What is keto? You’ve seen the term “keto” all over the web. All your friends are talking about it. Social media is buzzing about weight loss and going low carb. The keto diet has even been featured on the major news and talkshow networks. Is it really worth it? Can you really lose weight with keto? In the following article, I’m going to provide answers to all of these questions plus more. I’m going to show you the world of low carb and high fat…the world of keto! Beyond that, I am going to show you how you can lose weight, feel great, and achieve optimal health!
Keto in a Nutshell
The bottom line and most basic answer to the question, “What is keto” is that keto is a low carb, high fat way of eating. However this explanation really doesn’t completely explain all that keto is. Keto is more than a “diet,” though most that eat keto will see significant and quick weight loss. Keto is a way of eating that will affect your entire health and wellness.
Keto as a way of eating is limiting carbohydrates and increasing healthy fats. It is about switching your body’s primary fuel source from sugar to fat. When you eat keto, your entire body benefits. The brain, which is made of mostly fat, is fed what it desires and therefore thrives! Your gut health improves as it is no longer having to deal with all of the processed foods and lack of nutrients. I’m not saying that you eliminate carbs, they are a vital aspect of the diet. The issues really lies in the source of the carbs that you eat. More on that in the next section.
Keto is also about increasing dietary fat. You’ve probably heard of keto as the “bacon and butter diet.” This has some truth to it, however, keto is not a license to eat whatever fat sources that you want. To truly be successful and benefit from eating keto, you must focus your attention on whole foods. Before we go further, let’s examine the problems with the Standard American Diet.
Rethinking the Standard American Diet
Did you realize that your current way of eating is making you fat? Regardless of how closely you follow the recommended My Plate, your food is a major problem in your health and wellness. These are problems that keto has been shown to remedy. Let me explain more about how your current diet is a problem.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) emphasizes carbohydrates, especially whole grains. Carbohydrates turn to sugar within the body and are burned quickly causing the body to want and need more in order to continue to fuel the body. Whole grains pose a whole new level of problems for your body. One of the primary concerns is that of gluten.
Whether diagnosed with a gluten intolerance (or Celiac’s disease) or not, you are most likely dealing with some form of a gluten intolerance. The body was not designed to eat the large amounts of gluten that the typical American consumes. “Glutens are the storage proteins of the wheat plant, a means of storing carbon and nitrogen for germination of the seed to form new wheat plants” (Davis, William MD, Wheat Belly, 38). Gluten is one of the leading factors of inflammation within the body, especially within the intestines. The best defense against the inflammation caused by gluten is complete gluten, and wheat, avoidance!
Fruits are also a large category on the MyPlate chart. While fruits are healthy in moderation, they should not be a major part of your diet. Our society, with all of its advancements, has found a way to provide fruit in every season. Think about your ancestors before some of the modern advancements. They would have only eaten berries a couple months out of the year, when they were in season. This is the same for all fruit species. These fruits also had a much smaller sugar content than modern fruit which has been engineered for size and taste.
Fruit is also high in fructose causing an insulin response in the body. While a natural sugar, it is still sugar. Your best response to fruit is to eat it in moderation and only when in season. I also recommend trying to buy your fruit from the local farmers when available.
I will discuss protein more in depth in a later article, but for now know that protein isn’t as necessary as you may have been taught. Yes, you need protein, but not as much as you may think. Protein doesn’t need to be, nor should it be, a large portion of your plate. Even if trying to build muscle, you don’t need extreme quantities of protein.
Where is the Fat?
The former “Food Pyramid” at least contained a section dedicated to fats, while the current MyPlate model is lacking a section for fats. Even on the pyramid, fats were a relatively small section (2nd from the top of the pyramid) and included processed vegetable oils and margarine. We will dive later into more detail on the dangers of these processed fats and where to find healthy fats. For now, just know that healthy fats are a critical part of the human diet and are essential in a balanced keto diet.
What is a Macro?
If you have come across anything regarding keto then you have no doubt heard (or read) the term macro. People will discuss counting their keto macros, but what are they referring to? Macro is short for macronutrient. These are the nutrients that are primary or the largest consumed nutrients. When we discuss macros, we are referring to carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Keto macros are heavy on the fat, moderate on the protein, and very low on carbohydrates. This means that the majority of calories will come from fat and the fewest from carbohydrates. A base model for keto macros would be 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. A standard guide for carbohydrates to remain in ketosis is 20-50 grams depending on the person and activity level.
In the following article we will get in deeper detail on crafting a proper keto diet and filling in the macros. But for now, let me explain what these macros would look like in a balanced diet. For example, if your daily calorie goal was 1800 calories, your keto macros would be the following:
- Carbohydrates – 50g (3%
- Protein – 370g (20%)
- Fat – 1380g (76%)
Carbohydrates on keto primarily come from vegetables. Rich colored vegetables and dark, leafy greens are critical components of a balanced keto diet. The foods that you must be careful with carbohydrate content are nuts, nut butter, cheese, dark chocolate, and sweet potatoes. When you focus on vegetables and keep these other items to a minimum, you won’t have any trouble maintaining 50g or less of carbohydrates.
