The Ketogenic Diet
ORGANIC, HEALTHY FATS, PROTEINS,
and full-fat dairy—plus high-nutrient, low-carb leafy green veggies—are the bread and butter of the ketogenic diet. In fact, there’s a formula to this style of eating: 70 percent healthy fats (think olive oil, avocado, and ghee), 25 percent protein (fatty fish, lean meats, nuts, seeds, and eggs), and 5 percent carbohydrates (mostly from fruits and vegetables). Because of the strict carbohydrate allowance, which generally equates to about 20–30 grams per day, sugary fruits and starchy veggies (berries, root vegetables) are restricted. Cheese, butter, heavy cream, and full-fat yogurts can be enjoyed freely, but milk, which is high in lactose (a sugar that spikes blood sugar) is limited. Unlike paleo, which is more about wholefood choices, the keto diet focuses on manipulating the macronutrients fat, carbs, and protein to change the body’s metabolism.
Originally introduced to treat epilepsy in the 1920s, this way of eating has exploded in popularity in the past 15 years—thanks in part to its success treating illness and inflammation by restricting insulin production. Insulin is a hormone our bodies produce to metabolize carbs—it carries glucose (carbs and sugar) through the bloodstream to be used as fuel. When glucose isn’t readily available, our bodies naturally metabolize fat for energy instead. When we metabolize fat, our livers produce compounds called ketones, which act as a powerful and steady energy source. People in ketosis—when ketones in the blood are at least .5 mmol/L—report decreased appetites (fat keeps us fuller longer than carbs can) plus increased energy, mental clarity, and focus.
Research has found that high insulin levels are an underlying cause of chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, fatty liver disease, gestational and type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancers—and ketosis can be a powerful antidote. “We’re actually seeing a reversal of chronic diseases in people eating keto,” says ketogenic-diet implementation expert Carole Freeman. And preliminary research on mice, published online in May for the journal Experimental Neurology, found that a ketogenic diet reduced pain sensitivity and promoted peripheral nerve growth (the nerves that help transmit signals from the brain).
During the transition to ketosis, which takes about three to five days, the body rids itself of its carbohydrate-based energy stores and starts the process of turning fats into ketone bodies. Once you start shedding carbs, you’ll be flushing water and minerals too, because we store water alongside the carbs we don’t burn off (i.e. water weight). “That’ll be the most miserable time of the transition,” says Freeman. “This electrolyte imbalance can lead to feelings of lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, headaches, and body aches. Plus, refined carbs act on the same part of the brain as opiates, and when we wean off these substances, brain detox can feel very similar to a drug withdrawal.”
Gentle yin or restorative yoga will help you ease into ketosis, Freeman says. And an electrolyte supplement will offset negative side effects. Just make sure it’s low in carbs and sugar.
TRY Nuun Electrolytes Effervescent Hydration Tabs as you start the diet. Once in a continuous state of ketosis, you’ll want to continue supplementing with sodium (2–6 grams), potassium (200–800 mg), and magnesium (140+ mg). A great option is Country Life Magnesium-Potassium-Aspartate tablets, which deliver 600 mg magnesium and 198 mg potassium per serving.