Here’s the Skinny on Keto
Many of us know someone who has lost a lot of weight using the keto diet. Since shedding pounds is a common New Year’s resolution, here’s the “skinny” on keto.
Our bodies can run on two major fuel sources: glucose or ketones. Glucose, which comes from the carbohydrates we eat, is our primary fuel source. Ketones, or “ketone bodies,” are produced when the body burns fat—fat that we consume, as well as fat stored in our body—for energy. Our bodies naturally convert fat to ketones when we are fasting or in a starvation state.
What is a keto diet?
A keto diet involves drastically cutting back on carbohydrates so the body must burn fat to make energy. It tricks the body into thinking that it’s starving, which starts ketosis, the process of making ketones. This means that stored fat will be converted rather quickly to energy to fuel the organs and muscles, resulting in the loss of excess fat and therefore weight.
While ketosis is a normal metabolic state for the body, it is rare among Americans because the Standard American Diet (SAD) includes a large amount of starches and sugars. The sugar we eat comes from fruits; starchy foods like bread and pasta; starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and beans; and both added and natural sugars, like honey, syrups and crystallized sugars. In 1915, the average sugar consumption per person was 17.5 pounds. As of 2011, the number rose to 150 pounds annually. No wonder there is an obesity epidemic in the United States!
This overconsumption of carbs keeps the body using sugar for energy and turns off the body’s ability to use stored fat. Going keto is one way to restart the body’s natural process of burning fat for energy.
What does eating keto look like?
The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) is a very low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet—typically 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and 5 percent carbs. That’s not a lot of carbs, which can be difficult at first. But the keto diet is very satiating, and people who eat keto find that they aren't as hungry as they were when they ate lots of carbohydrates.
Another good aspect of keto is that calorie counting is not usually necessary. Instead, you track the amount of fat, protein and carbohydrate grams you consume, which is much easier—plus there are lots of mobile apps available to help you keep track.
Besides weight loss, the health benefits of going keto include a lower risk of diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease and improved triglyceride and HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
Remember to talk your a doctor before making any significant changes to your diet. Before going keto, you should have a health screening and bloodwork done to rule out insulin resistance, prediabetes, gallstones, kidney issues, pregnancy or any other health conditions that would make keto unsafe for you or unsafe without close doctor supervision.
Ramona Shires, ND, is the owner of White Sands Natural Health, located at 2870 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., Gulf Breeze, FL. For more information, contact her at DrRamona@WhiteSandsNH.com or visit WhiteSandsNH.com.