Fat – the macronutrient demonized by ‘healthy guidelines’ dietary professionals. For a very long time now people have believed that eating fat, and especially that dreaded saturated fat, is what causes obesity and heart disease.
But if you’ve read our post on The Truth about Fats, you will know that this is all wrong! In fact, fat is probably the most important nutrient for weight loss, healthy cholesterol, brain function and overall health!
Including more saturated fat in your diet is a great start to improving your health. The keto diet is essentially the name given to the diet that focuses on this.
What is a Keto Diet?
Simply put, a keto (or ketogenic) diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, high fat diet. On a keto diet, healthy meals are structured around keeping carbs to only 5% of your total macronutrient intake. Protein consumption ranges from 20% to 35% and fat intake ranges from 60% to 75%. At an extreme level, fat can make up 80% of the diet with 20% coming from protein, and no consumption of carbs!
The idea behind the keto diet is that if you reduce your carb intake and replace it with fat, your body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis. In ketosis, instead of using your glucose stores for energy, your body taps into its fats stores and burns those for energy instead.
Why go on a Keto Diet?
There are a number of benefits to a keto diet. The number one reason often touted is weight loss, and fast weight loss! When you move into a state of ketosis your body becomes highly efficient at burning fat for energy. Not only that, fat is both tasty and filling – a number of studies have shown that, when compared to a low-fat diet, low-carb dieters lose 2 to 3 times more weight. And because fat is filling, low-carb dieters often aren’t left feeling hungry. On the keto diet, appetite tends to be suppressed and dieters end up eating fewer calories without even trying.
But a keto diet offers a number of other health benefits too, including:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduction in visceral fat (the bad fat that lodges around your organs)
- Improved brain function and memory
- Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Reduced symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease
- Reduction in epileptic seizures
- Improvement in skin conditions such as acne
- Reduction in triglyceride levels
What food should be avoided?
As we mention, the keto diet is all about reducing carbs from your diet and replacing them with fat. Therefore, any foods high in carbs should be limited. This means limiting:
- Sugary foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
- Grains or starches: Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc. (Read why here).
- Fruit: All fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries.
- Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
- Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
- Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
- Unhealthy fat: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, commercial mayonnaise (you can make your own here), etc.
- Alcohol: Due to its carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
- Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
What food can I eat?
Rather than focusing on what foods you can’t eat, its best to look at what foods you can eat to heal and nourish your body. The majority of your meals should focus on:
- Meat: Grass-fed steak, pork, bacon (check out our home-cured bacon recipe), chicken and turkey
- Fatty, sustainable fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel/sardines.
- Eggs: Read our blog on eggs 101 to workout which eggs you should be buying.
- Grass-fed butter and cream: If you’re intolerant to lactose you might want to try our recipe for ghee.
- Cheese: Unprocessed cheese…raw milk cheeses are even better.
- Healthy oils: When cooking with heat, use coconut oil, for drizzling over salads use virgin olive oil or avocado oil and when making homemade mayonnaise use macadamia nut oil.
- Low-carb veggies: These include leafy greens, zucchinis, spaghetti squash, celery, tomatoes, onions, capsicum, etc. As a rule of thumb, veggies grown above the ground have fewer carbs than those grown below the ground.
- Condiments: You can use Celtic sea salt (in fact, to help overcome any withdrawal symptoms in the first week, you should add Celtic sea salt to your water and sip throughout the day), pepper and various healthy herbs and spices.
Just remember to switch up what meat and veggies you are eating…whilst technically chicken breast with a keto-fied dessert may still keep you in ketosis, it’s doing nothing to nourish and heal your body…and you’ll get bored very quickly!