Over the last few years we’ve noticed that for one reason or another, the Ketogenic (or Keto) Diet seems to always be in the media. It’s an attention grabbing subject but one that’s worth exploring. So, at the risk of seeming like we’re following the crowd, we’re going to talk a bit more about it in this post. From the history of the Ketogenic Diet and how it works, to providing guidance on how you can give it a go for yourself.

The Ketogenic Diet. Nowadays, it’s become a bit of a trendy thing to follow and because of this most people think of it as something new – but that’s just not true. In fact, the Ketogenic Diet was first introduced in 1921 by Russel Wilder. It was used to treat epilepsy and in some severe cases, it’s still used by medical professionals today. But what are the principles of the Ketogenic Diet? And how does it work?

What is the Keto Diet?

Put simply, the Keto Diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet. The key principle behind this diet is that by reducing carbohydrates and eating high-fat foods, the body is forced to burn fat instead of using carbohydrates as the main energy source.

How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?

First, let’s take a look at what normally goes on in the body.

Usually, carbohydrates are the primary fuel that produces energy in the body. When we eat them, they’re converted into glucose. This glucose is broken down through a process called glycolysis and enter into the Kreb’s cycle and oxidative phosphorylation to generate ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is needed for many processes in our bodies.

So what happens to a body using the Keto Diet?

When we don’t consume enough carbohydrates for glycolysis to take place, does that mean we won’t produce enough ATP? Not at all. The body is very adaptable to this and when first deprived of carbs, the glucose needed will be produced endogenously in the liver. This process is called gluconeogenesis. Following this, when glucose availability is reduced further, this process will not be able to keep up with the body’s glucose needs. And so, a different process called ‘ketogenesis’ will take over in order to provide an alternative energy source.

This alternative comes in the form of ‘ketone bodies’ which will replace glucose as the primary energy source. During ketogenesis, due to the lower levels of glucose in the blood, insulin secretion will also be low, stimulating less fat storage. This state is called ‘nutritional ketosis’, which is considered quite safe. In this case, ketone bodies are produced in small concentrations without altering the blood pH. But a word of caution, particularly for those suffering from diabetes and under medical supervision: where the Keto Diet is being used and medication has not been adjusted, a life-threatening condition called, ‘ketoacidosis’ can develop rapidly. This is caused by a significant increase in ketone bodies which can alter the blood pH.

Is a High-Fat Diet Really Safe?

There’s a widely held belief that high-fat diets are the cause of obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But in recent epidemiological studies, these beliefs have not been upheld. Instead, a low-carb and high-fat diet has been shown to encourage weight loss which, indirectly, can contribute to a lower level of risk in relation to the development of cardiovascular disease or a metabolic syndrome.

To explain this further, let’s take a look at an average American or British diet. Typically, it includes about 50-60% carbohydrate intake (mostly refined), a substantial intake of sugar, with a low intake of vegetables, low intake of healthy nuts & seeds, and omega-3 fats. This combination increases the risk of the development of a metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes.

A recent review and analysis of randomized controlled trials compared the long-term effects of dietary interventions on weight loss and concluded that low-carb diets led to significantly greater weight loss compared to low-fat diets.

As obesity continues to be on the rise worldwide, the risk of related health issues is also increasing. But through the application of a tailored diet regimen focused on weight reduction, we can better address the obesity epidemic and one solution may be the low-carbohydrate and high-fat ketogenic diet.

The Ketogenic Diet: How To Do it Safely

It’s important to recognise that the Keto Diet might not be suitable for all and has the potential to be very dangerous for some – particularly those with pancreatitis, liver failure, fat metabolism disorders and other illnesses.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Ketogenic Diet can be used very successfully as a medical intervention, as mentioned at the beginning of this post.

With all this in mind, it’s advisable for those with a medical condition to consult their doctor before following a new diet. Even if you enjoy a good general level of health but would like to improve some areas of your diet for a healthier lifestyle, we recommend working with a Nutritionist or a Functional Medicine Practitioner who will be able to create a personal diet regimen to suit your metabolic type and genetics.

What Can I Eat on the Keto Diet?

In cases where the Ketogenic Diet is used to treat severe cases of epilepsy, a diet made up of 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein and as little as 5% carbohydrates is likely to be suggested. But if you decide to go on a Ketogenic Diet as a reset because you feel you are consuming way too many refined carbohydrates, the safest way to do this is by following the regimen for no more than 21-28 days using a fat-to-protein-to-carbs ratio of around 50%-70% fat, 20-30% protein and 10-20% carbs. Using this method, you’re still likely to see significant weight-loss, particularly if you’re currently consuming a diet that consists of 50% (or more) of mostly refined carbs such as pasta, grains and high-glycemic veggies like potatoes.

High-fat and low-carb Keto foods should be chosen carefully. It’s important to choose the healthiest versions of both. Low-carbs should be vegetables and the following foods should be avoided: pulses (beans, peas, lentils), grains (pasta, rice, oatmeal), low-fat dairy products, added sugars and sweeteners, sugary beverages.

If you have any food allergies or intolerances, please also avoid those foods, even if normally would be allowed on a Keto diet.

The top twelve high-fat Keto foods are: avocados, wild-caught fish, grass-fed organic meat, pasture-raised organic eggs, raw cheeses, nuts & seeds, nut butter & tahini, ghee and grass-fed butter, olives, coconuts, dark chocolate and healthy oils.

Help with The Keto Diet

For someone who’s thinking about trying out the Keto Diet, all this information may seem a little overwhelming at first. You may be wondering how you’ll be able to keep the advised ratio of fat-to-protein-to-carbs? How you will find the appropriate recipes? And wondering how long it will take to plan all your meals for your 21-28 days and put together your grocery list?

But don’t let this stop you from giving it a go as help is at hand – just send an email to andrea@wholeharmony.co.uk if you’d like to discuss how you could get your personalised 21-28 day plan.

When you book your appointment with us, we’ll be able to advise you on a personalised diet, that not only incorporates the principles of Ketogenics but also considers your genetics, metabolic type, medical history and current symptoms, as well as any allergies or food sensitivities.

Based on all this information, we’ll be able to create a personalised diet plan including all the recipes and grocery items you’ll need to get started – as well as additional tips to help save you time in the kitchen.

If you’re not quite sure whether you’re ready for a personal consultation with us but you’d like to give some of the Keto recipes a go, you can download a free recipe book from the eBook section of our website.

Included in this eBook is 7 Delicious Keto Breakfast Recipes (with pictures) that can be prepared in 5 minutes or less, with easy to follow instructions and ingredients lists, tips on how to store leftovers, ingredient substitution ideas (in case of dietary restrictions) and lots of other handy hints to help you customise the recipes to your own taste.

Written by Andrea Okos

References

Ketogenic Diet (Research Paper) by Wajeed Masood; Kalyan R. Uppaluri. The National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/