What is the Ketogenic Diet?

It seems like every year there is a new diet craze or a new way of eating. Many people are searching for the magic bullet for weight loss, and they go from diet to diet hoping that one works. The “new” craze is the ketogenic or keto diet. What is the ketogenic diet, and is it right for you?

The keto diet is based on scientific evidence and has been utilized for almost 90 years. It was originally created for patients with epilepsy since the keto diet mimics fasting, which has been shown to reduce the number of seizures for patients.  It is a very low carbohydrate diet which enables the body to use dietary fat and body fat storage as the primary fuel source for energy, rather than carbohydrates.  The body believes it is fasting because of the very low carbohydrate intake, and it starts to burn fat for energy. ”Ketosis” is a physiological mechanism that occurs in the body when adequate carbohydrates are not available to burn for energy, and instead, the body burns fat for energy, producing ketones as a by-product. When ketones rise in the body, it enters into ketosis, which is a fat-burning metabolic state that results in weight loss.

The diet works by severely limiting the number of carbohydrates that you consume to 10% of total calories. Carbs should come predominantly from leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables. For most people, this is about 30-50 net grams of carbohydrates, but some people get the best results on only 20g of carbohydrates. 20% of the diet should be from protein, especially fish high in omega-3s and grass fed and organic meats. All processed meat should be avoided. The remaining 70% should consist of healthy fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, coconuts, and medium-chain triglyceride oils. Dairy is allowed, but it should be limited. All sugar, grains, processed foods, and alcohol should be avoided.

In addition to weight loss, the keto diet has been shown to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes and to improve blood sugar management. It also protects against cancer, decreases the risk of heart disease, and protects against Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions. It may also increase mental focus and alertness as well as increase energy.

The keto diet has been shown to work for weight loss, but it can be difficult to adhere to. Additionally, some people, especially those who have difficulty metabolizing fats, will not do well on the ketogenic diet. Consult a health care practitioner before starting the keto diet and see if it is the best option for your weight loss and daily regimen.

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