Ketogenic Diet Q & A

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I received a plethora of questions after my 1/11/17 blog post titled How I Reversed my Type 2 Diabetes and Why No Diet is One Size Fits All. After 30 some years of being told fats were bad for us, especially saturated fats, quite a few people had a hard time processing that my new diet which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates was actually benefitting my health.

The questions I have answered below are just a few that came in, but I did’t want to overwhelm my readers with information. My hope is this will give you some understanding as to why fats don’t deserve the bad rap they’ve been given. And more importantly, how, for many, many people, a ketogenic diet may be the key to reversing diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and other chronic health issues.

What is a ketogenic diet?
‘Keto’ comes from the word Ketone and ‘genic’ comes from genesis, meaning to produce. Thus “ketogenic” means to produce ketones. Ketones are the result of the body burning fat for fuel instead of glucose. When glucose is used for fuel its end product is lactic-acid but when the body burns fat as its energy source, ketones are the end product. It is somewhat analogous to your car using gasoline for fuel. After the gas has been burned of its energy, the end product is carbon monoxide. The body can easily utilize either energy source – fat or glucose as fuel. Basically, a ketogenic diet is one that is high in fat and low in carbohydrates with a moderate amount of protein. A very general rule of thumb for burning fat as fuel is to obtain 70% of your calories from fat, 20% from protein and 10% from carbohydrates, but this can vary from person to person.

Doesn’t fat make you fat?
No! In fact, what researchers are now discovering is that sugar, and all food that break down into sugars, makes you fat. One major difference between fat and carbs/sugar, is how the hormone insulin responds to these macronutrients. When simple carbohydrates are consumed, the pancreas secretes insulin to get the glucose out of the blood. Guess how insulin does this? It stores that extra sugar first as glycogen, and then as triglycerides (fat) once the glycogen stores are full. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. On the other hand, the pancreas does not secrete insulin when fat is consumed as there is no glucose to have to manage. Fat also tastes really yummy and makes us feel satiated, so we don’t need to consume as much food and will stay fuller longer. Have you ever noticed after eating a “rich” meal, usually meaning one that has lots of fat, like creamed spinach, you end up feeling very full and don’t need to eat again for hours? Yet, if you eat a carb-loaded meal, like sugar-laden cereal with skim milk, you are starving in an hour or so and looking for the donuts. Right? Of the three macronutrients – fat, protein and carbohydrates – the only one that is not essential to the body is carbohydrates.

Do you have to eat a lot of meat in order to burn fat for fuel?
Again, the answer is no. Eating too much meat on a low carb diet plan will cause the liver to convert the amino acids found in protein into sugar. Insulin is then required to manage the blood sugar. Meat is basically protein and while protein is essential to every cell of the body, there are a lot of plant sources of protein. There are also a lot of sources of fat that are not from animals. There are many ways to add healthy fats to your meals without eating meat, like using lots of olive oil and adding nuts and seeds to a salad, using heavy cream to cook scrumptious veggie casseroles, adding coconut oil and butter or ghee to your coffee or tea, eating avocados topped with fermented veggies, or indulging in nut butters with celery sticks, to name just a few. I love to start my day with some berries (which are low on the glycemic-index) topped with a heaping helping of hemp hearts (73% fat, 25% protein, 2% carbs) and small dollop of chia seeds all covered with heavy cream or milk kefir. So, you don’t have to eat eggs and bacon for breakfast to get lots of fat with adequate protein. BUT YOU CAN IF YOU WANT TO!! 😀

What foods should be avoided on a ketogenic diet?
Basically avoid all foods with high carbohydrate content. In order to control my diabetes without medication, I avoid all types of sugar (including honey), grain-based breads, grits, quinoa, couscous, white potatoes, rice, most beans and legumes, some root veggies like beets, and most processed foods because they usually have a lot of sugar and chemicals added.

What are some good sources of healthy fats?
Monosaturated fats:
– Nuts, like macadamia, pecans, cashews and almonds, or their butters.
– Avocados
– Olives
– Natural peanut butter (just contains peanuts, preferably organic, and salt)
Polyunstaturated fats:
– Walnuts
– Soymilk and tofu
– Sunflower, sesame, flax, and pumpkin seeds
– Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)

Beware of certain unsaturated oils
There are basically two types of unsaturated vegetable oils:
– Traditional, cold-pressed oils such as extra virgin olive oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil that are rich in monounsaturated fats and made without the use of chemicals or heat.
– Modern processed oils such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower oil, which are industrially manufactured—usually from genetically modified crops in the U.S.—using heat and toxic solvents.
Some nutritionists feel that these manufactured vegetable oils shouldn’t be included as “good” fats because the damaging industrial processing can transform the fatty acids into dangerous trans fat. [source: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-eating/choosing-healthy- fats.htm]

The skinny on saturated fats:
Eating grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, and organic or raw dairy products doesn’t carry the same health risks as consuming saturated fat from an animal that’s been fed an unnatural diet of corn and hormones and medications like antibiotics.
– A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that people who eat saturated fat do not experience more cardiovascular disease than those who eat less.
– A meta-analysis of 16 studies published in the European Journal of Nutrition shows that eating whole-milk dairy products is linked to less body fat and lower levels of obesity. The higher the fat content in dairy products, the lower the amount of sugar there is in the form of lactose. Also, full-fat dairy makes you feel fuller, faster, and keeps you feeling satisfied for longer, thus helping you to eat less overall.  [Source: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-eating/choosing-healthy- fats.htm]

There is a lot of science coming out regarding how decreasing fats in the diet was a massive mistake. As fat consumption went down, carbohydrate consumption went up. Correlatively, so did rates of obesity and diabetes. It will take a while for this information to trickle down and for the American people to once again shift their mindset. My intention for writing about my journey is to help quicken this shift, even if in some small way.

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