I don’t know about you guys but recently our ears have been ringing with people asking about the ‘Keto diet’. Now, the team at Rushcutters like to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet, so we thought we’d give you the low-down on this diet and how it works.
First up, what is the keto diet?
A true ketogenic diet relies on fat as the primary energy source, while severely limiting carbohydrates, and allowing moderate amounts of protein. As the main source of energy, the body breaks down fat for energy, which leads to a build-up of acids called ‘ketones’ in the body. This process is known as ‘ketosis’. The body enters ketosis when carbohydrate intake is reduced to around 50g per day, or less – the equivalent of around two slices of bread, and a banana.
How does a keto diet differ from other low carbohydrate diets?
Many popular diets encourage short stints of a very low carbohydrate intake to bring on ketosis and to ‘kick-start’ weight loss (for example our ‘28-day lifestyle guide’ at Rushcutters!!). For weight loss clients, this begins with periods of eating as little as 20g of carbohydrates per day, and slowly increasing to more than 50g per day.
But the difference between a low carbohydrate, high fat diet and a true ketogenic diet is that the latter remains much lower in carbohydrates (20-50g per day) and stays there long term.
IMPORTANT: True keto is sometimes prescribed to severely obese patients under hospital supervision, but is very strict and therefore very hard to stick to. The macros can be as hard as 5% carbs, 10% protein and 85% fat. As you can imagine this severely removes most food groups and makes it extremely difficult to follow in day to day life.
Whilst Modified keto is still a shock for many people accustomed to eating a lot of carbs each day – it is definitely far more achievable. The macros are 5% carbs, 25% protein and 70% fat – see diagram below.
Therefore, when most people talk about keto in non-medical terms they are usually referring to a modified keto diet which has a little more protein and carbohydrate allowance and
So…. what can you eat on a keto diet??
Clearly you must keep your carbohydrates limited, coming mostly from vegetables, nuts, and dairy. Refined carbohydrates such as wheat (bread, pasta, cereals), starch (potatoes, beans, legumes) or fruit are not allowed. The small exceptions to this are avocado, star fruit, and berries which can be consumed in moderation.
- Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
- Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, etc.
- Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
- Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries, and other low glycemic impact berries
- Sweeteners – stevia
- Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.
- Sugar – honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
- Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
- Tubers – potato, yams, etc.
Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.
Four Benefits of a following a Modified Keto Diet
1. Weight Loss
Cutting carbs is one of the simplest and most effective ways to lose weight.
Studies show that people on low-carb diets lose more weight, faster, than people on low-fat diets… even when the low-fat dieters are actively restricting calories.
It is much more appropriate to think of low-carb as a lifestyle, NOT a diet. The only way to succeed in the long-term is to stick to it. However, some people may be able to add in healthier carbs after they have reached their goal weight.
2. Appetite Control
An amazing thing happens when your diet isn’t carb heavy. You find that you’re not as hungry as often and you have less sugar cravings.
When our blood sugar doesn’t spike after eating common choices like cereals at breakfast, bread for lunch or pasta/rice for dinner, you get less cravings and think about food less.
3. Less brain fog
When you’re in ketosis and your brain uses ketones as a fuel source, it has a consistent fuel source that it can rely on which means you can focus for longer periods of time, compared to the ups and downs when eating sugar.
It’s really hard to explain the feeling because when you’re eating carbs you don’t realise that your mind isn’t at 100%. Once you’re in ketosis you will begin to see the difference, especially if you spend a day or two eating carbs again.
4. Improve your balance of good fats
HDL is the good fat that carries cholesterol away from the body and to the liver where it can be reused or excreted. LDL, on the other hand, carries cholesterol from the liver and to the rest of the body.
On keto, the level of triglycerides in your body decreases, while the HDL levels increase. The Triglycerides’ ratio is a strong indicator of heart disease. The higher it is, the greater your risk of heart disease. So changing the ratio of good to bad fats in your diet, helps lower your risk of heart disease.
What else has the ketogenic diet been linked to?
There is a wide range of research supporting its success as a medical intervention for epilepsy, particularly in paediatric and childhood cases and there has also been patients with cancer, particularly brain tumours undergoing clinical trials that show anti-cancer and neuroprotective benefits in the united states.
Although many books and websites support a ketogenic diet for a wide range of health benefits including fat loss, the jury is still out as to its long-term health benefits and potential risks.
In a nutshell:
Following a ‘true ketogenic diet’ is extremely hard to stick to because it excludes many highly nutritious food groups like fruit and vegetables and is designed for severely obese people under doctor’s supervision. For the general population interested in keto, especially women, you would be better served following the ‘modified keto diet’ using a 12-week program and taking a break every quarter to add back more carbohydrates to maintain a healthy immune and endocrine systems.
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