The Keto Diet is all the hype right now. It seems everyone from Ashy Bines to the postman is jumping on board the keto-train but what heck is it and how do you do it effectively and safely? We have been noticing a lot of 'bacon fried in bacon fat with a side of butter and pork crackling' which might technically be 'keto' but potentially not the best way to do it. We enlisted the help of one of our favourite nutritionists, Jordie Pie to give us the low-down.
Written by Nutritionist & GAPS Practitioner Jordan Pie
The ketogenic diet has definitely been trending for the past few years. But what exactly is it? In simple terms, it’s a low-carb, high-fat diet with moderate amounts of protein. It involves drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with good quality fats. By reducing the number of carbohydrates you eat, your body can then go into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for your brain. Burning ketones in place of glucose helps to reduce inflammation, fuels and feeds your brain, increases energy and spurs weight loss. But it also has loads of other health benefits too.
Health Benefits of Eating a Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet has plenty of solid research backing up its benefits. In fact, it has been found to help people with the following:
- High blood sugar levels
- Type 1 & 2 diabetes
- Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease
- Chronic inflammation
- Fatty liver disease
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and more
Even if you’re not at risk of any of these conditions, the ketogenic diet can also be really helpful for:
- Better brain function
- Improved mental focus and concentration + reduced brain fog
- Decreased inflammation
- Sustained energy levels
- Stable blood sugars
- Improved body composition
- Improved immunity
- Less hunger
- Weight loss (however, not everyone will experience this)
- Reduced acne
What Can You Eat on a Keto Diet?
Before we talk about what to eat, let’s go through the foods that are not so keto friendly. Here is a list of high carbohydrate rich foods that need to be dramatically reduced or completely eliminated on a ketogenic diet.
Foods to Avoid on a Ketogenic Diet:
- Soft drinks and cordial
- Wheat and wheat products
- Root vegetables: Sweet potato, potato, carrots, parsnips, pumpkin, beetroot, etc.
- Grains: Rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, barley, oats, etc.
- Fruit: All fresh and dried fruit except small amounts of berries
- Legumes: Chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, peas, etc.
- Some keto diets exclude all dairy (except for butter/ghee)
- Refined vegetable fats and oils
- Processed, packaged and refined foods: Cereals, pasta, bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, ice cream, lollies, fruit juice, etc.
- Sweeteners - even natural ones: Honey, maple syrup, rice malt syrup, dates or date syrup, bananas, blackstrap molasses, raw, brown, rapadura sugar or any sugar, etc.
Foods to Consume on a Ketogenic Diet
As a general rule of thumb, stick to fresh whole foods from nature. You should be aiming to eat foods naturally high in quality fats. This includes fatty cuts of meat, avocados, coconut products, nuts, seeds, eggs, olive oil, butter or ghee (if tolerated), salmon and so on, alongside lots of fresh vegetables and leafy greens. Here is a list of foods that can be enjoyed on a ketogenic diet:
- Leafy greens: Rocket, spinach. lettuce, kale, beetroot leaves, watercress, etc.
- Vegetables: Cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, onion, garlic, squash, celeriac, avocado, tomato, etc.
- Fresh and dried herbs: Basil, oregano, dill, rosemary, thyme, etc.
- Spices: Cinnamon, chili, turmeric, ginger, garam masala, etc.
- Quality grass-fed and free-range meats: Turkey, duck, chicken, beef, lamb, bacon, etc.
- Fresh seafood
- Animal fats: Duck fat, lard, tallow, butter, ghee, etc.
- Cold pressed oils: Olive, macadamia, avocado, hemp or coconut oil
- Others: coconut cream milk/cream, olives, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Chia, pepita, sunflower seeds, macadamias, almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.
- Fruit: Berries (preferably organic) or fermented fruits
- Dairy (if tolerated): High-quality cheese, cream and butter/ghee
- Condiments: Homemade and sugar free cashew cheese, guacamole, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, liver pate, etc.
- Fermented foods: Kimchi, coconut yoghurt, coconut water kefir, sauerkraut, fermented fruits, etc.
It sounds like I have to eat lots of fat on the Keto Diet, but isn’t fat bad for me?
