Wait! I said you’re the GOOD kind of fat! Hey, munchies! today I’m going to cover a topic I have had a LOT of requests for keto, or a ketogenic diet. As always I have to give my annoying disclaimers.
What is keto? Simply put, a ketogenic diet is a diet that’s low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and high in dietary fat. Originally, in the 1920s, a ketogenic diet was designed for patients with epilepsy to help reduce their seizures. The keto diet also tended to have positive effects on those patients’ body fat, blood sugar, cholesterol, and hunger levels.
But, after doing my own research, I do believe that what I’ve learned is worth sharing because it’s pretty fascinating.
To understand what keto diet, we’ve got to start from the beginning: calories and macros. Calories are energy. “Calories in and calories out” is too simple and not accurate enough.
What keto? Burning 300 calories in a workout doesn’t equate to burning off a cupcake. Nutrition is going to be about 90% responsible for changes in our bodies in terms of weight. And, different types of foods metabolize differently in the body.
There are MANY variables. That’s why eating 2000 calories of fruit is not the same thing as eating 2000 calories of goldfish. Macronutrients consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. ALL calories come from these sources, with alcohol as the exception.
Your total calories for the day, no matter how many you eat and what diet you follow, equal 100%. What keto? You cannot have 100% of calories come from each macronutrient, that would be 300%. And because math exists, that just isn’t possible.
You CAN have an EQUAL number of calories from each food—33. 3%— BUT fat contains MORE calories per gram than protein or carbs, so the percentage would be different in that case. A popular diet you may have heard of on YouTube is a High Carb, Low Fat diet, or 80/10/10. That means 80% of calories come from carbs, 10% from fat, and 10% from protein.
Now, it’s not a strict ratio, because it will vary from person to person.
It can be a great energy source for the brain and body and comes primarily from carbohydrates. This is essentially a “sugar-burning mode” since glucose is sugar.
The second source of fuel is ketones or ketone bodies.
I’ll talk more about the benefits of ketosis in a bit. For any diet, it’s important to have both carbohydrates and fat for the body to function properly. Now, if glucose is available to the body, it will use that FIRST, because it’s easy to burn up.
But, that’s why I’m trying to explain it here. Glucose is one energy source, ketones are another— neither is “right” nor “wrong, ” they’re just different. In fact, our ancestors may have lived ketogenic lifestyles without being aware of it.
As hunters and gatherers, our ancestors ate lots of nuts, seeds, meats, and lower-carb fruits like berries. But, does that mean that they CHOSE to be in ketosis? No, they would have eaten whatever was available to them, but the point is that it was a viable way for them to survive healthily, even if they didn’t understand the science behind it.
When a lot of people hear about “primal” or “hunter-gatherer” eating these days, they think of the Paleo diet. Now, is the paleo diet a ketogenic diet? The answer: it can be. Now, most of that aligns with a keto diet, where one consumes more fat and fewer carbs.
A paleo diet limits only the TYPES of foods one can eat, and not the macronutrient amounts. For instance, there is no limit to fruits or healthy carbs, and no minimum amount of fats.
A paleo diet is not NECESSARILY a ketogenic diet, although it can be. Does that make sense? There are plenty of other diets that you may know of which CAN result in nutritional ketosis, they’re just not necessarily “keto” diets. It’s similar, but there is a significant difference, and it involves the one macronutrient we haven’t touched on yet: protein.
Both a ketogenic diet and the Atkins Diet are high in fat and low in carbohydrates, BUT a ketogenic diet is moderate in protein, while the Atkins diet does not set a limit to protein intake. Why does this matter?
On a ketogenic diet, just like with carbohydrates, the amount of protein one can consume will depend on the person and how their body metabolizes different foods. There are still benefits to diets like these, that are lower in carbs and contain fats, but lower carb does not equal ketosis, necessarily. Ketosis is a physical, biological process that goes on in the body.
We’ve established that a keto diet exists, but why would someone want to be in ketosis? Are there benefits of following a ketogenic diet? Reduced appetite: Since fat is more satiating, people often don’t get as hungry on a ketogenic diet, which can improve a person’s relationship with food. “Mental clarity”: People in ketosis often report experiencing a level of “mental clarity” that they don’t have when fueled by glucose. Healing: Studies have also shown it can help kill cancer cells and help to treat or even reverse cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Improved insulin levels, reduced blood pressure, and improved blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These benefits all result from fat being the body’s fuel source. So what types of fats are appropriate for a keto diet? But, just stay with me.
