To Keto or Not to Keto? (Or eat Taquitos?)

The New Year comes around and it gets people thinking about resolutions. Hence, people have been asking me about the “keto diet” a lot lately, so I decided to make a blog post on the topic.

What is keto?

The goal of the ketogenic (commonly referred to as keto) diet is to create a state of simulated starvation. The keto diet does this by utilizing a high fat, adequate-protein (usually this is 1 gram of protein for every kg of body weight), low-carbohydrate diet that produces the desired metabolic changes. In other words, it makes your body act as if it is starvation mode. The diet is usually “jump started” with a fasting period. Changes in plasma ketones, insulin, glucose, glucagon, and free fatty acids can occur within hours of starting the diet.

Here is some more detailed biochemistry for all of you science nerds, like myself, out there! Hepatic generation of ketone bodies is usually stimulated by low insulin levels in combination with high glucagon levels that result in the delivery of long-chain fatty acids to the hepatic mitochondria. Low insulin levels, which are most often a cause of absolute or relative hypoglycemia (like when you fast), activate hormone-sensitive lipase, which releases long chain fatty acids and glycerol from triglycerides in peripheral fat stores. The fatty acids are transported to the liver via blood circulation where they enter hepatocyte mitochondria under the influence of low insulin and high glucagon levels.

The breakdown:

So to reword all of that stuff: if you stop eating carbohydrates, this causes your insulin level to go down. But your brain needs energy because that’s what brains do. If it can’t get it from the sugar you eat, it will break down anything. So, this kick-starts the liver to break down your fat cells. (Eventually, if you don’t have any fat cells, your body will break down muscle.) This is broken down into ketones. The reduction of peripheral fat stores is why this diet can help people loose weight. There are certain medical conditions such as seizures disorders in which ketosis could be potentially beneficial. These conditions have to be monitored by a physician, and in some cases they need to monitored in a hospital setting.

What do I eat?

There are hard-core keto diets out there that have all of these products: bone broth, milk shakes and supplements. I would not fall prey to diet fads. Eat real food: good quality, organic when you can, leafy greens and fruits with antioxidants and micronutrients, eat grass fed or organic meats and eat fresh water fish two times a week (if you’re an omnivore), eat whole grain carbohydrates, and reduce the amount of “junk” carbohydrates, and drink water plenty of water. And lastly, fast. Giving your body at least a 13-hour window where you are not eating. It’s very easy to do—if you eat dinner at 6pm, don’t eat until 7am the next morning. You don’t need to buy anything. You do need to be vigilant about not buying food that is not real.Taquitos (small tacos) can be healthy, just be mindful of what they are made of!

As Michael Pollen says,

Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.

If you are interested in learning about healthy food choices, come see me at Fresh Thyme!


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