For many weight watchers, the low-carbohydrate diet (including the ketogenic diet) that has become increasingly popular in recent years is probably not a new concept.
However, given the influence traditional high-carb / low-fat diets have exerted for the past 40 to 50 years, it is hardly surprising that most doctors and fitness enthusiasts still harbor doubts about this new diet revolution.
Nevertheless, it is undeniable that more and more medical experts and researchers are starting to acknowledge the positive effects of low-carb diets on human health after years of studies.
These findings are further affirmed in recent years, when millions of people around the world reaped the benefits of the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting through their own experience, including countless people who had suffered from obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure and have now successfully lost weight and greatly improved their health.
In order to give everyone a preliminary understanding of the ketogenic and low-carb diet, this article will address questions such as: what is the ketogenic diet, how does someone follow the diet, and is it suitable for everyone?
What is a ketogenic diet?
According to Wikipedia, the “Ketogenic Diet (Keto Diet) is a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carbohydrate diet. By forcing the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates, it stimulates hunger.” When a very small amount of carbohydrate is added, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies.
When ketone bodies then reach the brain, they can replace glucose as a source of energy. Interestingly, the ketogenic diet was first used in the medical world to treat children with epilepsy.
This is based on the principle that when the ketone content in the blood reaches a certain level, the body enters a state called ketosis, which can effectively reduce the frequency of seizures.
The ketogenic diet originated in the late nineteenth century and was further developed in the 1920s. After its introduction, other low-carb diets, including the famous Atkins diet, also arrived on the weight-loss scene.
The method of Atkins diet:
In the 1970s, Dr. Atkins of the United States proposed a subversive weight loss method. His claim was that carbohydrates — not fat — were the culprit of obesity in a person’s daily diet. This conclusion caused a great sensation in the medical community and did not go unquestioned.
What is unique about Dr. Atkins’ conclusion?
First, what are carbohydrates? Simply put, they are found in all the sugars, fruits (especially fruits with high sugar content, such as watermelon, apple, banana, grape, pineapple, etc.), beans, grains (rice, wheat, corn, oats, etc.), and root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, yam, onions, etc.). These foods generally contain very high starch or sugar.
Atkins’s weight loss method is also known as the “carnivorous weight loss method”. Dr. Atkins believes that the human body mainly uses glucose as fuel for metabolism.
When carbohydrates are ingested, they are converted into glucose and produce large amounts of blood sugar. The increase in blood sugar leads to an increase in insulin levels, which lowers the basal metabolic rate. The calories that the body cannot quickly consume become fat.
The Atkins diet is a low-carb diet, but its problem is that it does not limit protein intake and does not emphasize the fat intake rate. As it turns out, the harm of excessive protein intake could even dwarf that of carbohydrate excess.
American scientists have found that excessive protein intake causes the body to produce more ammonia waste[*]. This ammonia waste must be removed by the kidneys, so the burden on the kidneys is inadvertently increased, thereby increasing the incidence of urinary system stones and the risk of gout.
The study also found that excessive protein intake can stimulate a biochemical pathway called rapamycin target protein (mTOR), which is the main catalyst for aging and the culprit behind several cancers.
Ketogenic diet for weight loss:
After decades of research and practice, scientists adjusted the proportion of diet structure based on the earliest ketogenic diet to make it more healthy and effective.
Similar to Atkins’ weight-loss method, it also limits carbohydrate intake. The difference is that the ketogenic diet emphasizes a large amount of fat intake and an appropriate protein intake rate.
The intake distribution ratio of a ketogenic diet is
- carbohydrates 5-10%, protein 20-25%, and fat 70-75%.
This diet structure promotes the body’s conversion from sugar metabolism to fat metabolism, thereby effectively consuming the body’s own stored calories.
But for most people who are accustomed to traditional diets, especially those who have been eating bread and fries since childhood, it will be a challenge to completely change the diet structure. It certainly requires perseverance and confidence.
I hope this comprehensive ketogenic diet guide can help you achieve your goals smoothly, whether it is weight loss, health improvement, or alleviating more specific conditions such as type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, and even certain cancers.
How to start the ketogenic diet?
The first thing to note is that the ketogenic diet is not just for weight loss (unless of course weight loss is the main purpose); it is also a healthy lifestyle.
A ketogenic or low-carb diet is actually very simple. The main principles are to eat as little as possible foods rich in sugar and other carbohydrates, increase protein by an appropriate amount, and consume a good proportion of healthy fats.
In general, you should eat “real food”, such as various red meat (pork, beef, lamb), white meat (chicken, duck, goose, turkey), seafood; eggs, dried fruit, yogurt, vegetables, and a few fruits. You should avoid processed foods that contain additives and artificial colors as much as possible.
I have listed below some foods that are highly preferable, as well as ones that should be avoided. This information will hopefully help you more easily and effectively implement weight loss.
