The ketogenic diet has taken health circles by storm. Everyone seems to know somebody who has “gone keto” or is at least thinking about it. Keto labels are popping up on restaurant menus and in grocery stores.
And yet, the 2018 U.S. News & World Report recently evaluated 40 diets and guess which diet came in dead last? The ketogenic diet.
What is going on here? How can a diet land in two polar opposite camps? In a world that seems to thrive on polarizing controversy, let’s put a few misconceptions to rest and take a look into the effects of the ketogenic diet on the body. Because there is no doubt about it – the benefits of a ketogenic diet are profound.
The explosion of ketogenic diet headlines may lead you to believe this is a new way of eating, but in fact, humans have been eating the ketogenic diet for tens of thousands of years. It’s only recently, say in the past several hundred years or so, that we stopped eating this way. This is a long period for testing safety and efficacy in our health.
However, the ketogenic principles can absolutely be abused. I’ve seen many people use this way of eating as an excuse to fill their plates almost entirely with bacon and butter from conventionally raised cattle. So make no mistake, an ideal ketogenic diet is a predominantly plant-based diet with healthy fats at its core. Eating a variety of whole foods that are high in healthy fats is essential to “doing keto” the right way.
The recommendations I made in the Grain Brain Whole Life plan favor a mild state of ketosis, which may be the natural state of human metabolism. To be clear, our ancestors didn’t have access to such rich and unlimited sources of sugars and carbohydrates like we do. So, if you are going to adopt the ketogenic diet, as I have, here are three quick tips for ensuring you’re doing it the right way.
3 Tips for Healthy Keto
Prior to any dietary change, you should consult your healthcare provider. With that in mind, a ketogenic diet may be a good fit for you.
Simply put, a ketogenic diet typically derives about 70-80% or more of total calories from healthful fats. The remaining 20% of calories are derived from carbohydrates and proteins. Eating like this puts your body in a state of ketosis, where it primarily burns fat for energy.
To get into and stay in ketosis, you must restrict carbs and sugar – less than 50 grams per day. This initiates your body to burn the remaining carbohydrates present, after which it moves on to stored glucose (glycogen), and finally it taps into ketones. Ketones are produced by the liver and readily used by the body for potent energy production and critical brain-related functions.
Ketones are a cellular “superfuel” and one in particular – beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) – drives powerful, beneficial processes. Beta-hydroxybutyrate is important for the regulation of important genes, inflammation regulation, immune system activity, and even antioxidant function. This important ketone is one of the fundamental reasons the keto diet is so beneficial.
Here are 3 tips to ensure you maximize the benefits of a ketogenic diet:
- Fats must be healthful – Good sources of healthful fats include:
- If you choose to eat meat as a source of healthful fat and protein, make sure it is always grass-fed and never fed antibiotics or hormones. Remember, you should be eating plenty of plant-based fats as well.
- Also, you can use MCT oil to help push your body into ketosis. MCT oil aids in further production of healthful ketones. Look for an MCT oil that is certified USDA organic, hexane free, derived from coconuts (not palm oil), and is non-GMO
You can jump start ketosis with a fast between 16-48 hours followed by high fat meals. I recommend regular fasting with the ketogenic diet because this helps reduce carbohydrate levels in the body, which in turn allows your metabolism to more easily switch to burning ketones. Plus, fasting is great for brain health.
Now that you are empowered with the fundamentals of how to implement the ketogenic diet the right way, let’s look at the incredible benefits of this diet.
1. Keto Can Help Fight Obesity
With obesity-related disease now claiming the lives of over 2.8 million people each year, it’s important more people discover the beneficial power of the ketogenic diet in fighting obesity.
Studies continue to find that the ketogenic diet is beneficial to obese patients. In a long term study where obese patients were put on a 24-week ketogenic diet, individuals experienced significant reduction in body weight and body mass index. I know it may seem challenging, but indeed a higher fat, low carb diet helps with weight loss.
2. Keto May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
If there’s one health myth worth dispelling, it’s the long standing falsehood that fat clogs the arteries and that’s what causes heart disease. The underlying cause of heart disease is inflammation, which triggers the buildup of plaque. One of the major benefits of ketosis is that it reduces inflammation in the body.
