FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - KETO
Keto or Low Carb Diets are all the rage these days. They have become popular because unlike many diets they work for most people who adhere to the rules of low carb/high fat eating.
In many ways once you have made the commitment to the low carb high fat (LCHF) lifestyle and managed to get through the first few days or sometimes weeks of side effects also referred to as keto flu, it is remarkably easy to follow the diet.
If you are looking for a healthier way to eat, or like me has gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years, I would imagine that you have many questions and possible concerns.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about keto or low carb eating:
WHAT IS A KETOGENIC DIET?
The Ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. Carbs are replaced with healthy fats and the reduction of carbs triggers a metabolic state known as lipolysis.
Lipolysis is a process that occurs when the body begins to use fat for energy, instead of carbohydrates obtained from food.
The by-products of lipolysis are ketones and ketosis is the secondary process of lipolysis.
By depriving the body of carbohydrates, which is converted to glucose and typically used as fuel, it is forced to use its fat stores instead, literally melting it off the body when it is in ketosis.
Ketosis makes the body burn stored and dietary fat for energy instead of getting its energy from the carbs you eat.
Ketosis also turns fat into ketones in the liver that helps supply energy to the brain.
ISN'T LOW CARB JUST ANOTHER DIET FAD?
Most definitely not! It is a lifestyle change and is not something intended as a temporary fix or a quick weight loss scheme.
There is a lot of scientific research evidence that has shown low carb eating to be highly effective for sustained weight loss and for providing many health benefits.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF A KETO DIET?
Many people experience dramatic and very quick weight loss over the first few weeks on their ketogenic diet.
Eating low carb eliminates those frustrating out of control cravings, stabilizes blood sugar and consequently appetite.
Research has shown that reducing carbohydrate consumption and replacing them with healthy fats and moderate protein, results in naturally reducing overall calorie consumption without hunger pains and starvation.
Needless to say, the side effects of this weight loss are quite impressive as obesity is linked to numerous diseases including:
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- reduced quality of life
- joint problems
- autoimmune disease
- premature death
Reduction in visceral fat.
Research has shown that a low carb diet can help to reduce levels of visceral fat specifically, rather than the superficial subcutaneous fat.
Stabilizes blood sugars.
Stabilizing blood sugar is crucial for living a healthy diabetic free life.
Eating low carb eliminates insulin triggers (starches and sugars) which can possibly prevent and manage type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
For this reason LCHF is the diet of choice for those with metabolic syndrome and prediabetes.
While a lot of research into low carb eating as it pertains to treating or preventing disease is ongoing and far from conclusive, a low carb diet certainly results in weight loss and is especially important in regards to metabolic and insulin-related diseases.
Maintain healthy blood pressure.
May lower risks for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke.
The Ketogenic diet is used to treat several types of cancer and to slow the growth of tumors.
The Ketogenic diet is also used to treat traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Eating less sugar and lowering insulin levels can help improve acne and improve complexion.
Many people report simply feeling better than when they are on a high carb diet! text here.
What keto adopters are saying is that they feel less bloated, have more energy and have improved mental clarity.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A KETOGENIC DIET?
Few things are as well established in nutrition science as the immense health benefits of low-carb and ketogenic diets. Not only can these diets improve your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, but they also reduce your appetite, boost weight loss and lower your triglycerides.
WHAT CAN I EAT ON A LOW CARB DIET?
- Chicken, red meat, ham, sausage, bacon, organ meat
- Fish and seafood
- All non-starchy vegetables – including, leafy greens, onions, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, olives and so on
- Butter, heavy cream, full fat sour cream and salad dressings (check labels for ingredients and carb count)
- Whole full fat unprocessed cheeses, including, cheddar gouda, mozzarella, parmesan and blue cheese in moderation
- Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, nut butters, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds in moderation
- Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil
- Avocados (whole or guacamole made from fresh whole avocados)
- Salt, herbs and spices
- No carb sauces like some hot sauce brands, and soy sauce (Carefully check labels)
- Berries in moderation
- Water, club soda, no-calorie flavored seltzers, unsweetened tea, unsweetened coffee and herbal tea without added barley or fruit sugars
WHAT CARBS ARE NOT ALLOWED?
