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 deflate 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:
As you are probably aware, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet that puts the body into a state called nutritional ketosis.
Being in ketosis will actually increase your metabolism, and having a fast metabolism is a good thing because it means you’re burning more calories, even when you’re doing nothing more than sitting on the couch.
The reason you burn more calories on the ketogenic diet is due to how ‘expensive’ making ketones is for the body.
Restricting carbohydrates forces your body to work harder because it takes more energy to turn fats into ketones than it does to turn carbohydrates into glucose.
The end result is a speedier metabolism!
Ketosis Lowers Fat-Storing Hormones:
Many of us have heard of the hormone insulin, even if we aren’t exactly sure what its role in the body is. So as a refresher, insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is used to metabolize fats and carbohydrates.
This hormone helps glucose, which is an end product of carbohydrate metabolism, into the cells where it can be used as energy.
In addition, insulin also regulates fat storage by preventing the breakdown of fat cells and signalling for the creation of body fat!
This is why people who have chronically elevated insulin levels will have trouble losing weight, no matter how much they exercise and how much they restrict their calories. Their high insulin levels are sending a signal to their bodies that they should be storing fat and not burning it!
If you suffer from type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or polycystic ovarian syndrome then you are very likely experiencing high insulin levels.
Ketosis Controls Hunger:
So many of us have the best of intentions when it comes to eating healthier and getting in shape. But when the midday munchies hit or we’re experiencing a midnight craving, we just can’t seem to keep our hands out of the cookie jar.
The benefit of eating a fat-fueled diet like the ketogenic diet is you won’t have to worry about these diet-sabotaging cravings anymore!
Because fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, eating a ketogenic diet means you’ll be satiated for a much longer period of time after a meal.
Try eating a meal composed of mostly carbohydrates and you’ll likely experience hunger pangs an hour or two later.
Carbohydrates can cause a quick rise in insulin, only to plummet soon after, leaving you ‘hangry’ and itching for a sugar-laden snack.
The benefit of feeling full and content after a meal is you won’t be tempted to snack shortly afterwards and risk overeating. Overall, the ketogenic diet helps you restrict calories without 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 that 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 Foods: Means Eating Delicious!
Maybe you’re eager to start the ketogenic diet, but you’re a bit sceptical about any diet that promises weight loss and faster metabolism and doesn’t taste like cardboard.
After all, your last diet had you eating wilted lettuce leaves and dry raisin bran, and you still couldn’t shed that spare tire around your middle.
Well never fear because the ketogenic diet means being able to shed excess fat all while enjoying delicious and nutritious foods!
Forget about choking down that dry skinless chicken breast and extra lean ground beef. The ketogenic diet embraces the benefits of healthy fats. This means you’ll be able to eat bacon and well-marbled beef without the feelings of guilt.
Great sources of protein include (grass-fed, free-range, organic, wild whenever possible):
- Game Meats
- Fish (including salmon, sardines, trout etc.)
- Pork (including ham, bacon, and pork chops)
- Chicken (including the skin and darker cuts of meat)
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet, so you’re going to need to embrace healthy fats!
Fats are not only satiating, but they are also delicious. Healthy fats will add flavour to your meals, while also balancing your insulin levels and keeping you from reaching into the cookie jar.
Great sources of healthy fats include:
- Full-Fat Dairy (including butter and cream, ghee) *if tolerated
- Lard & Tallow
- Coconut Oil
- Nuts & Seeds (Macadamia, Almonds, Walnuts, Flaxseeds, Chia Seeds etc.)
- Olive Oil (local extra virgin)
While the ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate diet, there is still room for healthful plant foods that will provide a host of antioxidants and fibre for a youthful glow and better bowel movements.
While starchy tubers and other high carbohydrate vegetables should be avoided, there are still a number of tasty plants with acceptable carbohydrate levels that should be included on a regular basis!
- Leafy Greens (e.g., cos lettuce, spinach, rocket, iceberg, kale etc.)
- Brussel Sprouts
As you can see, eating a ketogenic diet can be delicious.
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.
What’s the bottom line?
The ketogenic diet will improve your insulin sensitivity and lower insulin levels. And the greater your insulin sensitivity is, the easier it will be for you to burn excess body fat.
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.
If you are curious to learn more and would like to discuss your personal situation...
If you have tried the ketogenic diet before, I would love to hear from you. How did you feel? What were the benefits of ketosis for you?
If you're looking for some recipe inspo, try some of our top keto recipes:
- Keto Chicken Pot Pie
- Low Carb Chicken Enchiladas w/ Avocado Cream (Keto-friendly, Gut healing)
- Avocado Egg Boats W/ Crispy Bacon (Gut Healing & Keto Friendly)
- Bacon and Kale Egg Muffins (Keto & Low FODMAP Friendly)
- Passion Fruit & Coconut Loaf Cake (Keto Friendly)
- Keto Thai Chicken Curry
- Keto Beef Broccoli Stir Fry (GAPS Friendly)
- Asian Marinated Steak and Zucchini Noodles (Keto & AIP Friendly)
- Keto Raspberry Muffins (Low Carb, Gluten & Refined Sugar-Free)