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 and insulin 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.
While we don't feel a strict keto diet is a "be all, end all" solution to nutrition, it's something we always come back to and has significantly shifted our broader mindset about personal nutrition. There is tremendous utility in incorporating these nutrition principles into your own life, even if only on a cyclical basis, and finding the lifestyle that works best for you. Many people alternate between keto and a more flexible low-carb diet for health optimization, while others have found success for years on a continuous keto diet.
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.)
- These are among the most commonly cited "healthy fats", have been well studies, and are commonly found in mediterranean diets and other blue zone populations.
- These are great options for your top sources of calories on a low carb diet.
- Saturated fats, especially plant-based but may include high quality animal sources depending on your lifestyle
- Plant-based saturated fats include cacao butter (e.g., pure chocolate) and the mighty coconut!
- Animal-based saturated fats include dairy and meat. It's best to choose pasture-raised animal products when possible-- Better for both you and the planet!
- MCTs from coconut (although technically classified as saturated fats, medium chain triglycerides are processed differently and are quickly converted to ketones for energy)
- MCTs sourced from coconut, rather than palm, support a more sustainable agricultural system!
- Omega-3 fats (e.g., fatty seafood like salmon)
- These are necessary and great for brain health, joint health, and all around well-being. Take your fish oil, folks :)
- 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 and keeping blood sugar levels stable (plus they're a perfect vessel for healthy fats like olive oil, butter, 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.
- Berries: strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are some of the lowest sugar fruits and contain fiber that prevents large sugar spikes!
- Micronutrient-rich ingredients (e.g., turmeric, ginger, cacoa, cinnamon, etc.)
- Natural (Non-Sugar) Sweeteners: We all get sweet cravings sometimes. And that's ok!
- Good Sweeteners: Erythritol, Allulose, Monk Fruit, and Stevia
- It's important to be mindful of sweets that won't spike your blood sugar like sugar normally would. Even natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, and dates can cause large spikes in glucose/insulin, so it's best to stay away from most sugars.
- (learn more about: allulose and net carbs!)
- 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 Starchy Vegetables (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. should be consumed sparingly. If you're trying to keep blood sugar stable, save them for special occasions.
- Sugary Fruits
- Yes, fruits are commonly associated with a healthy diet, however, many fruits (e.g., grapes, pineapple, oranges, and bananas) can have a pretty significant impact on your blood sugar.
- Although fruits are 'natural', many have been selectively bred by humans for hundreds of years to increase the sugar content. For example, the banana of today is a sugar bomb. They didn't exist in the same form 100 years ago, but have been selectively bred for maximum sweetness. True wild bananas, which are extinct, were much smaller and had higher fiber content than today's sugary fruits.
- 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.
To summarize this nutritional philosophy in a nutshell:
- Eat healthy fats, protein, and fiber from whole food sources.
- Prioritize unprocessed foods.
- Eat when the sun is up. Fast once in a while.
That's about it!
Hope you enjoyed. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us.
- Dave and Nadine, Co-Founders