The Keto Diet and everything you need to know about it. Keto foods to eat, what to avoid, and all the tools you need to be successful on the Keto diet.

Keto Diet

THE HISTORY OF KETO

The Keto diet can be traced back to the 1920’s. Originally it was used to help treat epilepsy.  Additional benefits have since been discovered.  This diet consists of reducing your carb intake so low that your body begins to use fats as its fuel source, known as ketosis.  Eating carbs causes your blood sugar to rise.  Your body naturally reacts by producing insulin which brings your blood sugar back down.  Insulin is a fat storing hormone.  When insulin is present you cannot burn fat.  By removing carbs from your diet and minimizing insulin spikes your body will turn into a fat burning machine.

Losing weight and improving body composition is the most common reason for doing the Ketogenic diet but there are additional known benefits such as reduced inflammation, sustained energy and heightened cognitive function.  

HOW MANY CARBS CAN I EAT A DAY

The ideal number of carbs varies from person to person but a good starting point is less than 25 grams of net carbs (carbs minus fiber) per day. 

DAILY MACROS

Your daily macro goals should end up around 5% Carbs, 70 % Fat and 20% protein.

It is very important to track your carb intake every day so that you can ensure you are low enough.  Simply going lower carb than your used to will not cut it, you have to be strict.  If you are not low enough to cause your body to enter ketosis then your body will continue to burn carbohydrates and store fat.  Use a tracking app like My Fitness Pal to help you stay accountable.

Contrary to what you have probably heard your whole life, you do not need to fear fat.  More than likely you are programmed to choose “low-fat” when given a choice.  This is not necessary during the Ketogenic diet, choose the full fat option.  Fear processed carbs commonly found in bread, pasta, cereal, and other sugary snacks which are the main contributors to obesity and diabetes.  It is the combination of fat and carbs that is the problem. 

WHAT TO EAT ON KETO

IS THIS KETO?

When looking for food options look at the nutrition label and look at how many carbs are in each serving.  If you can make it work into your daily carb goal then go for it. These are some of the more popular food options because of their nutrient dense low carb content.  If your budget allows select from organic produce, pasture raised meat and quality fat.  This is just a starting point; this list is not all encompassing. 

PROTEINS

LOW CARB VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Bok Choy
  • Cabbage

LOW CARB FRUITS

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries

KETO SNACKS

  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Cheese
  • Pork Rinds
  • Hard Boiled Egg
  • Jerky (be careful of sugar)

Remember eating carbs turns on your fat storing hormone (insulin), so the last thing you want to do is provide it fat to store at the same time. Fat is filling which keeps you full longer helping to reduce cravings and the need to snack throughout the day.  Fat will become your main source of calories so make sure to choose from healthy sources.  Note: The following lists are just a starting point; they are not all encompassing.

HEALTHY FAT OPTIONS

  • Grassfed Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Ghee
  • Lard
  • Pastured Tallow

Eliminate highly processed seed and vegetable oils.  These oils go through intense processing.  First, they are heated to extreme temperatures creating toxic byproducts. Next they are processed with a petroleum based solvent and finally deodorized and colored with additional chemicals.  These oils are unstable and oxidize easily leading to cardiovascular disease.  These oils are also high in omega-6 fatty acids causing an imbalance in your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, producing chronic inflammation.  As you begin to monitor food labels you will begin to realize that these oils seem to be in almost everything.  This is because they are cheap to produce.  With a little effort you can find better options that use better oils like olive, avocado or coconut.

OILS TO AVOID

  • Soybean
  • Canola
  • Cottonseed
  • Corn
  • Sunflower
  • Peanut
  • Grapeseed
  • Safflower

WHY SUGAR IS BAD

Getting rid of sugary treats Sweeteners can be tricky.  If you have been living on the standard American diet then more than likely you are addicted to sugar.  There is a reason, sugar in one form or another is in almost everything we eat.  Excess sugar can’t be metabolized and turns into liver fat which in turn leads to metabolic diseases.  Too much sugar can also numb the signals in your brain that tell you that you are full.  Even natural forms of sugar like honey, agave, coconut sugar all raise your blood glucose. 

To help you help you kick you sugar addiction you can use natural sweeteners that will not spike your blood glucose.  You can substitute these with almond flour to replicate most of your favorite baked goods and sweet treats.  The most commonly used are stevia, monkfruit and erythritol.  Lakanto is one of the most popular brands that is a combination of both erythritol and monkfruit.

KETO SWEETENERS

  • Monkfruit
  • Stevia
  • Erythritol

SWEETENERS TO AVOID

  • Sugar
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Nectar
  • Syrups
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Agave
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltitol
  • Sorbitol

Be careful with “sugar-free” candies.  Make sure you check the ingredients.  Many of these candies are sweetened with sugar alcohols like sorbitol or maltitol which do affect your blood sugar.  These also commonly lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.

