Low-carb diets might not be the new-new, but they still seem to be all the rage. The proof is in the trendiest diet since Paleo—the ketogenic diet—which is actually nothing new at all. In fact, this diet has arguably been around for as early as 500 B.C., but came to modern day fruition back in 1924 when the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Russell Wilder discovered it to be highly effective in treating epilepsy. So what is this high-fat and low-carb diet really all about? I’m happy to explain.
The ketogenic diet actually gets its name from ketosis, a metabolic process that occurs when the body is lacking glucose to the point where it can no longer break it down for use as an energy source. In response, the body adopts an alternative means of acquiring energy, turning to stored fats instead. This process creates a buildup of acids known as ketones, which replace carbohydrates as your main energy source. In other words, instead of burning sugar, your body is burning fat, and entering a state known as nutritional ketosis.
Those familiar with the Atkins diet might think they sound the same, but the keto diet is actually more intense. The Atkins diet, for example, only aims to leave you in a mild state of ketosis, whereas the keto diet restricts carbohydrate intake to a further degree. The keto diet is based on eating 60 percent high fats and 35 percent protein, which leaves only 5 percent for carbs. So, to put it in perspective, someone following this diet would incorporate healthy fats into every meal, including olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. They would also need to get their fair share of low-carb veggies such as leafy greens, asparagus, zucchini, broccoli and other cruciferous veggies. Eggs, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, bone broth and cage-free eggs are some good protein sources.
Along with burning fat, there are actually several benefits to this style of eating. Here are some worth highlighting:
Naturally, it helps you lose weight.
This might be one of the main reasons people diet in the first place, but if you’re someone who is overweight or suffering from obesity, the keto diet can offer substantial results when initiated under the watchful eye of your health care professional. One study published in the British Medical Journal found that individuals on the keto diet saw better long-term results for weight loss and lowered cardiovascular risk when compared to individuals on a low-fat diet.
It can keep your blood sugar in check.
This is especially great for those with diabetes or who carry a risk for the disease, as dramatically reduces your body’s glucose levels and improves insulin resistance. Several studies have shown proven that low-carb diets are excellent for diabetes management and prevention.
It can lower your risk for heart disease.
This is serious, folks. Heart disease is the number one killer in America for both men and women. While you might think that being on a high-fat diet may increase your cholesterol, studies have found that the keto diet is likely to impact cholesterol in a positive way. One study, for example, published in Clinical Cardiology, found that the keto diet significantly decreased levels of triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood glucose, while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in obese patients.
It may boost brain health.
Several studies have touted the impact of certain food groups encouraged by the keto diet has brain-boosting. While there has yet to be research specifically on the brain benefits of the ketogenic diet, one study on mice placed on the diet found some cognitive improvement. Additionally, another study on overweight elderly individuals found that they experienced improved memory after being on a low-carb diet for six weeks.
It may protect you from certain cancers.
This might not be a surprise, since the keto diet leads to weight loss and encourages the intake of several cancer-fighting foods into a person’s diet; however, studies have also found that the act of ketosis may starve cancer cells and actually prevent the growth of malignant tumors.