A ketogenic (keto) diet consists of eating foods low in carbs and high in healthy fats. This shifts your body's primary metabolic fuel from glucose (or "sugar") to fatty acids (or "fats").
When your body metabolizes mostly fat for fuel, your blood glucose levels begin to drop and you start producing ketones. Ketones are a direct energy source for your brain while the rest of your body burns fatty acids. This is known as the biological state of "ketosis", which can help achieve the benefits associated with a keto-friendly lifestyle.
What are the Benefits of Keto?
METABOLIC HEALTH: A keto-friendly diet trains your body to burn fat for fuel. It optimizes your mitchondria to metabolize fat more efficiently in-between meals and use the energy that's already stored as fat. In addition, low-carb diets help decrease blood glucose and insulin levels. Insulin inhibits lipolysis (the breakdown of stored fat), so keeping insulin low will help increase fat metabolism.
MENTAL CLARITY: Ketones provide direct energy for your brain and are a superior mental fuel compared to glucose. Most people experience an increase in mental energy when following a well-formulated ketogenic diet.
ENERGY STABILITY: Fat is a more sustainable energy source than glucose because your body can store more of it. When fat-adapted you avoid volatile peaks/dips in blood glucose and have more steady energy. No more "hangry" or post-lunch slumps! (+ productivity!)
APPETITE CONTROL: Ketones are believed to help suppress hunger signaling pathways. Ask any keto-dieter and they'll tell you it gives them the flexibility to eat on their own terms. It also makes lifestyle routines such as intermittent fasting easier to implement.
LONGEVITY: Ketones have been shown to decrease inflammation and oxidative stress. Low-carb diets improves insulin resistance associated with aging. A keto-friendly lifestyle also makes it easier to maintain periods of caloric restriction, which is known to increase lifespan.
What Should I Eat?
- Healthy Fats
- Monounsaturated fats (e.g., avocados, nuts, olive oil, etc.)
- Saturated fats (e.g., cacao butter, coconut, dairy, and animal fats [pasture raised when possible])
- MCTs from coconut (technically classified as saturated fats, but these are processed differently and are quickly converted to ketones for energy)
- Omega-3 fats (e.g., fatty seafood and algae)
- Fibrous Vegetables
- E.g., leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- These are great sources of prebiotic soluble and insoluble fiber, which aren't digested or metabolized as carbohydrate in the body.
- They don't cause a substantial increase in glucose and are suitable for maintaining ketosis (plus they're a perfect vessel for healthy fats like olive oil, butter, etc.)
- Micronutrient-rich ingredients (e.g., turmeric, ginger, cacoa, cinnamon, etc.)
- Moderate protein (plant or animal derived protein- pasture-raised when possible)
- While excess protein can increase glucose and kick you out of ketosis, it's important to maintain an adequate intake to prevent muscle loss. The "adequate amonut" will be different for everyone based on your body composition and lifestyle. It's best to couple protein intake around exercise if possible.
- Polyunsaturated Fats (except Omega-3 fatty acids)
- Seed and vegetable oils are high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats which are known to cause inflammation when consumed in high amounts.
- E.g., seed oils, soy bean oil, vegetable oils should be avoided
- Processed Carbs and Starches (Non-Fibrous)
- These types of carbohydrates cause large spikes in blood glucose and cause the roller-coaster energy levels associated with glucose volatility. They will prevent the body from entering a state of ketosis.
- E.g., wheat, potatoes, rice, sugar, etc.
- Digestible Fibers (IMO and Tapioca Fiber syrups)
- Most people don't know that fibers are not created equal. One type of fiber in particular is commonly used in packaged foods: Isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO) also known as tapioca fiber or "vegetable fiber" is listed like any other fiber in the nutritional facts panel. However, it gets digested and metabolized as a slow digestible carbohydrate which may increase blood glucose levels over time.
- Non-Keto and/or Artificial Sweeteners
- Maltitol is another ingredient commonly found in packaged foods. Although it's a sugar alcohol, it actually get's digested and metabolized at about a 50% rate to that of sugar.
- Artificial sweeteners (e.g., aspartame) may disrupt the stability of the gut microbiome and it's unclear how they may impact insulin/glucose.