Do Calories Matter?
If you have ever dieted in the past then you know that counting calories is a big deal. The emphasis with most diets is on calories in and calories out. Limit calories and exercise and you are sure to lose weight, right? Wrong! Think about your personal experience, how did this process work for you? My guess is that you lost a little weight, but then got tired of all the work and stopped the diet. The emphasis with keto is not on calories, but on the macros. Sure, if you want to lose weight you need a small caloric deficit, but calories aren’t the primary concern. The focus is on eating the right foods and limiting the foods that are causing inflammation and fat storage.
I want you to rethink your idea of calories. You should think of calories as “potential energy.” The calories that you consume are your energy source. When you think of calories in this way, you will begin to rethink the calories that you are feeding your body. You want to give your body the best sources of potential energy possible. As I hope you are beginning to see, fat is that best energy source.
Your goal will be to consume the bulk of your calories from fat and the least of your calories from carbohydrates. Keep in mind that when you eat fat you are getting 9 calories per gram of fat compared to the 3 calories per gram of protein and carbs. In other words, 10g of fat is 90 calories. Whereas 10g of carbs are only 30 calories. Just eating a ton of fat is not the only answer. What you eat is even more important! This is too often overlooked in the keto community.
Focus on Real Food
Keto is about far more than limiting carbs and increasing healthy fats, it is about eating whole foods. Processed food, sugar, and vegetable oils are ruining your health and making you fat. Success on keto is about focusing your diet on whole foods. It is about preparing your meals, getting more vegetables, and throwing out the junk. It is about getting back to the way your grandmother lived and cooked. This is the path to optimal health, weight loss, and feeling your best!
What do I mean “whole foods”? Start shopping the outer aisles of your grocery store and stay away from the center aisles. You know what I mean, those aisles filled with processed foods, cracker, cookies, cereals, and all sorts of junk. Fill your cart with foods from the produce, meat, and cold sections of your store. In other words, fill your cart with whole foods.
When you are shopping the grocery store, your cart should be full of fresh vegetables (or frozen), some fruit, quality meats, cheese, eggs, quality oils (olive, coconut, avocado), and maybe some nuts and nut butters. This may mean you make a couple trips to the store each week as vegetables don’t last as long as the processed junk you have been eating. Your body will thank you for this though!
I’ve tried to provide you with a basic understanding of what keto is and why your current diet has failed you. Now I want to convince you why you need keto. Besides the obvious, that has already been discussed, your current Standard American Diet is overloading your body with carbs that are making you fat and unhealthy. The worst of these being whole grains causing gut and gluten problems. Sugar is reeking havoc on your hormones and brain, not to mention your cravings and appetite.
Getting away from carbohydrates isn’t the only reason to start eating keto. The benefits from keto are overwhelming. Let me offer just a few of these amazing benefits as we conclude this article.
This may very well be the reason you have decided to read this article in the first place. You simply want to lose weight and the keto diet seems like the best way to do this. Yes, keto will certainly help you lose weight, potentially a lot of weight if that is what you need. Keto is so beneficial for weight loss because it teaches your body to burn fat instead of sugar. This leads to your body burning stored body fat and thus the rapid weight loss.
Ever eaten something very high in sugar or a heavy carbohydrate meal and felt great for a while then felt the crash soon after? That won’t happen when you eat keto. Fat is incredibly satiating. You won’t experience crashes from fat which means steady energy all throughout the day.
Improved Brain Function
Keto will help to stop brain fog and greatly improve your brain function. You will likely notice yourself thinking clearer, and seeing this benefit all day. You won’t feel you need the extra boost of caffeine to keep the mind thinking clear. This is a result of the brain’s desire for fat as a fuel source as opposed to sugar. Keto has also been shown to help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Less Aches and Pains
Removing processed foods and sugar is the primary factor in this benefit, though increasing fat helps with this as well. Inflammation is the primary culprit for the chronic aches and pains you feel throughout your body. This inflammation is a direct result of the food that you eat. Processed vegetable oils, refined sugar, and grains are the leading causes of excess inflammation in the body. Healthy fats, like olive oil, have been shown to help fight inflammation.
These are just a few of the incredible benefits you could experience when you start eating keto. Once your body becomes fat adapted, the topic of our next article, you will certainly see the weight come off, your energy levels soar, your brain fog disappear, and the inflammation greatly reduced. You could also see improvements in depression and mood, sleep quality, and even athletic performance.
So, what are you waiting for? Doesn’t it sound like something you should at least try? Other than a few foods that you currently enjoy, what do you have to lose?
What is holding you back from starting keto?