Let’s clear up the myth that fat is bad for you. Quality fats are ESSENTIAL to have in our diet and it’s very clear that our human physiology needs fats because every membrane of every cell and every organelle inside of cells are made of fats. Healthy bile release and a healthy gallbladder require fat, the brain is comprised of 60% fat and even detox requires fat. Fats can also contain fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, enhance our immune system, as well as aid in hormone and blood sugar balance. It's important to note that not all fat is good fat. There are good quality fats from nature that we can enjoy in abundance (listed above) so we can have these health benefits. Then there are manipulated and highly refined fats and oils that should be completely avoided because of their negative health consequences.
Included in the fats and oils that should be completely avoided are vegetable oils. They are highly processed, contain high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids, many are genetically modified and promote inflammation. Since vegetable oils are chemically produced, it’s not really surprising that they contain harmful chemicals. Most vegetable oils and their products contain artificial antioxidants such as BHA and BHT that help prevent food from oxidizing or spoiling too quickly. These chemicals have been shown to produce potential cancer-causing compounds in the body, and have also been linked to liver and kidney damage, immune problems, infertility, high cholesterol and behavioral problems in children. You can read more about this topic here.
How Can I Tell When I’m In Ketosis?
You’re in ketosis when your ketone levels measure at least 0.5 mmol/L. You can check your ketone levels using urine sticks, blood sticks, blood meter or you can also test for acetone levels in your breath using a breath analyser. A simpler way is monitoring how your body feels, this should tell you if you’re in the ketosis zone.
Here are signs you’re probably in ketosis:
Weight loss: Eating mostly high-fat foods and few carbs burns fat. If you're eating this way and losing weight, you’re likely in ketosis.
Reduced appetite: Ketones suppress your hunger hormones causing you to feel full for longer.
Keto breath: Some people get a metallic taste in their mouth when they have high ketone levels.
What about exogenous ketone supplements? Can I just take those instead of cutting out carbs and increasing fat?
Exogenous ketone bodies are specific ketone bodies that can be ingested through a supplement. They’ve become incredibly popular among many of the keto followers, however, like any processed supplement there is often a lot of misinformation surrounding them. Foods do not contain ketones therefore how do we know what these chemically made exogenous ketones are doing to our microbiome or gastrointestinal tract and its components? The answer, we don’t. These supplements are also very expensive; the price can range anywhere from $100 – $300 per month depending on the amount you take. While taking an exogenous ketone supplement may be a short-term fix for some people, it’s really not the answer for long-term health. As a Nutritionist I have found some people simply take these ‘magic’ supplements while still maintaining a diet full of refined, processed foods full of sugar, vegetable oils, preservatives, flavours and additives.
If you want to take a food which will help your body make its own ketones and is not made from a bunch of chemicals and dubious ingredients, then I suggest coconut oil as the first step. Going one step further then coconut oil is a product called MCT oil. Both coconut oil and MCT oil contain caprylic acid, which increases ketone body production significantly despite the presence of blood glucose (when you’ve been eating carbohydrates or higher amounts of protein). I personally love and use a good quality MCT oil because I find the taste of coconut oil can be quite overpowering in certain meals. MCT oil metabolizes quickly and efficiently into ketone energy which fuels your body without a crash. It also produces ketones 4x more efficiently than coconut oil giving you a rapid, long-lasting brain boost and jumpstarts your metabolic rate to increase fat burning. This brings us full circle back to eating real, fresh, preferably organic and seasonal foods instead of foods and supplements that contain dubious chemical ingredients. Just eat real food.
Is the Keto Diet for Everyone?
No, the Ketogenic diet is not right for everyone. If you have thyroid or a kidney disorder or if you’re underweight or have disordered eating patterns, please consult with your doctor or chosen healthcare practitioner to see if this diet is right for you. I also don’t recommend the keto diet to women who are pregnant or nursing because typically they need to consume more protein and fibre compared to non-pregnant women. This increased fiber intake helps to support fetal growth and development (especially of the brain), provides essential vitamins and minerals, can improve digestion, and supports gut health for the mum.
I would also like to point out that ketosis and ketoacidosis are two conditions that are very different and should not be confused. Ketoacidosis is a serious diabetic complication that occurs when the body produces excess ketones. If you have diabetes and want to try a keto diet, ketoacidosis can in part be avoided by having diabetics adjust insulin during times of illness and learn how to monitor their glucose and ketone levels carefully. I would recommend only doing so under the care of a medical professional.
We hope this information provided by Nutritionist and GAPS Practitioner, Jordan Pie was useful for you and you're feeling much more equipped to take on your keto journey (or not!). If you're looking for products to kick off your keto diet, our range is low carb and high fat, making them keto friendly!
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