There are always new diets popping up and a ketogenic diet is one of the most popular in recent years. Before you adopt this low-carb diet, it is important to understand what it requires, what benefits it can provide, and some of the best foods to make this dietary goal a reality!
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet, similar to a number of popular diets such as the Atkin’s diet. It is primarily known as a weight-loss diet, as it can help boost the metabolism and speed up the burning of calories. While many people think of a high-fat diet as being unhealthy, it is all about the type of fats that you consume. In a ketogenic diet, for example, your protein intake will be quite high, rather than having a carb-heavy diet. Both carbs and fats can be used by the body for energy, but when fat is the primary source of energy metabolism, the body enters a state known as ketosis.
After your body enters this carb-deficient state, it begins burning fat to provide energy, and this burning of fat causes a release of ketones. Ketones are dense sources of energy that can stimulate critical parts of the body, such as the brain. By drastically shifting your diet from carbohydrate dependence to fat dependence, you can enjoy a number of impressive health benefits, in addition to weight loss.
Health Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
The top health benefits of a ketogenic diet include improvement in cognitive abilities, controlling blood sugar, boosting energy levels and improving the function of the nervous system, among others.
One of the side effects of a ketogenic diet is the impact it can have on your skin. Heavily processed and high-carb foods have a lot of artificial sugars, which have been proven to be bad for the complexion. In particular, a ketogenic diet is able to positively affect the symptoms of acne in many people.
Known primarily as a weight-loss diet, a ketogenic approach will allow your body to use higher-quality food sources for energy, and store less fat. When it comes to carbohydrates, any excess calories will be stored as fat for future use. This will only result in weight gain, and lower energy levels, particularly after the initial sugar rush of energy from simple carbohydrates. More protein in the body will also kickstart the metabolism, which will increase fat-burning potential, particularly if you are eating high-quality fats as a part of the ketogenic diet.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Diets that focus on lowering carbohydrates and increasing fat have been associated with lower levels of “bad” cholesterol and higher levels of “good” cholesterol. Furthermore, lower triglyceride levels are typically seen in those on a ketogenic diet. A better cholesterol balance and fewer triglycerides can help to protect against plaque deposition in the arteries, which can lower your risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.
Apart from weight loss, the most notable benefit of a ketogenic diet is a reduction in insulin resistance, which can help prevent the development of diabetes. By lowering insulin concentrations to healthy levels, it is possible to mitigate the symptoms of diabetes and can also help a non-diagnosed person prevent diabetes.
Relieves Symptoms of Epilepsy
Omega-3 fatty acids are often associated with heart health and cholesterol but they can also have an impact on the nervous system. A great deal of research on epilepsy has found that pursuing a ketogenic diet reduces the symptoms of this condition and allows medication for epilepsy to work more effectively in the body.
As mentioned above, metabolizing fat results in the release of ketones, which are a great source of pure energy. In fact, fats are considered the best type of molecule to process for energy, giving you a boost that can carry you throughout your day.
Lowers Blood Pressure
There is quite a bit of research that has been done on the effects of a ketogenic diet, and the findings show a general reduction in blood pressure. This could be due to a higher concentration of potassium and a lower amount of sugar in the foods common to this diet. It may also be due to the weight loss benefits, as obesity is a causative factor in hypertension.
Boosts Digestive Health
By going on a ketogenic diet, you are far more likely to increase your level of fiber intake, primarily through fruits and non-starchy vegetables. This increase in dietary fiber will help aid digestive health by promoting peristaltic motion and easing the passage of bowel movements. This can lower your risk of indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, gastric ulcers and even colorectal cancer.
Speaking on cancer, a number of studies have connected ketogenic diets with a reduction in the symptoms of cancer. Essentially, it is believed that ketones are incompatible with cancer cells, so those mutated cells have no access to resources, and therefore they die. On the other hand, a high-carb diet full of processed food gives cancer cells all the resources they need to thrive.
List of Foods in a Ketogenic Diet
If you plan to pursue a ketogenic diet, some of the key foods you should include are fruits, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, and lean organic meat, among others.
The most important element in this diet is healthy sources of fats. They primarily come from lean forms of protein, including fatty fish, such as salmon and cod, as well as olive oil, macadamia nuts, avocados and other high-fat foods.
Any grass-fed meat, from beef and poultry to fatty fish, can be included in a ketogenic diet. However, other forms of protein, such as pastured eggs, butter, and certain animal organs are also great options.
With high levels of fiber, natural sugars, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, fruits are a major part of a ketogenic diet, particularly fruits like berries and avocados. Many fruits have too many carbohydrates to fit into a ketogenic diet, so speak with your doctor or a nutritionist about the fruits to be included.
Word of Caution: Athletes who are practicing anaerobic exercise should not follow the ketogenic diet as it can hamper their energy metabolism and hence, the performance. Always consult your doctor before changing your existing lifestyle.