Ketogenic diet pyramid:
The picture above demonstrates that the structure of the ketogenic diet is completely different from a traditional high-carb, low-fat diet structure.
The main energy sources, found at the bottom of the pyramid, are not staples such as bread and pasta that we have been accustomed to since childhood, but rather fats that are regarded as unhealthy by most people.
However, the fats required in the ketogenic diet must be high-quality fats, such as coconut oil, olive oil, animal fats, etc. These are more beneficial to the body than e.g. vegetable oils.
On the other hand, high carbohydrates such as bread, noodles, and sugar are in fact completely absent from this “keto” pyramid, which deviates quite a bit from a traditional diet.
Let’s now take a closer look at how to eat in a ketogenic diet, including what to eat and what needs to be avoided as much as possible.
Recommended for the diet:
|saturated||coconut oil, butter, animal fats from pig, cow, chicken, etc.|
|monounsaturated||avocado oil, olive oil|
|polyunsaturated||deep-sea fish, fat-rich fish such as sardines and salmon|
|Poultry and Organs||chicken, duck, goose, etc.(“free-range” chicken are preferred over those raised in captivity since growth hormone is regularly introduced in the latter for them to grow in a shorter period of time)|
|Eggs||eggs of chicken, duck, quail, etc.|
|Vegetables without a lot of starch||green leaf vegetables, celery, cucumbers, mushrooms, etc.|
|Fruits||avocado (which is the only fruit that is recommended for this diet, though many people don’t quite consider it a fruit)|
|Drink||water, black coffee, green tea, apple cider, lemonade|
bone broth, chicken soup, fish soup
|Seasoning||almost all spices are ok|
Can be eaten occasionally:
|Certain vegetables and fruits||cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, bean sprouts.|
berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries, etc.
|Milk products||A small amount of whole milk or full-fat sugar-free yogurt, cheese, sour cream. cream cheese|
|Nuts and Seeds||pecan, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed|
|Sugar substitutes||stevioside, erythritol|
|Cocoa||pure cocoa powder, dark chocolate (purity at 70% or above, preferably 90%)|
Avoid if at all possible:
|All sugary foods and drinks||cakes, cookies, candy, ice cream, carbonated beverages|
|All grains, even whole grains||rice, pasta, bread|
|All deep processing foods||chips, pretzels, popcorns|
|Skimmed or low-fat milk|
|All kinds of alcoholic beverages|
|Various sweet fruits, dried fruits, and juices||grapes, bananas, mangoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, and other fruits that contain a lot of fructose|
|Bean products and sauces||soy sauce, oyster sauce and others containing sugar and starch|
The list above does not include all categories. To sum up, you should purchase food based on the principles of: natural, non-processed, low starch, and no sugar.
Finally, is the ketogenic diet suitable for everyone?
The ketogenic diet and other low-carb diets have been around for thousands of years. In fact, our ancestors lived this way before entering the agricultural society more than 10,000 years ago.
Therefore, if someone says that the ketogenic diet is unnatural to the human body, it is actually based on a misinformed understanding.
Everyone’s physical condition is different, and the adaptability to eating habits is also different. Due to differences in age, gender, and metabolic level, the effect of a ketogenic low-carb diet for weight loss will also be different.
Some people must strictly follow the ketogenic diet rules and consume very little carbohydrates to see good results, while others only need to reduce carbohydrates moderately to achieve significant results.
Speaking from my own experience, before discovering the ketogenic diet, I tried a variety of weight loss methods, including restrictive dieting followed by binge eating. These methods ended up causing great damage to my immune system and led to hypothyroidism. Ironically, problems with the thyroid can also lead to metabolic disorders, with one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism being weight gain, and it is difficult to reduce.
(Of course, another reason for the relatively slow progress is that I did not follow the ketogenic diet strictly. My husband and I have a few “Cheat Meals” every week. If I have stricter requirements on myself, the effects might have been more immediate.)
Does this mean that the ketogenic diet does not work for me? Absolutely not.
After an adjustment period, I have now completely fallen in love with this diet and lifestyle.
Although I have not reached my target weight, it has not rebounded either. Both my body mass index and the number on the scale are steadily decreasing.
More importantly, the benefits of ketogenic and low-carb diets are far more than weight loss.
The wonders of a ketogenic diet can only be known if you try it yourself. However, in order to completely change the diet structure and dietary habits, from sugar metabolism to fat metabolism, the body must take some time to adapt.
Don’t rush for quick success and pursue drastic changes overnight, which is unrealistic and irresponsible for your health.
I hope you can practice this new lifestyle with confidence and patience, listen carefully and feel the changes in your body, keep learning and adjusting, and find a diet structure that suits you. Believe me, ketogenic and low-carb diets will not let you down!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a message.
I wish everyone a healthy, enjoyable life!