Maybe you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet before, but never considered it because you’d always been told that bacon and butter make you fat and give you heart disease.
But just keep reading to discover the benefits of ketosis, and how being in nutritional ketosis can have a positive impact on your health and weight!
What is Nutritional Ketosis?
In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet is a diet that is high in fat and very low in carbohydrates. When you’re on a ketogenic diet and in nutritional ketosis your body will burn fat for energy instead of sugar.
As a refresher, most people are sugar burners, which means their bodies run off of sugar (aka. glucose) by turning carbohydrates and excess protein into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. And while being a sugar burner sounds fun, it can have some unfortunate consequences like fatigue, brain fog, and stubborn weight gain.
But by adopting a ketogenic diet you become a fat burner. Your body does this by turning dietary fat and body fat into ketones, which are made in the liver. These ketones can fuel the body and the brain for sustainable energy using a process called ketogenesis.
The Many Benefits of Ketosis
In addition to being able to eat some of your favourite foods like butter, bacon, eggs, and steak, you’ll also be bettering your health and preventing chronic disease by being in a state of nutritional ketosis.
And just to clarify, you don’t need to adopt a ketogenic diet for the rest of your life to achieve the benefits of ketosis even occasionally. It may seem too good to be true at first, but keep reading to discover what the science has to say about being in nutritional ketosis for your mental and physical health.
Ketosis Supports Healthy Weight Loss
Weight loss tends to be at the top of most people’s minds when they’re looking to start a new diet. And if you’re like most people, you already know that the low-fat diet your doctor has been recommending for years only resulted in growing your spare tire, rather than deflating it.
But is the ketogenic diet the key to solving your weight loss woes? Although it may seem counterintuitive, eating a diet high in fat can actually help you burn fat and shed excess weight!
We wrote an article about the ketogenic diet and weight loss, which you can check out here.
Ketosis Increases Metabolism:
Restricting carbohydrates can actually increase your total energy expenditure because the costs of making ketones out of fat is higher than turning carbohydrates and protein into glucose. So even though ketones are a more energy efficient source of fuel, the process of making them increases your metabolism.
Ketosis Lowers Fat-Storing Hormones:
Even if you aren’t a diabetic, you might be pre-diabetic, which means you experience chronically elevated insulin levels. And if you weren’t previously aware, if your insulin levels are always high then you will have trouble losing weight no matter how much you exercise or how strictly you restrict your calories!
Fortunately, a ketogenic diet has been shown to be an effective treatment of insulin resistance by improving insulin sensitivity. And the bottom line is that the better your insulin sensitivity is the easier it will be to lose weight!
Ketosis Controls Hunger:
Because fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, eating a fat-fueled diet means you’ll be full for a much longer period of time after a meal. And the benefit of long-lasting satiety is you won’t be tempted to constantly snack, helping you cut calories without even counting!
Ketosis Improves Mental and Cognitive Health
So many of us are walking around in a fog, trying to bully our brains into focusing, while battling crippling depression and anxiety. But instead of popping yet another prescription pill, have you ever considered the benefits that a ketogenic diet can provide for your cognitive and mental well being?
Ketosis Improves Memory:
Contrary to popular belief, memory loss doesn’t have to be a normal part of aging. In fact, many people suffering from poor or spotty memory are not even that old. Fortunately, the ketogenic diet can improve memory performance. In fact, the higher the level of ketones in the blood, the greater improvements in memory can be seen.
Ketosis Improves Focus:
How many of us have experienced the pressure of a mounting deadline, only to find ourselves wasting our time on Facebook instead of working diligently on our projects? Even though we know we should prioritize our work, it can seem impossible to stay focused long enough to get anything done!
And if you do suffer from an inability to focus then you likely have an imbalance of the neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate. But entering a state of ketosis will help your body balance these two neurotransmitters. Better balance means better focus, while also reducing stress and anxiety.
Ketosis Reduces Inflammation in the Brain:
You already know that your joints and muscles can become inflamed, but did you know your brain can also feel the heat? In fact, your bad mood and cognitive issues could just be another sign of a brain on fire. Here are some subtle signals that all is not well beneath your skull.
Signs of an Inflamed Brain
- Mood Disorders and Psychosis
- Brain Fog
- Poor Memory
- Trouble Focusing
- Speaking with a Stutter or Stammer
Fortunately, adopting a ketogenic diet can extinguish inflammation in the brain by providing a heavy dose of antioxidant protection that helps battle cell-damaging oxidants that contribute to depression and poor memory.
Ketosis Prevents and Treats Chronic Disease
Despite the ketogenic diet’s reputation as the ultimate weight loss solution, did you know that nutritional ketosis was originally developed to treat children who were suffering from epilepsy?
In fact, the ketogenic diet is becoming well known for being an effective treatment for a number of chronic and debilitating conditions that were formerly only treated with medication!
Type 2 Diabetes:
If you have Type 2 Diabetes then you know how frustrating it can be to constantly be monitoring your insulin levels, tracking your carbohydrate intake, and worrying about the health consequences of chronically elevated insulin levels.
Fortunately, it is possible to reverse insulin insensitivity by adopting a ketogenic diet. In fact, a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by 75%! Studies have demonstrated that adopting a ketogenic diet can even help you stop taking diabetes medication altogether!
With high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease, you may initially think that the ketogenic diet would be the worst diet for a healthy heart. When has anyone ever touted the benefits of bacon and butter for a fit cardiovascular system?
Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, excessive carbohydrate consumption is the main driver behind elevated triglyceride levels, especially the consumption of fructose (e.g., like that found in high-fructose corn syrup). In contrast, a ketogenic diet will lower LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol), while increasing HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol).
So when a person cuts carbohydrates, they tend to see a rather rapid fall in their blood triglycerides. And since elevated triglycerides are an indicator of heart disease, lowering one’s triglycerides is a great step towards reducing your risk of experiencing a heart attack or a stroke.
Yes, the ketogenic diet can even be used to treat and manage cancer. Obviously, it is always essential to talk with one’s doctor before starting a new diet when you have cancer, but more research is coming out showing the benefits this diet can have in reducing cancerous cells and shrinking tumours.
The reason a ketogenic diet works so well to manage cancer is because you are denying cancer cells its favourite food to eat, which is sugar.
Cancer cells are different than a normal cell because they have ten times more insulin receptors, which shuttles sugar into the cell. In a nutshell, cancer cells are starving for sugar and thrive when you feed your body a sugar-rich diet.
On the flip side, cancer cells are damaged so they can’t effectively use fats for energy. So when you eat a low carbohydrate and high fat diet, you’re starving the cancer cells while feeding your healthy cells.
Ketosis Isn’t All or Nothing to Receive the Benefits of Ketosis
Maybe you’re loving the idea of the ketogenic diet and the health benefits it can provide, but you’re not sure you can commit to a lifetime of strictly avoiding carbohydrates. Well never fear because ketosis isn’t about being 100% perfect all of the time.
In fact, the average person can experience health benefits including weight loss, improved memory, and better energy by just being in ketosis some of the time. Cyclical ketogenic dieting and exogenous ketones are ways the average person can experience the benefits of ketosis without committing to a strict ketogenic diet.
Overall, what you need to remember is that previous dietary dogma that demonized healthy fats was wrong, and being in a state of nutritional ketosis can be a powerful tool to improve your health.
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If you have tried the ketogenic diet before, I would love to hear from you. How did you feel? What were benefits of ketosis for you?