Recently there has been a lot of bad publicity around keto, and I believe it is important to address it. Is there a wrong way to implement a keto diet?
The Keto definition
The Keto diet is defined by bringing the body in a state of burning fat for energy instead of glucose (carbs). In this process the body (and specifically the liver) is producing ketones as a result of burning fatty-acids. This can be achieved in two ways
- By eating a diet high in fat (70-80%) but most importantly keep the carbs as low as possible. Hence another defintion of a keto diet could be "The absence of carbs".
- By fasting for an extended period of time at which point the body is using it's own fat for energy.
Why follow a keto lifestyle?
Why should you cut out carbs in the first place and replace with fat? A fair question, since most of the population has various carbohydrates as the basis of their diet. The type of carbs can vary a lot from bread, pasta, cereals, rice to beans, legumes, fruit etc.
From my perspective, the main case against carbs, as already discussed in other posts, is the Over-processing of wheat compared to how it was used in the past, removing most if not all fiber and nutrients. This results:
- In simple digestable sugars, with empty calories and a big spike in insulin which leads to energy crashes, cognitive unclarity and eventually to insulin resistance and potentially many other serious problems such as diabetes.
- In over-eating since most refined carbs provide very low satiety scale.
By replacing carbs with fat, the attempt is to keep insulin and blood sugars low and stable throughout the day. This can be easily achieved since fatty foods have minimal impact on insulin and are a lot more satiating and nutrient dense, even at small quantities. (1 gram of fat gives 9 calories compared to 4 of carbs). Eating predominantly fat, will also result in the body producing ketones which is a stable and efficient type of energy.
But isn't fat bad for the health?
To be able give an answer you need to go few decades back. Back to the time that most families used lard on a daily basis. Until 1958 when the Ancel Keys hypothesis correlated heart attacks with eating saturated fat. This was accepted by all major US health accossiation and from that point on, fat has been religiously removed from most diets. The catch here is that the hypothesis is said to have been based on tampered data.
It is also quite interesting to consider the type of food that most of our ancestors were thriving on. Our ancestors were primarily hunters and gatherers. They were mostly hunting and when they had a catch they eat all parts of the animal, and when they were gathering this was seasonal fruit and nuts. It is now being established through various research studies that low-cholesterol diets lead to more heart-attacks than high-fat diets.
Is there then a problem with fat?
As a long as you avoid trans fat being hydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, soybean or corn oils, which are extensively used in many fast-foods, sweets and processed food, then the simple answer is no.
And let me re-iterate again! Avoid every possible processed food and even sources that have been grown in non-natural conditions. Eating fatty grass-fed beef from a cow that grew free in the fields, is not the same as eating from a cow that never saw the sun, ate grain to grow fast and got regularly injected. We are what we eat!
Look for natural sources of fat like fish, grass-fed meat, pasture-raised eggs, extra-virgin olive oil and nuts, which are full with essential fatty-acids. Where "essential" means that the body can not make these nutrients by itself and hence they need to come from the diet. Look for O3 and O6 sources giving DHA, EPA, ALA which are required for a healthy brain, heart, cell membranes and many others.
- A keto diet can help in controlling insulin levels and with blood sugar regulation.
- A keto diet should be based on natural and organic sources of food.
- Independent of the diet you are following avoid processed foods at all cost!