- refined sugar
- most fruit
- starchy vegetables
- products made with flour and or sugar
HOW MANY CARBS CAN I EAT?
This really depends on your particular needs. Every person’s carb requirements are different. The strictest recommendation is 20 grams or less especially at the start of a keto diet.
Many people can eat up to 50 grams of carbs and remain in ketosis. For some that number is 75 grams.
It depends on the individual and their goals. If you are very overweight and have high insulin levels, then you should be focused on the lower end.
DO I HAVE TO COUNT CALORIES?
Low carb diets advocate eating to satisfaction and there is no need to count calories.
When you eliminate unhealthy and addictive carbs from your diet, you can finally overcome out of control cravings and stabilize appetite.
Research has shown that reducing carbohydrates and replacing them with healthy fats and moderate protein results in reducing overall calorie consumption naturally and without starvation.
Listen to your body and eat only when hungry. Stop eating when you had enough to eat and skip meals if you are not hungry.
I know this is tough, because for so many years we were told to eat 3 to 5 times per day, especially if you are pre-diabetic.
However, when your body burns fat and not carbs, your energy resources are abundant and you do not need to replenish them every two to three hours.
HOW CAN IT BE HEALTHY TO CUT OUT CARBS FROM MY DIET? I WANT TO LOSE SOME WEIGHT BUT CUTTING OUT A WHOLE FOOD GROUP SCARES ME.
A low carb diet allows non-starchy vegetables, which are the healthiest carbs. So we don’t cut out a whole group of foods, just a sub group of carbs.
It is the unhealthy carbs that are cut out, like refined sugar and sweets that do nothing but harm the body. As well as grains, like rice and pasta, which many experts believe we can live without.
All grains, including whole grains, have a high glycemic load (often higher than sugary foods). This means that they all cause a high insulin response in the body.
In fact, whole grains lack the nutrients or longevity of fats and proteins, and have been strongly associated with autoimmune diseases.
Another important factor is that you restrict carbs, but increase the intake of healthy fats.
Fats tend to get a bad rap in the food chain when in fact some of them are actually very good for you. We get many essential nutrients from fatty foods such as avocado, meats, butter, cheese, coconut and olive oils.
Many studies have shown that low carb diets are more effective in actual weight lost, decreasing risks for heart disease, improving metabolic health, and the lipid profile than low fat diets.
HOW WILL MY BODY RUN IF I CUT CARBS FROM MY DIET? AREN'T CARBS WHAT FUELS US?
Yes, carbohydrates are a source of fuel for the body but they are not the only ones.
As a matter of fact, evidence shows that our bodies are great adapters and that they actually run better when burning fat as opposed to burning carbs, a process known as ketosis.
Your body also has an almost endless supply of fat to burn as body fuel but only a limited supply of carb produced glycogen.
Many people also don’t realize that there is a natural process in the body that turns protein into glycogen body fuel called gluconeogenesis.
So not only will you get plenty of body fuel when lowering your carb intake, this is exactly what allows you to lose weight and turns your body into a fat burning machine.
I HAVE READ THAT KETOSIS IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, IS THIS FACT OR MYTH?
Ketosis is often confused with ketoacidosis.
Ketosis is a perfectly harmless, helpful and natural metabolic process, while ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition that happens in uncontrolled diabetes.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS TO CUTTING OUT CARBS?
Some people experience digestion and diarrhea problems, but this common side effect typically goes away after about four weeks.
Eating more high-fiber vegetables, like leafy greens and broccoli helps and magnesium supplements can alleviate constipation.
I HAD A FRIEND TELL ME THEY GOT DIZZY, AND HAD HEADACHES WITH THEIR LOW CARB EATING DIET. IS THIS POSSIBLE?
This can be a common occurrence and is caused by the kidneys excreting salt more rapidly as a result of ketosis, a process instigated by low carb eating where the body begins to use fat for energy instead of carbs.
The body is getting rid of excess water and salt which is a good thing. If you feel these symptoms, you need to eat more good quality salt and drink more water.
When you start drink 1 or 2 cups of clear bone broth every day. This will supplement your daily salt intake.
Remember that when you cut out processed foods you cut out lots of the sodium and salt intake that you were not even aware of.
Whole meats and green leafy vegetables are both also great sources of potassium.
