In a time where the "right diet" seems to change everyday, it's important to figure out what works for YOU. To get you started, we'll be exploring different diets in the coming weeks to help you find what fits––from paleo to vegan, and the essentials you need to know.
Here, we'll give you the low-down on the ketogenic diet.
What is the Ketogenic (Keto) Diet?
The bare bones: it's a diet high in good fats, and low in carbohydrates, including natural and processed sugars.
Looking more closely: Your brain's main source of fuel is actually glucose (sugar). So when those 3pm candy cravings hit, blame your brain. But when you starve your brain of that glucose, it uses stores of fat to function – more specifically, ketones which are a bi-product of your liver.
The same goes for your body. When you drastically reduce or remove the amount of carbohydrates you intake, your body utilizes your fat stores for overall energy. To supplement this, you will need to ramp up your intake of healthy, or "good" fats.
Where can I find "good fats"?
One of the downsides of the keto diet, is that there is a blurred line when it comes to what fats you eat, as many foods allowed on the diet may have other effects.
An easy rule-of-thumb? Consume fats that are high in HDL (the "good" cholesterol ones), including:
- Oils, like MCT oil (great to make Bullet Proof Coffee); Cold-pressed, organic coconut oil (avoid anything that says "hydrogenated"; Avocado oil; Olive oil
- Eggs (try out a Frittata for breakfast!)
- Nuts and seeds (including nut and seed butters)
- Wild-caught fish
- Grass-fed, organic and unsalted butter
- Ghee (clarified butter)
It never seems like a diet as there is no counting calories, and you are allowed high fat foods that aren't allowed in a typical "diet". I do however reccomend to be careful with food choices. Most people feel that filling their meals with mayo, cheese, creams, etc. is the way to go as it tastes the best. These foods are allowed, but I personally limited these foods and filled my plate with green veggies and slightly leaner meats.
- Kalena Morton, SNFC Personal Trainer
What about carbohydrates and sugar?
Sugars and carbohydrates are one in the same. Whether it's a handful of berries or a croissant, both have carbohydrates your brain will use as a glucose source. These include:
- All breads (white, whole wheat, whole grain, etc.)
- Pasta (including white and whole wheat)
- Baked goods
- Whole grains (including quinoa, brown rice, oats)
- Legumes (including chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils)
- Fruits (especially ones with peels)
Will I see benefits?
Likely! Everyone is different, but the general consensus is this diet has many positive effects on the body, from energy increase to weightloss. SNFC Trainer, Kalena Morton, adopted the ketogenic diet to reduce weight, and noticed its effects almost immediately.
The increased energy is likely due to reduced spikes and dips in blood sugar throughout the day caused by carbohydrates.
However, if you're an avid coffee drinker, you may still experience bouts of fatigue throughout the day that align with the peaks and lows of a caffeine high.
Are there any side effects?
Many people will go through a transition or detox period (lovingly-termed the "Keto-Flu") where your body adjusts to using your fat stores as its primary energy source rather than glucose. This can result in sluggishness, brain fog and headache. It does go away in a few short days.
It's common to feel lethargic/low energy the first week if you have previously eaten processed foods, or foods high in sugar. Your body will feel like you are detoxing during that duration, but will change drastically entering into week 2!
- Kalena Morton, SNFC Personal Trainer
Since there still is little research around this diet, there's no concrete evidence on the long-term effects.
As mentioned, it is important to be aware of the kinds of meats and fats, and how much of them, you are consuming. A diet high in red or fried meats like beef or bacon can impact your heart health and digestion, while a diet too high in fish may raise levels of mercury in your body. A reminder, try to stick with the heart-healthy fats listed above to be safe!
The best diet is one that makes you feel your best.
If you are looking to start the keto diet, be sure to load up on plenty of colourful vegetables, which are high in anti-oxidants. Maybe even try to go low-carb before no-carb to lessen the negative effects.
And before you start any new meal plan, it's best to speak with a nutritionist or your health expert to ensure your body is well-equipped for these changes!