What exactly is Keto, you may ask? Ketogenic, widely referred to as Keto, is a low-carbohydrate (carbs) approach to one’s dietary intake, with as few as 10-20 net grams of carbs per day. In return, fat intake is raised considerably, with popular ketogenic resources suggesting an average of 70-80% fat from total daily intake.
In fact, when reducing your carb intake to as low as 10-20 net grams daily, your liver kicks into the production of ketones, which are fat-like compounds that your brain and other organs can use in place of the glucose from carbs (ketone production is called ketosis; thus, Keto!).
Let’s take a step back into time.
Until only approximately 12,000 years ago, we were hunter-gatherers and simply unable to consume carbs on a whim! Bread-making wasn’t in vogue yet, and our ancestors relied on seasonal fruits and berries as carbs! With so few carbs at reach, our ancestors were in a constant state of ketosis.
So, what is ketosis?
We, modern humans, depend primarily on carbohydrate-rich food for our bodies to convert to glucose (aka sugar) and burn as fuel throughout the day. However, when we limit our carbohydrate consumption, the body senses there is not enough glucose stored for our mitochondria (the powerhouse of cells) and must use alternative energy sources, including fats and ketones. Yes!! That’s key. Unlocking your body’s fat stores (and ketones) rather than burning carbs (glucose). Think of it this way...Fats (jet fuel!) versus Carbohydrates (standard gasoline!).
The fat-burning element of the Keto is what draws so many to this diet; what many may not know is that ketosis also has the added benefits of maintaining your muscle and curbing your hunger.
Leap forward in time, and our bodies can still naturally do this today --- primal-aligned!
What Should You Eat & Drink on a Keto Diet?
- Above-ground vegetables, such as greens, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, celery, and avocado, to name a few
- Pretty much any fish or meat with no added sweeteners or breading --- especially ‘dark meat’ (fattier, the better!)
- Bone broth
- Nuts low in carbs, such as pecans, brazil nuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds
- Healthy Fats, such as full-fat cheese, butter, cream, avocado (and its oil!), extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil
- Drink coffee, tea, and sparkling/mineral water WITHOUT sweetener
- Electrolytes, such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium (keep in mind that Keto dumps water weight --- and the electrolytes that go with it!)
What Should You AVOID in a Ketogenic Diet?
- Empty carbs, such as sugar (white, brown, raw), white rice, or white pasta
- Sweetened nut milk
- Nuts high in carbs, such as pistachios and cashews
- Baked goods
- Grain-based foods
- Potatoes (or any starchy vegetables)
- Dairy items (such as yogurt and milk)
It’s important to make sure you are prepared for this change from a carb-based diet to a more primal-aligned diet of fat consumption into nutritional Ketosis -- KETO. Remember, you are switching from standard gasoline (Carbs) to revving your metabolism with jet fuel (Fats & Ketones)! And easily combined with a Paleo Diet regimen, the Keto Diet offers a variety of tasty, satisfying, and healthful food choices.
With that said, BEFORE adopting Keto (or any dietary plan), consult your physician for advice and consultation. This is extremely vital should you have any existing health issues and concerns.
LISTEN to your body, especially during the first two weeks on a keto diet. You will hear it. You will feel it. Letting you know when it’s ready and needs to exercise. The shifting from carb-based to ol’ school fuel doesn’t happen overnight.
Lastly - if making the leap...give yourself time and commit to at least six weeks in this transition to reap its tremendous benefits.