We live in a society dominated by sugar, bringing along with it increases in chronic disease, such as obesity and cancer. For years, fat was targeted to be the enemy. Research now suggests that sugar is actually the culprit, not FAT! To give you an idea of how much sugar we consume on the regular, lets compare a healthy amount of sugar to a not so healthy amount. A healthy person will have <1 tsp. of sugar at one point in time. Now, compare this to an individual consuming 1 can of pop or a bagel. These have about 10 tsp and 16 tsp of sugar, respectively. So, I decided to write my next article on ketogenic diets as an extension from my last article on healthy fats.
The body has two major energy sources: glucose and ketones, but they cannot be used simultaneously. Generally, dietary sugars and carbs are the main source of calories providing glucose and preventing the breakdown of fat through ketosis. Ketosis is a term used to denote the body’s ability to use fats as the primary source of energy vs. glucose. What many people fail to recognize is that fats can be equally useful as a fuel source when compared to sugar. A Ketogenic Diet is a low carbohydrate diet geared towards switching the metabolism from burning carbohydrates (glucose) to burning fat. The basic principle of the diet is: High fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate intake. When a low carb diet is followed, the body needs to look for another source of fuel, making it turn to fat stores.
Ketogenic diets have been used since 1920’s as a therapy for epilepsy and since the 1960’s as a treatment for obesity. Recent research has also shown evidence for its use in many other conditions such as diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, neurological diseases, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and cancer through reducing inflammation and enhancing brain function. It has also become quite a useful tool for weight loss. Ketogenic diets have shown to reduce sugar cravings and addictions to other foods, lowering appetite, blood pressure and overall cholesterol.
9 tips to help you through a ketogenic diet:
- One thing of grave importance to consider prior to starting a ketogenic diet is to start off with 2 days of loading which means to overeat high fat foods to temporarily raise triglycerides/fats. This allows for the body to prepare for the ketogenic phase that can last several weeks to a few months
- Eat protein between meals if hunger is unmanageable (eggs)
- Prolonged ketosis can lead to depleted levels of sodium, potassium and magnesium so ensure proper supplementation during this phase
- Avoid strenuous exercise and stick to walking, stretching and/or yoga
- Supplement with MCT oil as it supplies your body with direct ketones for energy
- Shift your mindset from “avoiding carbs: to “getting enough fat” in your diet
- Be sure to read ingredient labels and check for different names of sugar like: sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, lactose, dextrose, rice syrup, altose, molassess, cane juice, fruit juice and honey
- Fats to include: fatty meat, cheese, olives, nuts, seeds, hard boiled eggs, full fat yogurt, coconut oil
- Foods to avoid: high glycemic index, actual sugar (deserts, juice, sodas, candy), white/processed foods (rice, pasta, cereal), starchy vegetables and certain fruits
Focusing on nutritional interventions can reduce the reliance on pharmaceutical treatments and financial burden. It is important to be cognizant of when the ketogenic diet is encouraged and when it is not recommended. Thus, it is important to speak to your health care practitioner to see if this diet is best suited for you. Ketongenic diets are indeed beneficial in short-term interventions for the aforementioned diseases and more recently, weight loss. Ketogenic diets should not be used long term due to its ability to create imbalances. For average weight loss, a better approach would be to set realistic goals for yourself – something that can be turned into a lifestyle instead of a short-term goal. Ketogenic diets are absolutely great for so many different conditions, but be cautious with the length of time this diet is being implemented and ensure prevention of deficiencies.
Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam | 2017