Keto is a way of eating designed to get you healthy and make you lose excess weight, the right way aka by burning your own fat reserves. This is just the tip of an iceberg of what it does, and any kind of inflammation, infection or malignancy in the body benefits from a ketogenic diet. The quick basics are that keto is designed to lower the intake of carbohydrates, which turn into sugars in the body and it allows you to switch over to burning a cleaner fuel source for energy – fat. Well ketones to be exact, as opposed to operate on glucose.
Our bodies were designed to work better on burning fat and the only reason we carry extra fat on the body is to protect us from starvation, would the food in the environment become unavailable, as it happened regularly when we were hunting and gathering. It’s the body’s way of keeping you alive, yet this mechanism of storing fat so readily is our downfall in the rich contemporary societies where food is abundant all the time. Food is fuel and medicine but gets ab(used) for various things from comfort, to having something to do when you’re bored or just pure hedonism. Most of us snack all day long and are constantly keeping our blood sugar too high, paying attention only when something goes seriously wrong and symptoms of this constant abuse come to light. The quality of foods we eat and a lot of what is put on the market is not nearly as clean or nutritious as it was just a hundred years ago and it is quite possible to eat oneself into an early grave or destroy life quality with some of the most prevalent conditions today, which all have a the same root cause – the way we eat, flooding our bodies with carbs in quantities we were never supposed to consume. Sugar was hard to come by for the majority of our evolution. When we were hunter gatherers most we could hope for was to score some honey or sweet roots. And we do like carbs, getting addicted so easily. Our body sees carbs as potential energy that could easily be stored by a surge of insulin converting it into body fat and it pretty much gets into a constant “get while the getting is good” mode. The more carbs we eat the more we crave them as we’re operating almost exclusively on sugar. There can be no fat burning if excess insulin is floating around in our blood. Insulin simply shuts down the fat burning hormones as the body cannot burn and store fat at the same time.
Usually it takes about two days in fasted states or fasts intermittent with mostly fat and protein foods to get into ketosis. Fats have virtually no effect on insulin and protein has a low impact while carbs spike you way way up there. That’s why we crave them if we don’t sleep well because they give us a temporary surge of energy, just to leave us feeling worse when the spike drops back down again. The basics of keto are therefore to eat in a way which sustains burning fat instead of sugar. Ketogenic diets consist of about 65-70% fat, 20-25 % protein, and 5% carbs (which should come from vegetables). As all things in this life, there is a good and a bad way to do keto. You can get into ketosis in all sorts of ways and some are better than others. There is a clean and a dirty way to do it. Were you to take some generic burger and lose the bun, throwing some high fat pasteurized cheese on top it would be keto. It’s not a big deal if you do this here and there, but were you to eat dirty keto all the time you would not be getting all of the micronutrients you need to support healthy ketosis long term. The abundance of low quality fats and protein (such as hydrogenated vegetable oils or generic meat that was pumped with all sorts of steroids and antibiotics) would lead to problems such as ketoacidosis, raising the acidity of the body. This is where vegetables (7-10 cups a day) come in. When we’re in ketosis burning our own fat, this fat also has various toxins from the environment stored in it and needs to pass the liver. Eating dirty keto long-term could therefore make you feel worse because the liver is struggling to process and may become fatty or dysfunctional. If you don’t have enough fibre, minerals and vitamins from vegetables to counter the higher fat intake you could also damage your gallbladder, which is key to dissolving fats (and getting you those necessary fat soluble vitamins) by producing bile. Greens and (non-starchy) vegetables are necessary and should take about half of your plate with each meal. Hey, eat more if you can. Eat as much vegetables as you can, but keep in mind that it may take some time for your gut microbiome to adapt to more vegetables if you haven’t been eating them, as the fibre is food for the gut bacteria, and you may have some bloating or discomfort if you jump into large quantities of raw vegetables. Just lower it and give your digestive tract a chance to catch up and then start introducing more. Protein is a quarter of a plate and fat a quarter as well.
Choose good fats such as butter, ghee, olive, avocado, coconut oil, fatty fish, nuts, avocado, seeds, nut butters and oils… Make sure to eat high quality protein whenever you can, eat less if necessary but make it clean such as pasture raised, grass fed and finished, non-pasteurized full fat dairy (low fat usually means a of added sugar and pasteurization destroys the enzymes you need to fully process dairy), wild caught fish and seafood, eggs from grass fed free range chickens..). Choose vegetables (eat dark leafy greens daily) that are high in nutrients and low in starch and visit your farmers market more often. If you’re focused on weight loss don’t do fruits. They have fibre and valuable vitamins, but are mostly very high in sugar content. The purpose of fruit, and the reason why it’s most abundant come fall, is to fatten up for winter and it does so by converting fructose into fat. If you do need some fruit, choose the less sweet ones such as lemons, and the not so sweet berries such as blackberries.
Clean keto is sustainable as a lifelong diet and it really is not the same if you eat store bought high sodium bacon wrapped around highly processed cheese sticks and eggs produced by industrial farming fried in margarine or if you regularly choose wild caught fish, free range eggs, full fat unprocessed dairy and cook with , ghee, olive, avocado or coconut oil, while adding a generous helping of vegetables, steamed, lightly cooked and raw. Both variants are keto, but are not equal as the effects compound.
For implementation of medical ketosis in cancer research please see the links below.