Ketogenic diets have been on the rise lately and for good reason. With new research coming out in the last few years about the negative health effects of carbs in regard to increasing insulin, a higher fat diet is actually more protective against heart disease than many medical professionals previously thought. A ketogenic diet sounds like a natural evolution when one is searching for the best personal nutrition plan.
What is it?
A ketogenic diet is basically when you eliminate carbs entirely or eat them in very small amounts. It was originally designed back in the 1920s at John Hopkins as a treatment for epilepsy. It has also been supported by theories in cancer development for cells that thrive on sugar.
The main macronutrient is dietary fat, usually 70-75% of total calories. The rest is broken down into 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates. On the ketogenic diet, a typical breakfast might be an egg over a bed of leafy greens with three tablespoons of olive oil, ½ an avocado and ¼ cup blueberries. Lunch might be an arugula salad with almond slivers, roasted salmon, olive oil and avocado.
Choosing high-quality fats is the healthiest way to approach ketosis. Go for choices like avocado, unrefined coconut or MCT oil, chia or flax seeds and grass-fed dairy products. When you are on a ketogenic diet, your body is forced to burn fat for energy instead of the glucose that comes from carbohydrates.
Switching your metabolism from carbohydrate to fat mode can result in weight loss and lasting stamina with increased energy. The energy we receive from carbohydrates is short-lived with stores lasting only about 24 hours. When we eat a cookie or piece of bread, insulin (fat storage hormone) spikes. Eating less carbs automatically decreases the amount of insulin released to our tissues and we use existing fat stores for energy.
Should you try a ketogenic diet?
The answer is maybe. The ketogenic diet is promising for cancer, weight loss and athletic performance, but is very hard to stick to. You can get ketone urine strips from the drugstore to see if you are in a ketogenic state at the end of each day. But most people have a hard time cutting back enough carbs to get there. It is also questionable whether this diet is safe long-term (there are concerns that it can lead to kidney issues).
At Parsley Health, our highly-trained doctors regularly track specific biomarkers for patients on a ketogenic diet to track progress as well as to monitor any harmful metabolic changes. This is key to ensure there is no long term damage to the thyroid and sex hormones in particular.
Most individuals are safe to try a ketogenic diet for 4-6 weeks. But you also have to take into consideration your activity levels. If you are a person that engages in regular, intense exercise, you may need to eat a slightly higher percentage of carbs on those days. This can vary from person to person. So you should only try a ketogenic diet under the supervision and guidance of a knowledgeable medical provider.
Schedule a free conversation with a Parsley Health expert to learn about our comprehensive approach to a healthy eating.