A low-carb, high-fat Keto Diet can help you lose weight and improve mental clarity, among myriad other benefits
There are many ways how to manage weight: you can try to eat healthily, you can eat less, you cannot eat at all, or you can follow some diets. At the end of the day, the best diet or eating style is the one you can follow and enjoy.
For someone, who has struggled with eating most of his life, I have found a diet that is both effective and enjoyable. The reason why I find this eating style so magical is not because of its power to burn fat (although it is effective in that manner), but because of all of it’s additional life-changing benefits.
What is this special way of eating? It’s the Keto Diet.
What is the Keto Diet?
By now, you probably have already heard about popular low-carb eating style based on fat. Yes, literally. Eating fat and losing weight? Well, that’s definitely something that goes against conventional wisdom of healthy eating and healthy lifestyle.
Keto diet, in a nutshell, is a very low-carb, moderate protein and high-fat diet. Normally, your body is running on glucose made from carbs and the goal of the keto diet is to cut out the carbs and replace them with fat. If you do that, then your body switches from carb burning mode to fat burning mode, using fat as the main source of energy. That is when you hit ketosis and the magic starts to happen.
If you are just starting out, we would suggest cutting down your carbs as low as a maximum of 20 grams per day. Following this rule, you will be in ketosis usually during a week (this can depend on the individual). You should avoid all the carbs: grains, legumes, starchy veggies, fruits and of course, sugar.
Is it too extreme? At the one side, yes — you cannot eat almost any carbs at all, so it seems like all the foods you cared about your whole life are forbidden now. But on the other hand, you can enjoy loads of fat for every meal of the day, which is very satisfying and fulfilling. Bacon or avocado salad for breakfast? Sounds like something worth trying.
The benefits of the Keto Diet
Probably the biggest reasons why the keto lifestyle helps you to lose weight is its appetite suppression, because fat as an energy source is way more stable and fulfilling. Studies have shown that when people cut out carbs and replace them with protein and fats, they tend to eat much fewer calories, even without trying. Unlike many other diets, during ketosis, when you are consuming fat as a primary source of energy, higher levels of a hormone called leptin is released. Leptin is an amazing hormone that helps to regulate your energy balance by restraining the hunger feeling.
Improved mental performance
The second dominant reason why many people love the keto diet is its ability to improve brain function, cognitive skills, and clarity of thought. The main problem with carbs is that they cause your blood sugar levels to rise and fall. Because carbs as an energy source aren’t consistent, it makes it harder for your brain to stay focused for long periods of time; it also often can be the reason for mood swings. There are many scientific studies which confirm the positive effect of being in ketosis upon your cognition abilities. But at the end of the day, anyone who has experienced the state of ketosis can tell you the benefits of the improved cognitive function.
Reduce risk for Type 2 diabetes
Your body converts fat, instead of sugar, into energy. The diet was created in 1924 as an epilepsy treatment, but it has shown the positive effects even for treating Type 2 diabetes. Carbohydrates elevate our blood sugar levels and the most effective way to lower blood sugar and insulin levels is to reduce carbohydrate intake. That is why the keto diet has been a very effective treatment for type 2 diabetes.
Increased levels of good cholesterol (HDL)
HDL is the good type of cholesterol — the one that carries cholesterol away from the body to the liver where it will be reused or excreted. It is also a well-known fact that the higher levels of HDL, the lower your risk of heart diseases will be.
Cancer is, without doubt, one of the leading causes of death around the world. Certain studies suggest that ketogenic diets may ‘starve’ the cancer cells. The regular cells found in our bodies are able to use fat for energy, but it’s believed that cancer cells cannot metabolically shift to use fat rather than glucose. That’s why a diet that eliminates excess sugar and other processed carbs from your menu can be effective in reducing or fighting cancer.
Stable energy levels
Anyone transitioning from a standard western diet to a ketogenic diet will experience a drastic difference in energy levels. This is because you don’t have the blood sugar spikes that you had previously, thanks to cheap carbs. Typically, by day 3-5 on a keto diet, most people report an increase in energy levels and lack of nasty cravings, if any at all. Fat is a much more stable source of energy; that’s why, once fat-adapted, you can easily go half a day without food without feeling drastic energy level swings.
Lowers blood pressure
Elevated blood pressure is a common health issue worldwide. It isn’t necessarily something you can feel, but it can increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Researchers have found that a low carb diet has been proven to be effective in lowering the blood pressure. This, of course, does not mean that you should throw away all your blood pressure medication, but the keto diet may be something to consider and discuss with your doctor.
Increased physical endurance
If physical endurance is important and measurable for you, then there are definitely many benefits you can gain from the keto diet. Studies have shown a positive effect on endurance sports combined with the keto diet. One study found that supplemental ketones demonstrated acute nutritional ketosis during exercise. Another study showed that a keto diet can help reduce lactate production and improving performance in elite cyclists.
The Keto diet is not for everyone
Most of the people who can follow this diet usually will lose weight, but they rarely can keep it off in the long run because it is hard to maintain. On top of that, this diet may make you cranky in the beginning, as you cut out all the complex carbs like grains, starchy veggies and fruits and simple carbs such as candy and soda. Carbs make you feel good, especially when you are feeling down. Fortunately, once your body adapts to the new situation, your crankiness will disappear and you will enjoy a whole new level of energy.
Although the keto diet is ideal for anyone who loves fatty meats and fish, it is actually very effective for vegans. The vegan version of the ketogenic diet is more restrictive, but it is possible to pull it off while maintaining sanity. It just needs some adjustments and planning.
Is Keto right for you?
First, consult with your doctor if you have any medical concerns or conditions that diet may impact. Then give it a try for a test period. If after a week you don’t see positive results, gradually return to your preferred diet – but always opt for the most natural, least-processed foods and minimize consumption of refined flours and sugars.
You may also enjoy reading Health In a Jar: Growing Your Own Probiotics, by Donna Schwenk