It is understandable that many need a sweet treat occasionally.  Use the recommended sweeteners to help wean yourself off of sugar.  Over time the Keto diet can reduce cravings for sweet tasting foods.  Eventually you will want to slowly minimize your intake of all sweeteners.   Even zero calorie sweeteners may possibly contribute to weight gain.  The studies are not definitive but there is reason to believe that anything sweet can trigger the reward system in the brain maintaining sugar addictions and cravings.

WHAT CAN I DRINK ON KETO?

WATER

No surprise that water is your best option on the Keto diet.  This should be your primary source of hydration. 

Although I do not personally drink coffee or tea, they are probably the second most consumed beverages for those on the Ketogenic diet.  Just be careful when you start to add sweeteners and creamers that they don’t contain a lot of carbs. 

DIET SODA?

The next question that almost always comes up is, “Can I drink diet soda?” Almost all diet sodas have zero carbs, so the quick answer is yes.  Diet soda can help satisfy your sweet tooth especially as you initially transition into the Ketogenic diet.  That being said, diet soda is awful for your health you should limit your intake and even work towards trying to eliminate it entirely.  They do not have any nutritional value and have been shown to have links to certain health problems.  The healthiest substitute for diet soda would be carbonated water.

Many also ask about alcohol.  Alcohol will disrupt your diet.  It’s not just the potential carbs in alcoholic beverages that are the problem.  During Keto your liver is turning fat into ketones for energy.  When you drink alcohol, your liver will halt ketone production so that it can metabolize the alcohol.

There are thousands of other beverage options and once again the simple answer is look at the ingredients.  How many carbs are there?

Drink your water.

HOW TO DETERMINE IF YOU ARE IN KETOSIS

Initially the most popular method is using Keto urine strips.  They are cheap, easy to use and found in most pharmacy or grocery stores.  However, after a few weeks the urine strips become less reliable.  Once your body becomes more efficient in ketone production and utilization the excess ketones in your urine goes down.  If continuing to see your ketone levels is important to you then you can invest in a blood ketone meter.  One of the more popular meters is Keto-Mojo.

AVOIDING THE KETO FLU

This is not a real flu.  Everybody will transfer into the Keto diet differently.  Some people may have no side effects while others may experience symptoms with the body adapting.  These symptoms are flu-like and can include:

  • Weakness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation.

The obvious explanation is that your body is going through withdrawals from carbs/sugar.  Your body is waiting for you to give it more carbs to use as energy because that is what it is used to.  It has not yet realized that it needs to make a full time switch to burning fat for energy.  This will just take time, typically a week.

Let’s focus on what you can control   The best way to avoid or eliminate a lot of these symptoms is to make sure that you are getting enough electrolytes (potassium, sodium, magnesium).  The Keto diet will cause you to initially lose a lot of water weight.  Every 1 gram of carb can hold 3-4 grams of water.  When you cut all of these carbs from your body you are also cutting water and the electrolytes that go with it.  Drinking enough water is important but this alone will not replace electrolytes.  Use high quality sea salt (sodium) to salt your foods to taste.  Redmond Real Salt is one of the most popular.  Along with salt, include potassium and magnesium rich foods in your meals.  If needed find an electrolyte supplement.  Zero calorie sports drinks are not ideal because they only have a small fraction of electrolytes and a bunch or artificial ingredients.  Do some research, I recommend reading The Salt Fix, and consult your own doctor for your individual needs.  A tracking app like My Fitness Pal can help you track your daily intake of these electrolytes. 

I personally aim for the following:

  • Magnesium 400mg
  • Potassium 3000-4700mg
  • Sodium 4000-5000 mg

POTASSIUM & MAGNESIUM RICH KETO FOODS

  • Avocado
  • Spinach
  • Flax
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Tuna
  • Cod
  • Dark Chocolate

DIRTY KETO

Dirty Keto is also known as lazy Keto.  This version of Keto commonly entails a lot of fast food and highly processed foods.  The thought process here is “As long as I am hitting my daily macro goals I can eat whatever I want.”  This may be true if your only goal is to enter a state of ketosis, but this version lacks nutrients and vitamins and is not good for long term health.  There will be a learning curve as you transition into this diet.  It is okay to grab to couple bunless burgers at the drive-thru when you’re in a pinch.   

You will also probably start to experiment with all the new “Keto” snacks that are flooding the market.  These will help you manage cravings as you are in the early stages of becoming fat adapted.  Don’t make these a large part of your daily food intake.  Eat quality whole foods as often as possible.  When you are on the road or in social settings it is not always easy to control the quality of ingredients in your food.  Take advantage of the times when you are in control and choose foods that are as close to what is available in nature as possible.  Get in the habit of avoiding foods that come with barcodes.

KETO RECIPES

If you don’t know where to start, here are some great Keto recipes like Egg Roll in a Bowl and my favorite Keto Biscuits with a garlic butter glaze.

 

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