[PRESENTED BY GOODNESS ME!]
Who would have thought that eating fat would be the diet of the day? We’re used to the idea that reducing fat is the key to weight loss, because it just seemed so obvious: fat in our foods must create fat on our body, and getting rid of the former will get rid of the latter. However, one of the biggest current trends in dieting is turning this wisdom on its head, and the keto diet has been decisive in a lot of people’s fight with their weight.
Keto, short for ketosis, is a diet wherein the vast majority of the foods one consumes are fats. This is done to change how the body metabolizes energy and, in the process, to burn off weight.
Keto diets aren’t about eating any fat – you can’t simply eat cheeseburgers and expect to reach your goals. What’s important is eating the right fat, in the right proportions, while cutting out the right foods.
Here’s a concise guide to getting started:
What is Ketosis?
When you go on a keto diet, you’re trying to put your body into a state of ketosis. This is your body creating ketone bodies, fatty acids made by the liver, when fat metabolism replaces glucose consumption as the main source of energy for the body. When there aren’t enough carbs to run the regular processes, the body turns to your fat stores, which are metabolized into ketones. These ketones then go on to fuel different parts of the body like the muscles and the brain.
Reaching ketosis doesn’t happen the same way for everyone. How it goes depends on factors you can’t control (genetics, metabolism) and factors you can, but might have trouble changing (exercise, stress levels, protein intake). How one reaches it, however, is usually the same: radical changes in diet.
What Does a Ketogenic Diet Look Like?
The major obstacle for a lot of people contemplating a ketogenic diet are the rules! Keto diets are quite strict, even when compared to other diets. It starts with setting a “net-carb goal” for yourself and counting the carbs you consume during the day.
Sandy Pomeroy, the Senior Education Instructor for Goodness Me!’s Lifewatchers classes and the author of Grain-Free Goodness, says that research is important to meet your net-carb goals.
“Find the amount of carbs and the amount of fibre. Subtract the fibre from the carbs, and that will give you the “net carbs” - the amount of effective carbohydrates—per serving.” This information can be gleaned from nutritional packaging or through online resources.
The level should be between 20 – 50 net carbs a day, though you can alter your target if you find the results are either lacking or too punishing. Whatever your level, your dietary breakdown should, roughly speaking, be:
- 75% healthy fats
- 20% protein
- 5% carbohydrates
It sounds like a lot of restrictions, and many of us don’t really have the knowledge or imagination to picture “fat” as anything but negative.
How can you find enough food to make up this diet?
Focus on this list:
• Saturated and monosaturated fats: Don’t let the name scare you – saturated fats aren’t the fats you should avoid! Grass-fed butter, ghee, lard, and coconut oil are great for cooking and eating. Avocados and avocado oils are also very good for your diet, so go ahead and dig in to some guac (without the carb-heavy chips!).
• Seafood: Fatty seafood like salmon, tuna, trout, and shellfish make for a tasty variety of keto-friendly meals. They’re also loaded with important omega-3s!
• Fattier meat: Though you’re trying to cut down on carbs, too much protein can also throw off your goal of ketosis. If you’re eyeing the meat section, choose dark poultry meat, lamb, ground beef, bacon, and fatty cuts like the ribeye. It’s easy to snack with dried meats, but make sure to pair with a fatty cheese! Speaking of which…
• Full-fat dairy: We’ve already mentioned butter, but hard cheese, heavy cream, Greek yogurt, and unflavoured spreadables like cream cheese can add a lot of variety to your diet.
• Nuts and seeds: Though most nuts are safe, choose fattier options like almonds, Brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts. Raw nut butters are also good, but make sure they’re unsweetened. Watch out for too much omega-6, though, which can promote inflammation – eat sensible, snack-sized portions!
• Eggs: The humble egg might become your best friend on keto. Go free-range and eat them however you’d like!
• Vegetables: Many veggies that grow above ground, like broccoli and cauliflower, are keto-friendly, but you should focus on consuming leafy greens like spinach and kale.
• Sugar substitutes: Xylitol, Stevia, and sucralose are great options for those trying to kick sugar.
Now that you know what you can eat, we should mention what you can’t. Like mentioned above, not all fats are created equal; damaged fats like hydrogenated oils and trans fats should be avoided at all costs. Sandy Pomeroy recommends steering clear of many regular offerings, and opting for whole foods with clean ingredients. “Stay away from processed meats, conventional mayo, and harmful oils like vegetable or GMO soy.”
Some of the items to be avoided are obvious enough – no grains, starchy tubers, and sugar – but some things might surprise you. Apples, bananas, and other fruits with a lot of starch should be avoided at all costs. Berries, while not entirely taboo, should be reduced as much as possible – they have high amounts of sugar.
How Does a Keto Diet Impact the Body?
There are many reported benefits to the keto diet. It might be tough going as the body first starts to adjust, but as a keto dieter’s body becomes more dependent on ketones, they might notice higher levels of energy, a lower appetite, and a general feeling of well-being. After a few weeks or months, those on the diet should start to see the weight disappear as their bodies’ burn fat for energy. Even sleep can improve.
Sandy Pomeroy notes that many people starting on keto might feel something called the “keto flu”. “The first few days or week may feel a bit rough as your body transitions to ketosis,” she says. “Symptoms of the keto flu include low energy, aches or chills, headaches, upset stomach, and even nausea. This is normal
“After a week or so, you should start to feel better and get to all the wonderful health benefits. Not everyone experiences the keto flu, either, so you may get into ketosis with no negative symptoms at all.”
Ready to start? Learn more about the keto diet at goodnessme.ca