What is Keto?

A ketogenic diet or way of eating is basically described as a low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat way of eating (WOE). 

When we eat plenty of carbohydrates the body primarily uses glucose as fuel. On a standard diet we generally eat lots of carbs, however if we eat more than we need the body stores the extra as fat and can also store it in the blood. Those with Type 2 diabetes have a lot stored glucose in their blood. As we know there are many problems when we have too much fat on our bodies and too much sugar in our blood. Whilst excess carbs are converted to fat, they are not then converted back to glucose to burn as fuel, so if we continue to eat carbs the body will continue to convert it to fat. The body will always burn glucose before using fat.

On a ketogenic diet we are restricting carbs so that the body has to burn the glucose first, once the glucose stores are used up then the body can convert fat to ketones, which we use as energy. The benefits of doing this are:

  • It is a sustainable way to eat
  • Blood pressure reduces
  • Blood sugar reduces
  • Tryglycerides reduce
  • HDLc (Good Cholesterol) increases
  • LDLc which is thought as bad cholesterol but isn’t necessarily. It is the small, dense particles of LDL (pattern B) which are bad, these reduce and the bigger, fluffier particles (Pattern A) increase, which is a good thing.
  • The brain likes to use ketones in preference to glucose
  • Inflammation in the body is reduced
  • Epileptics can reduce seizures
  • Reduce chances of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s 
  • Increase in energy
  • Reduce acid reflux
  • Reduce PCOS
  • Balance hormones

These are just some of the benefits.

  • If you have any medical conditions see note below

On a keto way of eating it is important to eat real food and avoid processed foods. Processed foods have lots of hidden sugars and often incorporate wheat and other grains.

So we keep carbs to a minimum about 20gms of net carbs per day, eat moderate protein and three quarters of our intake should be in the form of fat. OMG I hear you say or at least think, what is Jackie talking about, three quarters of our intake as fat! 

I know it is hard to get your head round. I never really bought into the low fat message and even I had a hard time believing it. As I have been investigating this subject it seems that the low fat message was controversial at the time and the message that had more PR and had louder spokespeople won. If you want to find out more on diet heart hypothesis and how low fat diets became the norm then a book I would recommend is The Big Fat Surprise, Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong In A Healthy Diet by Nina Techolz.

From what I am learning it seems that this WOE can be beneficial for many people and many chronic ailments, so I would suggest trying it for 6-8 weeks and see how you feel. 

Vegetarian and vegans can eat a ketogenic diet but vegans might find it more challenging to get near enough to the proportions if they don’t eat eggs or fish. Still there vegans who manage a keto way of eating and there are websites that cater for vegetarians and vegans.

The challenge with starting on a keto WOE is that there is no one size fits all so you would need to test and see what works for you. The key is to aim for the right proportions (more or less) which is 

70-80% fat

15-25% protein 

5% carbs

Most of your carbs should come from green leafy vegetables. Protein can come from (ideally fatty) meats, fish, bacon, eggs and cheese. Fats from the meats and oily fish and also butter (grassfed if possible), coconut oil, olive oil, small amount of nuts (as they contain carbs), avocados, cream, unsweetened Greek Yoghurt. When you include lots of fat in your diet not only do foods taste lovely you feel less hungry.

As you find out about the ketogenic WOE you might find yourself thinking "I can't do that", "I can't live without .....", "I can't go without eating"

I was exactly the same. I could skip breakfast but by lunchtime if I didn't eat I would feel nauseous, I would get a migraine. I had to have lunch and supper. Not only was it the physical feeling of needing to eat, it was emotional. I would feel hard done by if I couldn't have much or supper.

I love(d) bread, potatoes, pasta, Cadbury's Dairy Milk and Fruit and Nut. Every night I would go to bed thinking tomorrow I am going on diet; going to eat less; move more and the next day would come and I would continue in my old way of eating.  

Thankfully in 2015 I had read Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis and I had learned two key points:

  1. The wheat we have today is different to wheat from 50 years ago, it has been modified so that it doesn't blow over and can be harvested by combine harvesters. This new wheat irritates our digestive system.
  2. Wheat is extremely addictive.

After reading the book I stopped eating wheat for 9 months but I couldn't sustain it because I hadn't found a way to replace the wheat and feel satiated.

I didn't want to eat so much wheat and knew the reason I couldn't stop eating it was an addiction, I just didn't know how to break the cycle again. Knowing how addictive wheat is, helps me stay on the keto path. When I first started this WOE I did it to reduce weight, now it is about health.

Eating the high percentage of fat keeps me satiated and I rarely feel hungry, I can even go many hours without eating.

The key to starting on keto is to eat regularly to start with, increasing your fat and cutting down on carbs until your body is used to it and starts to burn ketones. Once you are fat adapted, you will naturally be able to eat less or less often, without any effort.

* I am not a medical or nutritional professional and this is just for self awareness purposes. If you have any conditions, they may be helped with this way of eating but you must consult your doctor. Nothing I write here constitutes advice. If you are taking medication changes can happen quickly for some so check with your doctor.