
Sounds promising isn’t it? Not so fast. After studying ketogenic diets pretty thoroughly and listen to my clients share during health histories, there are some downsides.
- I use caution in recommending keto diets to women because they can damage a woman’s metabolism. In my practice I found that keto diet works better with men than women.
- Low carb diets like keto diet can affect thyroid function. If you have any thyroid concerns than this diet is not for you.
- Folks prone to stress (which is 80% of the population) this diet is not for you
- Folks with weak digestion may not be able to digest such large amount of fat.
- Risk that many may end up eating fats that aren’t so healthy and messing with their lipid profile is high. (one must monitor their blood report on regular basis, if following keto diet)
- You won’t be eating as much heart healthy and gut satiating fiber
- Since you restrict on delicious food like-fruits veggies and legumes you are depriving your body of some essential nutrients, disease fighting antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber.
- Some studies associated with risk of hormonal imbalance, menstrual irregularities, constipation (due to lack of fiber) and nutrient deficiencies.
- It needs lot of discipline and dedication to may sure you plan and prep for your meals.
- This kind of diet can cause some social limitations.
- Sustainability of this eating approach is highly questionable.
Bottom Line: there’s no one right diet for everyone, and the keto diet is no exception.
In my opinion, ketogenic diet should be considered pharmaceutical in nature to treat a condition. Men seem to benefit more from a ketogenic diet for quick weight loss and enhanced endurance than women (my observation with my clients and friends). Obese women who are over 30-40 pound to lose and who do NOT have thyroid or endocrine imbalance may also benefit from a keto diet for weight loss, but with caution.
There is nothing, nothing at all that comes close to eating a simple wholesome meal. If you do consider to try out the ketogenic diet, my 2 cents would be to consult with your health care provider or Nutritionist.
(About Sneh Jaisingh: Jaisingh, MS, CNC, INHC is an inspiring educator, innovator and practitioner in the field of integrative and holistic nutrition. With nearly 20 years of clinical experience, she has been an advocate for science-based mind and body wellness at conferences, seminars, workshops and through her writing. Sneh sees her clients out of her office in Westborough, MA and can be reached at: Email – email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)