The high-fat/low-carb keto diet is the exact opposite of what you’ve been taught. Can that possibly be safe, let alone healthy? Maybe so!
Prior to the 1920s, Americans ate tons of lard, butter, beef, and cheese but both strokes and heart attacks were far less common than they are today. Maybe it’s time to consider that the wrong component of your diet has been demonized.
The keto diet literally changes your metabolism so that you become a better butter burner. Keto can help you change from a sugar-burning metabolism to a fat-burning one. And that’s where health (and weight loss) begin. Here’s how the high-fat keto diet works. The body basically has two fuels it can use: fats (fatty acids) and carbs (sugar/glucose). The trick is to use as much fat as you can and leave the sugar for emergencies. But that’s not exactly how it works in real life.
Your body can store a maximum of 1800 to 2000 calories worth of carbs. But you can store an infinite amount of calories as fat. Many people become sugar burners—much better at burning sugar than fat. The body gets used to using what you primarily feed it, so it gets really good at using sugar and really bad at using fat. So, you’ve accumulate all this fat on your body, waiting to be burned for fuel, but your body just can’t get to it. It’s as if you had a fortune in the bank but you didn’t have the ATM code. Burning sugar doesn’t help with weight loss, and sugar is not a sustainable source of energy. Not to mention, it’s one of the most inflammatory foods on earth.
You want to be really good at accessing and using the balance in your fat-calorie ATM. When you stop eating sugar completely, you eventually use up those 2000 calories you have stored. When there’s no glucose around, your body has to switch fuel sources and begin using fat calories for fuel. This is what’s known as nutritional ketosis. This is not—repeat not—the same thing as diabetic ketoacidosis, although many doctors get them confused. As your body metabolizes fat, it produces ketones which are a great source of energy for your heart, brain, and muscles.
But this is different than the Atkins Diet. Atkins never swayed from his position that it was perfectly okay to eat fat, and that the real problem in the American diet was sugar and starch. That’s 100-percent aligned with the keto-diet philosophy. But Atkins originally wrote his diet plan in 1972, and a lot has been learned since then about the quality of the fats you eat and how much difference that makes to your health. Keto takes Atkins to the next logical level.
The keto diet emphasizes high-fat and zero junk food at the same time. It stresses eating minimum carbohydrates, lots of unprocessed foods, and quality, nutrient-dense fats—not soybean oil and French-fried potatoes. Quality sustainable fats include Malaysian palm oil (highly nutritious and loaded with brain-healthy tocotrienols), coconut oil, olive oil, butter and dairy fat, egg yolks, and grass-fed beef.
Did I really say beef? “You are what you eat” isn’t quite the whole story. You’re also what your food eats. Cows weren’t meant to eat grain; they get very sick on grains. Their stomachs get acidic, which requires even more antibiotics than the ones given to fatten them up. The problem with meat isn’t the meat, it’s that cows are raised on a grain-based diet on factory farms and shot full of steroids, hormones, and antibiotics. One hundred percent grass-fed meat has more omega-3 fatty acids, less inflammatory omega-6s, and lacks all the “extras”—like hormones—that come with its factory-farmed brethren. There is also a big difference between “grass-fed” and “100% grass-fed.”
Carb cycling: Get your Twinkie fix and still lose weight.
The keto diet can be hard to stick with. Here’s a solution: carb cycling. You’re never more than a few days away from any food you desire. A strategic carb feast actually helps keep you in hormonal balance and prevents the plateaus that affect all diets. For example, in one carb-cycling program—The Metabolic Factor—you follow a low-carb, high-fat diet and go safely into nutritional ketosis for 10 days. Then, on the 10th night, you eat a high-carb meal. You can eat whatever you want during that meal. When people know they can do that, their compliance goes through the roof!
It takes about 10 days to adapt to a Keto diet accompanied by an interim period when you may not feel the best. We call that the Keto flu. But people who get through it feel great afterward.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, “The Nutrition Myth Buster” is a nationally known expert on diet and weight loss. He is author of 15 books including The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, and Living Low Carb. With cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, he co-authored the controversial best-seller, The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan that Will. @jonnybowden www.jonnybowden.com