My friend Frankie is a bit of a zealot. In most things actually, but particularly when it comes to diet and exercise. About 6 months earlier, he gave the Ketogenic Diet a go as he just couldn’t shift the last few kilos he wanted to lose despite a blanket ban on sugar and rigorous daily exercise. He talked about the Keto Diet solidly for an hour before his wife shut him down, but what peaked my interest the most, was the knock-on benefit of increased mental clarity and pep that keto afforded Frankie.
Being a journalist, I went into full ‘Keto Diet Review’ mode and researched it thoroughly before deciding to try it myself. I have included links to many of my references throughout this story.
So, what is Keto Diet and how does the Keto Diet work?
The Keto Diet is all about eating mostly healthy fats, moderate protein and very little carbohydrates. The aim of the Keto diet is to reduce insulin in the body. Insulin is a fat storing hormone and is promoted by the consumption of carbohydrates. Not many people know the role of insulin,but do know the feeling it brings on; hand shaking hunger... that desire to eat constantly...that’s insulin. Eating more fats and fewer carbs will lower insulin and start to burn your fat for fuel. This is called being in the state of Ketosis. Ketones are what the body produces when we breakdown fats for energy–they are a source of fuel just like glucose.
Ketosis definition - Wikipedia
Ketosisis a metabolic state in which some of the body's energy supply comes from ketone bodies in the blood, in contrast to a state of glycolysis in which blood glucose provides energy. Generally, ketosis occurs when the body is metabolizing fat at a high rate and converting fatty acids into ketones.
As with anything we do, there are degrees of going keto. You can do it Rambo style where you count your macros, (fats, protein, carbohydrates and no sugar), or a moderate Keto Diet which may include a cheat meal from time to time,(this is me). But to get the full benefit of a Keto Diet, you still need to maintain a high fat, low carb rule for the majority of your intake.
Keto Diet Plan – How to do Keto Diet
While there are many resources out there that offer keto meal plans with blow by blow descriptions of what to eat and when to eat it, these are best for beginners. The sustainable way to do Keto is to learn what types of food to eat and what to avoid. There are plenty of keto diet food lists, keto recipes, apps, Instagram accounts and online grocers to get you started. Starting out, I found these sites particularly useful as a ‘Keto Diet for beginners’ go to.
Here is a basic list of the type of keto foods I zero in on:
- Cheese (all cheese)
- Meat (chicken, seafood, beef, lamb, bacon, salami etc.)
- Seeds (Chia is great for fibre)
- Oils (coconut and olive oil)
- Butter and cream
- Fruit (particularly low carb fruit such as berries)
- Vegetables (above ground variants– lots of leafy greens. Cauliflower is ‘having a moment’ and there are a ton of Keto cauliflower recipes out there)
- Low carb soup (Cream of mushroom is my current fave)
- Keto snacks,like celery dipped in cream cheese, olives and keto cheetos
- Low carb desserts (Aussieketoqueen has a great collection)
- For drinks, aside from water, I love a long black coffee with a dollop of cream and have just discovered Nexba which is terrific for children too
So,you can clearly see, I’m eating some pretty delicious food here.
Things I avoid include:
- Highly processed food
- Sugary food (I especially look out for hidden sugar)
- Trans fats found in fast food, packet cakes, biscuits and potato chips
- Potatoes and other starchy vegetables
- Grains – eg Wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley etc.
- Soft drinks
- Alcohol – especially beer. If you do want a drink, it’s best to go for Champagne!
Benefits of Keto Diet:
Ketogenic Diet weight loss –this is the big one. The weight just falls off and because a high fat diet keeps you fuller for longer, you are never hungry so you eat less without realising it. Never thought I’d hear myself say that.
Ketones are better at fuelling our brains. My mental alertness, even reading an 11pm news bulletin, is sharper than it used to be at 9am!
Keto is terrific for sustained energy. No more carbohydrate highs and crashes.
Management of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is on the rise and as a population, we are experiencing it at a younger age. There is more and more literature being published about the benefits of the keto diet for diabetics as well as a myriad of success stories.
Reasons people are turning to Keto
While I did it to increase my energy and mental clarity, others go into it for weight loss, to enable them to potentially lower Type 2 diabetes medication, for neurological benefits, pressure from spouse or friends and finally, to improve their general health by eating whole foods.
Common Keto side effects
During my research, I found when you initially start, there are likely to be short term keto diet side effects, commonly known as ‘Keto Flu’. What is Keto Flu and who would willingly give it to themselves? I wondered. Well, Keto Flu symptoms include insomnia, irritability,lack of energy, ‘keto headache’ and its compadre ‘keto constipation’. And, I’m sorry, worst of all bad breath. I’m here to tell you, I did experience some of these symptoms but thankfully they were transient and well worth going through.
My Concerns – the dangers of Keto Diet
Going in to Keto,my number one concern was,is Keto safe? Would my cholesterol go through the roof and bring on a heart attack? After talking to my GP and discovering the growing trend moving away from our traditional eating pyramid, I am convinced this is not the case. Leading US Cardiologist Dr Bret Scher says ... “I am a board certified, card-carrying cardiologist, and I want my clients to eat more fat, more meat, more cheese, more eggs, more avocado, more, more, more”.Dr Scher is amongst a growing number of medicos who believe our current way of eating has led to ever increasing rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
A lesser concern was the food I would miss. It took a long time to not miss bread. But guess what I found? Aldi’s Low Carb Keto approved bread which is a great for a quick breakfast.I was also worried about dining out, but so far,I have always been able to find something low carb on the menu.
Keto Diet Results
Today, I’m more productive and feel absolutely great. No more brain fade. I’ve also surprisingly lost 3 kilos. Do I break? Of course I do, (occasionally). My daughter Harper is a keen baker, and, some things are more important than being super rigid. ‘Diet’ to me is a way of eating rather than food depravation. Over the last 10 months I’ve learnt how to find the balance that works for me.