Here’s everything you need to know!
By Elise Penning, BSC, MS, RD.
Blog for Health 2000
Over 100 years ago the ketogenic (“keto”) diet was designed as a medical treatment for children with refractory epilepsy. Recently, keto has gained in popularity as a diet for weight loss – and it can work! It’s regularly used for people before they have weight loss surgery, to help them lose weight, reduce fat in their liver and it helps suppress appetite, so they don’t feel hungry.
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
The ketogenic diet deliberately changes how our metabolism works. Usually, the major source of energy for our body and brain is glucose (from carbohydrates and sugar). Most people eat between 200 to 300 grams of carbs per day, but on the keto diet, you would only eat 30 to 50 grams of carbs per day. This forces your body to switch from using carbohydrates for fuel to fats and ketones. This is called ‘nutritional ketosis’ and normally happens in a natural starvation state. For example, babies who haven’t been fed milk within two hours will naturally go into nutritional ketosis.
What Would You Eat?
On the ketogenic diet, you would focus your foods on leafy green vegetables and other low-carb veggies. You’d fill up on meat, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese. You’d use nut-based fats, olive oil, coconut oil, butter and extra-dark chocolate. The main source of energy would be from fats – generally around 75 percent, 20 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbs.
You wouldn’t eat fruit (apart from some berries), grains, breads, cereals, sugar, honey, pizza, biscuits, cake, starchy vegetables like potatoes, pumpkin, parsnip, kumara, corn, crackers, lentils, beans, etc.
One of the main issues with going keto is how restrictive it is. It can be really hard to stick to and as soon as you eat an orange or two your body will switch from burning ketones to burning carbs. Also, because you are relying heavily on fat and protein foods it can be a very expensive way to eat and if you’re not eating enough vegetables, then constipation can cause some significant discomfort!
If you think that going keto is for you, speak with your specialist and dietitian about it first. You may need help adjusting medications, or there may be other factors that you need to consider.
There is no evidence that going keto is better than any other diet and food is not just about nutrition. Food is about sharing meals with family and friends and enjoying cultural and traditional foods.
Also, we know that our health behaviours (eating 5 + a day, not smoking, exercising regularly and not drinking too much alcohol) are more predictive of our health than whatever diet we choose, or whichever number is on the scale.
Healthy eating is for life and it is ok to eat and enjoy all foods.