A ketogenic diet is high in fat and low in carbs macro-wise, but most people who follow it also consider themselves on a whole foods diet. They are eating lots of leafy and cruciferous veggies, grass-fed meat, eggs, wild-caught fish, dairy (depending on the person since it can be inflammatory), olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocado, nuts, seeds, and more! People on a ketogenic diet would typically avoid the more obvious processed foods and grains, but they might also avoid some whole foods, such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, higher sugar fruits, legumes, etcetera because of their carbohydrate levels. These whole foods are still perfectly healthy foods, they just won’t help with getting into ketosis. Too many carbs mean glucose is available to the body, which means it won’t produce ketones.
For nutritional ketosis to happen, ketones need to be the available fuel source. It’s a lot of information to process! But you see why it’s so important to stay open-minded. Really, there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” when it comes to health and nutrition because it’s all relative. What’s good for one body can be different for another, especially when we’re running on different fuel sources! There’s SO much talk in the nutrition world about fat, and saturated fat in particular, being “bad, ” but, again, this is relative.
Everyone agrees that trans fats are bad, because they are unnatural, man-made fats. But, new dietary research has caused some disagreement over saturated fats.
It’s more likely that inflammation causes heart disease than saturated fats, specifically if those fats are from whole foods, and are nutritious dietary fats. Remember from the beginning of the video: you can only have 100% of your total macronutrients.
So, if you are going to include more fats in your diet, the only option is to lower the protein or the carbs, regardless of keto or any other diet. And this is where it can get tricky. You can’t eat a ton of fat AND a ton of carbs.
Likely, this would just mean a person is consuming too much food in general. AND remember that fats are more calories per gram than carbs or protein, so LESS food adds up quickly in your total caloric intake needs. There’s a lot to be mindful of with a ketogenic diet, but it can have its benefits. So who might consider a keto diet? We already mentioned a few: People with a goal of weight loss.
Some people who have struggled with insulin sensitivity and/or being overweight may find that a ketogenic diet works really well for them because they don’t have to deal with insulin. People trying to reset their appetite center and be more mindful of being full. So if you’re on a low-fat diet, or low fat and low carb diet, or a high protein diet, and you think you’re really hungry all the time, you’re not crazy. You actually ARE hungry.
Most of what we know about ketogenic diets comes from actual people who have put it into practice in their lives. There is not enough existing research yet to start changing our old approaches to nutrition in the medical world.
All accepted forms of medicine today, at some point, started out as “alternative medicine” that needed enough research to back it. For that reason, if you approach your traditional doctor about a ketogenic diet, I’m going to let you know upfront that he or she may just tell you to not do it. Now, I will never tell you to not listen to your doctor, BUT I will encourage you to continue to do your own research so you feel confident making decisions because YOU know your body best.
Even if you don’t feel the confidence right now, you do. If you feel intrigued and want to learn more, I’ve linked some resources below, but please go off and also do TONS and tons of research on your own. I do NOT recommend trying out a ketogenic diet willy nilly. You should be able to FULLY understand how ketosis works and why before making lifestyle changes.
Probably. We all need to stop with this “this diet is right and this is wrong” and “fat or carbs are good or bad” mentality. It depends on YOU and your body and what works better with you. YOU are not me or anyone else, we are all different.
Our diet needs and what works for us will depend on our genetics, lifestyle, activity level, diet history and so much more. So if someone gets on the internet and claims that ANY type of diet or ratio is THE one for everyone, be skeptical because remember, they don’t know you, or your history, or your body, or what you might be sensitive to. Even if you have no interest in actually following a ketogenic diet, I think information is power. It can help us to be more understanding of other lifestyle choices, and knowing what it is and how it works will only make you a more informed human.
The more you know about your body and how it works, the more confident you’ll feel to make your own choices moving forward. I hope you found this episode useful. If you want more educational videos like this, be sure to give this video a thumbs-up! Thanks so much for being a part of this supportive and open-minded community, I really do believe we can learn from our differences. I’ll see you tomorrow on my PIZZA channel, I’ll see you right here next week, and remember, it’s all a matter of Mind Over Munch!