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The Ketogenic Diet

Ketogenic DietJacquieIconBy Jacquie Eubanks

The times they are a-changing.  High carb-low fat diets are out.  Low carb-high fat diets are in.  Although low carb-high fat diets have been controversial for years, studies show that a low carb-high fat diet leads to weight loss and lowers risk factors for metabolic syndrome, which is associated with chronic diseases.  A ketogenic diet involves a shifting of your body’s metabolic processes from burning carbohydrates (glucose) for fuel to burning fats instead.  This metabolic state is called nutritional ketosis, which simply means that your body cells are burning fat fragments, known as ketones, as opposed to glucose.  Not to be confused with ketoacidosis, a condition often associated with type 1 diabetes and insulin dependent type 2 diabetes, nutritional ketosis results from a controlled insulin regulated process in response to a lower carb and higher fat dietary intake. 

Some of the controversy surrounding the ketogenic diet stems from confusing diabetic ketoacidosis with nutritional ketosis.  Insulin dependent diabetics produce ketones when they don’t have enough insulin for the body cells to utilize the glucose in their blood streams.  To prevent the body from entering starvation mode, the diabetic body can overproduce ketones, which can lead to critical illness.  However, those on the low carb-high fat diet, who produce insulin normally, become keto-adapted.  Our livers naturally produce ketones from fats and certain amino acids in order to feed our brains, which can only function with glucose and ketones. 

Ketosis is the metabolic process of burning your own body fat for fuel, which is regulated by the insulin levels within the body.  What happens when your body is in the state of ketosis?

  • Your appetite is naturally reduced.  Many of us give up on dieting simply because we get hungry.  When we reduce our consumption of refined carbohydrates, like bagels, chips and sweet treats that raise blood sugar, and increase our consumption of healthy fats such as nuts, avocados and olive and coconut oils, it eliminates the cyclical sugar craving cycle, leaving us more satiated and with more stable blood sugar. 
  • Fats are not the enemy.  And in fact, we need more healthy fats.  Fats are necessary to absorb vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  They help build cell membranes and supply energy.  Healthy fats, such as omega-3 fats, reduce inflammation and the risks of obesity, arthritis, depression and heart disease.  Fats don’t raise blood glucose levels and since they don’t solicit an insulin response, they can’t be stored as body fat. 
  • Your body goes into a fat burning state as opposed to a sugar burning state.  With a high carb diet, which creates and burns glucose, a steady supply of carbohydrates is needed to keep energy levels up.  When more carbs are eaten to satisfy hunger, excess glucose is converted and stored as fat, leaving your body little chance to access and burn stored fat.  To effectively lose weight, our bodies must burn stored fat. 
  • A large percentage of body fat that is lost on low carb-high fat diets is visceral fat, dangerous belly fat that accumulates around body organs.  Belly fat drives inflammation and creates insulin resistance, which can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 
  • Low calorie-low fat diets essentially starve your body.  The ketogenic diet is not calorie controlled, so you don’t have to go hungry.  Higher fat diets satisfy hunger so you tend to eat less.  A refined carb-low fat diet keeps you in sugar burning mode, while a low carb-high fat diet puts you in fat burning mode. 
  • Eliminating excess sugar and refined carbs reawakens the body’s ability to use ketones as fuel.  As your body becomes more efficient at burning fats for energy, blood sugar is stabilized.  With a diet of refined carbs, insulin levels are increased along with the body’s resistance to insulin.  The high carb-low fat diet encourages fat storage, not fat utilization. 

Where does protein fit into the ketogenic diet?  The ketogenic diet includes moderate amounts of protein, as excess protein is converted to glucose.  Excess glucose increases insulin release and inhibits the body’s ability to burn fatty acids and go into a state of ketosis.  With a ketogenic diet, it is not necessary to buy special foods.  Whole foods prepared at home are the basis of the diet.  Add more healthy omega-3 fats by eating wild caught fish or taking a fish oil supplement, and include saturated and monounsaturated fats such as full fat dairy, butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, macadamia nuts and eggs.  When possible, choose clean proteins such as organic or grass fed animal foods, which have a higher fatty acid profile.  Choose non-starchy vegetables and greens and limit sweeter vegetables and fruits. 

Most would agree that the American diet needs to change in order to reduce obesity and related illnesses.  The goal of nutrition should be to create health and discourage disease.  With a ketogenic diet, in addition to weight loss and increased energy, you may have lowered blood pressure, better balanced cholesterol levels, a drop in fasting blood sugar levels, clearer thinking and more stable moods.  A diet that contains less added sugar, refined and processed foods and oils, and more heart-healthy, brain-healthy fats may not only add years to your life but can increase the quality of life during those years.

Helpful supplements for the start of a ketogenic eating plan include:

Alpha Lipoic Acid 400 mg
Alpha Lipoic Acid 400 mg by Pure Encapsulations This multifunctional nutrient plays a key role in metabolic processes and provides potent antioxidants.  ALA supports glucose metabolism, nerve health and cardiovascular function. 
Biotin-8 (8,000mcg) (B118)
Biotin-8 (8,000mcg) (B118) by Thorne ResearchBiotin supports glucose metabolism and helps maintain already normal blood sugar levels.  Biotin enhances muscle insulin sensitivity by increasing uptake of glucose by the muscle cells. 
Coconut Oil Organic Extra Virgin
Coconut Oil Organic Extra Virgin by Nutiva – This certified organic, non-GMO pure coconut oil is comprised of 50%  lauric acid, an essential fatty acid found in mother’s milk, which has been  shown to have health protecting properties.  Cholesterol and trans-fat free.  Made from cold pressed fresh coconuts. 
Enzyme Nutrition Two Daily Multi-Vitamin
Enzyme Nutrition Two Daily Multi-Vitamin by Enzymedica – This amazing whole food supplement contains high potency enzymes, antioxidants, probiotics and daily botanicals in support of energy, immune function and overall health.