It is very important to drink lots of water in this early stage. Rehydration is crucial to limit these side effects.
WHAT IF I FEEL TIRED AND WEAK?
This can happen when you are not in full ketosis or your body is not using fats and ketones efficiently, lowering carb intake or taking MCT oil or ketone supplements can help. Again be sure to drink enough water.
This shouldn’t last more than a few days or a week at most.
Be patient with yourself and rest when you can.
I LIKE TO HAVE A COUPLE OF DRINKS TO RELAX AND UNWIND. WILL I HAVE TO GIVE UP ALCOHOL WHEN EATING LOW CARB?
The body burns alcohol for fuel when alcohol is available, and this means that while it’s burning the alcohol it will not burn fat. Therefore, it will not stop weight loss altogether, but will postpone it.
Because the body does not store pure alcohol as glycogen, it can immediately return to lipolysis once the alcohol is metabolized.
In some people, alcohol can interfere with weight loss by increasing yeast-related symptoms. If this is not a problem then moderate consumption is okay.
It is important, however, to choose the right type of alcohol, meaning that you have to be careful that what you are drinking is not full of carbs or sugar.
That means beer is definitely a no-no, as it is basically liquid bread and you cannot have sugar-filled cocktails, such as a Margaritas or Pina Coladas.
Stick with pure spirits like whiskey and vodka, which have zero carbs, and also wine, which has a low amount of carbs. You obviously should not mix your vodka with orange juice as orange juice is high in sugar and carbs.
Keep in mind however that alcohol is really just empty calories, and if by chance, you are following a low carb diet and drinking alcohol and not losing weight stop drinking and see if that makes a difference.
WON'T THE HIGH FAT INTAKE CAUSE HIGH CHOLESTEROL?
Evidence suggests the opposite is true. Low carb eating has an edge over low-fat diets for improving good HDL cholesterol levels as shown by this study done on the subject (but not the only one) and funded by the National Institutes of Health (published in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine).
148 subjects participated with half following a low-carb diet, with a limit of no more than 40 grams a day. The other half ate a low-fat diet with no more than 30% of their calories coming from fat.
After 12 months the low carb group lost more weight and their cardiovascular risk factors improved. Their HDL cholesterol levels improved more than the low fat group.
The conclusion of the study was: “The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet. Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.”
Several other studies have also shown low carb to be more effective than low fat in actual pounds lost and in reducing risk factors for heart disease. For more studies, check out this page from Authority Nutrition.
IS IT TRUE THAT I SHOULD NOT EAT EGG YOLKS BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT HEALTHY?
There have been many negative things said about eggs over the years and their relationship to having high cholesterol levels in the body, but recently the official position has changed and most dietary recommendations include eggs as part of a healthy diet.
Over the years, many studies have suggested a non-existent relationship between egg yolks and increased bad cholesterol levels.
Therefore there is no point to eating just the egg whites as part of your low carb eating.
ARE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS ALLOWED?
Artificial sweeteners can interfere with ketosis, so it is recommended to remove them from your diet altogether.
WILL I EVER BE ABLE TO CARBS AND SUGAR AGAIN?
When following the Ketogenic diet it is very important to be strict in the elimination of carbs initially, to allow the body to fully enter ketosis.
As you reach your goals, be it weigh loss or reducing your type 2 diabetes A1C numbers you can indulge on occasion, but then return to a low carb lifestyle.
Through different phases you are allowed to slowly integrate certain carbs back into your diet while tracking its effect on your weight, allowing you to reach your goal weight and maintain it by finding your ideal carb balance.
As with any healthy eating strategy, moderation is always key.
Additionally, many people who sustain a low carb lifestyle for the long term find that when they do eat sugar or sugary foods they simply do not tolerate them or even enjoy them as they used to either because the taste is so strong and overwhelming or because they just simply feel better without it.
IS A LOW CARB DIET GOOD FOR EVERYONE?
Low carb diets are ideal for those who want to lose weight, are struggling with diabetes or have prediabetes and want to reduce risks for an actual diagnoses of type 2 diabetes, and also for those looking to improve their metabolic health.
The ketogenic diet can be very different for each person. Experiment to find out what work best for you.
It may not work for everyone, and you should always ask your doctor before starting any new diet.