Water for Health‘s Ronnie McCluskey explores why the keto diet is gaining such traction in both the medical and celebrity worlds
The keto diet is a really popular nutritional regime which helps slimmers lose weight fast. It’s low in carbohydrates and high in fat, with moderate amounts of protein.
Few people know, however, that the keto diet was pioneered by doctors treating epilepsy in children more than a century ago.
Today, the Epilepsy Foundation states that more than 50% of kids with epilepsy on the keto diet experience half as many seizures as they did before, while 10-15% get rid of the seizures altogether.
There are many other reasons why you, as an adult, might want to try keto. Weight loss is probably the most common one, since keto essentially turns your body into a fat-burning machine.
But other people pursue the keto diet for its purported benefits, which include mental clarity, increased energy levels, better athletic performance, greater sleep quality, improved mood, reduced sugar cravings and decreased diabetes biomarkers.
While it’s probably wise not to base your nutrition on what celebrities recommend, it’s interesting to note how popular the keto diet is with many of them.
Khloe Kardashian, for example, is a high-profile keto devotee, who said recently that: “My body never looked better than when I did the keto diet two-and-a-half years ago, when I did it for two months. In my experience, I’ve found the best method to train my body to curb sugar cravings, burn fat and kick-start weight loss is by sticking to a keto diet.”
Heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury is another vocal advocate of the diet after losing 10st in weight in a year by following a ketogenic eating regimen, under the guidance of his nutritionist Greg Marriott.
His performances in the ring since his comeback certainly prove he’s lost none of his athleticism.
With calorie-counting considered by many to be an outdated method of weight loss, the keto diet simplifies things to a great degree.
The diet is simple: you source around 70% of your calories from fat, 20% from protein and 10% from carbohydrates.
That equates to plenty of olive and coconut oil, butter, grass-fed dairy, avocado, nuts, seeds and MCT oil; lean proteins like turkey, chicken, fish, red meat, bone broth, egg whites; and plenty of low-carb, non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, cauliflower, mushrooms, celery and bell peppers (unless, of course, you are vegan or vegetarian).
A modest amount of low-sugar fruit is also allowed, and it’s vital to consume good-quality salt to keep up your electrolytes. Out go sugar, grains, processed vegetable oils, potatoes, pasta, soda, high-sugar fruit and sweets.
The great thing about the keto diet is that it enables your body to burn fat more efficiently, by tapping into stored fat instead of glucose (from carbohydrates).
Belly fat that is notoriously difficult to shift becomes easier to lose when the body’s energy systems are no longer reliant on a steady supply of carbohydrates, and there is even evidence to suggest that keto can offer benefits for cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome and degenerative cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a paper published in Nutrients earlier this year: “The available results of research projects dealing with the use of the ketogenic diet and ketone bodies in neurodegenerative diseases are fairly promising… [although] further studies are necessary.”
There are many possible ways in which the keto diet could benefit the brain, which is of course an incredibly energy-intensive organ.
For example, there is evidence to show that BHB – a major ketone – is a more efficient fuel for brains than glucose, primarily because it supplies more energy per unit of oxygen.
Ketones also increase the number of mitochondria, the energy factories of brain cells, and tackle neuroinflammation. Find out more about how the ketogenic diet can improve cognitive health.
Of course, the idea of cutting carbohydrates – particularly highly-refined carbohydrates – from your diet is not a new one.
An excessive intake of carbs leads to insulin secretion, and consequent fat accumulation.
If you are currently highly dependent on carbohydrates, you may be best served gradually reducing your carbs over a period of time. Immediately diving into the keto diet can be a struggle for some people.
We’ve talked about the benefits you could enjoy by following this protocol, but what about the challenges? There are a few.
For example, it can be tricky to get enough fat without having too much protein. You might struggle with so-called ‘keto flu’ as your body moves into ketosis, and you will have to be mindful about consuming enough electrolytes and fibre.
But, on the whole, keeping your carbohydrates below 50g is not as impossible as it might seem.
Having a solid foundation of healthy natural fats, lean proteins and choice vegetables will provide the nutritional balance you need.
Ronnie McCluskey is a copywriter at Water for Health, an online health store (based in Scotland) serving customers throughout the world.
Water for Health specialises in innovative water filters and nutritional supplements comprising greens, fish oils, probiotics, vitamins, minerals and more.