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What is a Ketogenic Diet & Is It Right for Me?

What is a Ketogenic Diet & Is It Right for Me?

Whether it is paleo, plant based or gluten free, there seems to be an abundance of dietary recommendations & fad diets floating around.

One of these that you may have heard of recently that has been receiving increased media attention is the ketogenic diet. 

What is a ketogenic diet? Simply put, it's a diet based on high fat, high protein, and low carbohydrate.

It's designed to send the body into ketosis, whereby it burns fat for its energy and fuel source instead of the default carbohydrate fuel system. 

Adopting the ketogenic diet can be challenging, and like any diet, it does not work for all people. 

If you are interested in exploring it however, research has shown it can have positive effects in the following areas:

1. Encouraging Weight Loss

Many people believe that the ketogenic diet must be ideal for weight loss because it burns fat.  It is not because of that however, that it can be beneficial to individuals trying to lose weight. 

Rather it is because successfully adopting the ketogenic diet teaches the body to be more energy efficient and burn fuel more effectively.  This means that you require fewer calories to fill you up, and an overall lowered caloric intake facilitates weight loss. 

2. Reducing Diabetes

Similar to weight loss, the positive effect of the ketogenic diet on diabetes is largely an indirect effect.  Individuals who are on the ketogenic diet, and fuelling with predominately fat and protein have been shown to have increased levels of satiety.  In other words, they feel fuller for longer, with less food.  The overall caloric decrease is beneficial in reducing diabetes, but so too is the fact that most of these calories are coming from protein and fat, not the typical carbohydrate sources.  In diabetes, carbohydrates pose more of a problem, because they are converted to sugar in the blood stream and need insulin to facilitate metabolism. 

3. Improving Cardiovascular Health

Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet encourages a decrease in the level of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and an increase in levels of HDL cholesterol.  Higher levels of LDL cholesterol within the body are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, as are higher triglyceride levels. Despite the fact that the ketogenic diet is a high fat diet, when followed properly, it should be a source of healthy fats, as mentioned above, which actually work to help moderate cholesterol levels and improve overall cardiovascular health.

4. Boosting Brain Health

Because the ketogenic diet is rich in fats, this can be very beneficial for the brain, which is made up of fat and requires a high fat content to function optimally.  Consuming healthy sources of fat and essential fatty acids, such as avocado, flax meal, flax oil, brazil nuts, walnuts and Hemp seeds, offer quickly accessible sources of fuel for the brain which it can convert to energy and can be seen to improve focus, improve attention span and increase alertness.

With so much conflicting information as it relates to various diet and lifestyle choices, it can be difficult to know what information is correct, what is false and what (if any of it!) is applicable to you and your situation.  With this information on the ketogenic diet, you can now use it to help you determine if it is the right diet for you. 

By: Laura Peill, RHN, BScH –  Viand Nutrition

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