In addition to augmenting the beneficial anti-inflammatory processes of the body, in an extensive review researchers found the ketogenic diet reduced markers of heart disease, including:
- Decreasing triglycerides
- Decreasing blood glucose
- Decreasing LDL cholesterol
- Increasing HDL cholesterol
Another long term study on obese patients reported similar patterns in the reduction of heart disease markers. Fat is not the villain driving heart disease in the country, so it’s time we set the record straight.
3. Keto May Improve Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes
Due to the beneficial effects of the ketogenic diet on glycemic control, it’s not surprising that studies continue to find it helps those struggling with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
In a survey of both children and adults, researchers found that a very low carbohydrate diet promotes “exceptional glycemic control” in those with type 1 diabetes mellitus. When it comes to type 2 diabetes, the Journal of American Medical Association recently published a review examining the effective use of the ketogenic diet in those with type 2 diabetes.
In this review, Steven Heymsfield, MD stated, “[the ketogenic diet] seems to help people not only lose weight but reduce their requirement for [diabetes] medications, and they get improvements in their hemoglobin A1c [HbA1c], which is an end point for diabetes management.”
With diabetes on the rise, causing an estimated 1.6 million deaths worldwide in 2015, the ketogenic diet offers an important intervention against the rising devastation of these diseases.
4. Keto May Improve Parkinson’s Symptoms
A major reason the ketogenic diet is so effective against many neurological diseases is through the production of ketones. Ketones can stimulate synthesis of new neuronal networks in the brain and support overall brain function.
Parkinson’s disease is another neurodegenerative disease that is on the rise in our country, with a rate of incidence between 2-4% in those over 60 years of age. Researchers have found that ketones may be able to bypass the defect in energy production characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. This means the ketogenic diet can interrupt the underlying cause in dysfunction in Parkinson’s patients, which results in an improvement of symptoms.
5. Keto May Help Treat Epilepsy
Fasting has been used successfully for decades to help treat epilepsy. In a 2014 report published in the prestigious journal Neurology, epilepsy patients were placed on very low carb diets, where 67-75% of their calories came from fat. Researchers reported promising findings, including:
- At least a 50% reduction in seizures in 32% of patients on a ketogenic diet, and 29% of patients on a low carb Atkins diet.
- A 90% reduction in the frequency of seizures in 9% of those on a ketogenic diet and 5% of those on a Atkins diet.
I have personally used the ketogenic diet to treat my patients who have epilepsy. Michelle is one patient of mine who has become seizure free since I placed her on a gluten-free, ketogenic diet – you can hear her story here.
Other Potential Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
Another benefit of the ketogenic diet I’d like to mention has been reported in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In my recent interview with Dr. Dale Bredesen , author of the landmark book, The End of Alzheimer’s, he describes the use of a ketogenic diet along with other modalities to improve brain function in individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers who set out to review the current state of research as it relates to the ketogenic diet published their results in the highly respected European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Their comprehensive evaluation showed that the ketogenic diet held promise in a vast array of medical conditions and is promising results in other conditions, such as:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Sleep disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
These findings continue to support the idea that our bodies are evolved to function in ketosis. I encourage you to experiment and see if ketosis works for you.
Want a deeper dive into how the ketogenic diet helps chronic diseases like epilepsy, ALS, and Parkinson’s? Download My Ketogenic Diet eBook.
This free resource explores the benefits of ketosis and includes 3 interviews with leading ketosis experts.
In the ebook you’ll find:
- A new study that validates a ketogenic diet for epilepsy treatment in adults
- Why I use a ketogenic diet in treating ALS
- How to keep yourself in ketosis
- Ketogenic diet benefits
- Exposing the secret of healthy fats
- Ketosis and Parkinson’s: Therapeutic potential of the Ketogenic diet
Resources to Empower Ketogenic Success
I personally have adopted a ketogenic diet and believe it is a powerful tool to regain and maintain overall health. In my own journey with the Ketogenic Diet, I have found two cookbooks to be particularly useful: