Some of the best keto foods are probably already your faves
The ketogenic diet is one of the most popular diets out there right now, and for good reason – it has the ability to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. But don’t be fooled, it’s not so new. This diet became popular in the 1920s as a therapy for patients with epilepsy. It has also been supported by theories in cancer development for cells that thrive on sugar. Right now it is booming in popularity due to its fat-burning and muscle-maintaining effects. It is arguably the only weight-loss technique that is “protein-sparing”, meaning that the body will burn fat while maintaining all muscle mass. This is not the case for your average low-calorie diet.
In a nutshell, this happens by switching the body’s fuel source from carbohydrates (glucose) to fats. This can result in weight loss and lasting stamina with increased energy. Carbohydrates provide quick energy that lasts about 24 hours. This energy spikes our blood sugar, causing us to produce insulin (the fat storing hormone). By eating fewer carbohydrates, we automatically decrease the amount of insulin released into our system, resulting in our bodies using long-lasting, steady energy from fat. If done properly, the body will start actually burning its own fat for fuel.
How it Works
Our bodies are fueled by carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. However, when carbohydrates are drastically decreased, the body’s small stores run out quickly and it is forced to find alternative fuel for energy. Most organs automatically choose free fatty acids (FFA). However, the brain and nervous system cannot use FFA, so they rely on ketone bodies for fuel. Ketone bodies are chemicals made when there is not enough insulin in the blood and the body must break down fat instead of the sugar glucose for energy.
The accumulation of ketones in the bloodstream causes a metabolic state called ketosis. During ketosis, there is a decrease in the production and utilization of glucose – think less carbohydrates consumed, less to use for fuel. There is also a decrease in the breakdown of protein to be used for energy, helping to maintain muscle mass.
How to Do It
This diet comes down to dramatically decreasing carbohydrates, and increasing fats. We’re talking cutting your carbs down a lot, way below the average American’s 200-plus grams, to about 20-50 grams (depending on your personal threshold). To put this into perspective, there are about 27 grams of carbohydrates in one banana and about 45 grams in a cup of cooked brown rice, both foods traditionally considered to be healthy. Most of us intake tons of carbohydrates each day, whether they are from grain-products, whole grains, fruits or vegetables. This leaves us in “storage mode”, always having excess carbohydrates to burn for fuel. Because of this, we rarely dip into our fat stores. A ketogenic diet helps move us from storing to burning, helping to aid in weight loss.
The main macronutrient in a ketogenic diet is fat, usually totaling 70-75% of calories. The rest is broken down into 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates. Quick note here: it is just as important to not overdo it on the protein, as it is to minimize the carbs. Consuming too much protein can also create glucose, kicking your body out of ketosis, through a process called gluconeogenesis
Want to get started? Follow these general rules:
- Drastically minimize and/or omit fruit – sticking to high-fiber, low-sugar fruits like berries
- Increase healthy fats – add to every meal in large quantities
- Stick to non-starchy vegetables
- Stay away from all sweeteners except small amounts of stevia and monk fruit
- Make sure your plate contains more fat than protein
- Stay away from grains, even if gluten-free, and almost all beans and legumes
Add some of these healthy fats to every meal:
- Organic extra-virgin olive oil
- Organic virgin coconut oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut butter
- Coconut milk
- Nuts/seeds/nut butters – these do contain carbohydrates, so be mindful here
Incorporate Greens + Non-starchy Vegetables:
- Kale, spinach, chard, collard greens, romaine, arugula, etc.
- Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.
- Green beans
- Bell peppers
- Snow peas
- Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, etc.
Eat these high-quality animal proteins:
- Wild-caught low-mercury fish – salmon, cod, tilapia, etc.
- Organic, pasture-raised chicken
- Free-range turkey and duck
- Grass-fed buffalo
Stay tuned for some of the best keto foods recipes coming your way soon!
*It’s important to know that a ketogenic diet is not for everyone and everyone’s body reacts differently. I like to refer to it as a therapeutic diet. It can be incredibly useful when treating certain ailments like neurological diseases, obesity, diabetes and fatty liver disease. It is quite restrictive and is not an “easy quick-fix”.