Ketogenic diets have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their purported health benefits. A ketogenic diet, or “keto” for short, is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that is designed to put the body into a state of ketosis. This article will define what a ketogenic diet is, explain how ketosis works in the body, provide a list of recommended foods for a ketogenic diet, and identify foods to avoid. It will also explore the difference between ketogenic and ketoacidosis, and how people often confuse the two. Finally, we will examine the evidence supporting ketogenic diets for autoimmune disorders.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that is designed to put the body into a state of ketosis. In this state, the body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose, which is the body’s preferred energy source. The goal of a ketogenic diet is to enter ketosis and remain there for an extended period. When in ketosis, the body produces ketones, which are molecules that the body uses for energy when glucose is not available.
The macronutrient breakdown of a ketogenic diet typically involves 70-80% fat, 15-20% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates. This ratio can vary depending on the individual’s goals, such as weight loss, athletic performance, or management of a medical condition.
How Does Ketosis Work in the Body?
When we eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose, which is then used for energy. If we consume more carbohydrates than the body needs, the excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. When we need energy, the body converts glycogen back into glucose and uses it for fuel.
However, if we limit carbohydrate intake, the body is forced to find alternative sources of energy. When the body is low on glucose, it turns to stored fat for fuel. The liver breaks down fat into molecules called ketones, which can be used for energy. The body then enters a state of ketosis, where ketones become the primary fuel source instead of glucose.
While in ketosis, the body experiences several changes. Insulin levels decrease, which can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose control. Ketones can also improve brain function and decrease inflammation. However, prolonged ketosis can also cause adverse effects, such as constipation, bad breath, and nausea.
Recommended Foods for a Ketogenic Diet
When following a ketogenic diet, it’s essential to focus on high-fat, low-carbohydrate foods. Here is a list of recommended foods for a ketogenic diet:
- Meat and poultry: beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, etc.
- Fatty fish: salmon, trout, tuna, etc.
- Eggs: whole eggs, including the yolk
- Low-carb vegetables: spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, etc.
- High-fat dairy: butter, cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, etc.
- Healthy fats: coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, etc.
Foods to Avoid on a Ketogenic Diet
To enter and maintain ketosis, it’s essential to avoid high-carbohydrate foods. Here is a list of foods to avoid on a ketogenic diet:
- Grains: wheat, rice, oats, etc.
- Sugars: cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.
- Fruits: bananas, apples, oranges, etc.
- Starchy vegetables: potatoes, corn, peas, etc.
- Processed foods: chips, crackers, candy, etc.
- Sweetened beverages: soda, juice, sports drinks, etc
The Difference Between Ketogenic and Ketoacidosis
One common misconception about ketogenic diets is that they lead to ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition. While the terms may sound similar, they are two entirely different conditions.
Ketoacidosis occurs when there are extremely high levels of ketones in the blood, often in people with uncontrolled diabetes. This condition can cause symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, and confusion and can lead to a diabetic coma or even death if left untreated. However, this condition is rare in people without diabetes.
On the other hand, ketogenic diets aim to induce a mild state of ketosis, where ketone levels are elevated but not to the point of causing harm. It’s important to note that people with certain medical conditions, such as liver or kidney disease, may not be able to safely follow a ketogenic diet.
Evidence Supporting Ketogenic Diets for Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune disorders are conditions in which the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body, leading to inflammation and tissue damage. Some examples of autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.
Research suggests that a ketogenic diet may have potential benefits for people with autoimmune disorders. One study published in the Journal of Lipid Research found that a ketogenic diet reduced inflammation in mice with multiple sclerosis, a neurological autoimmune disorder. Another study published in the Journal of Immunology Research found that a ketogenic diet improved symptoms in mice with rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune disorder.
While further research is needed to confirm these findings in humans, these studies suggest that a ketogenic diet may have potential as a therapeutic option for people with autoimmune disorders. However, it’s important to note that a ketogenic diet should only be attempted under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
In conclusion, a ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet designed to put the body into a state of ketosis. When in ketosis, the body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose, which can lead to several health benefits. Recommended foods for a ketogenic diet include meat, poultry, fatty fish, low-carb vegetables, high-fat dairy, nuts, and healthy fats. Foods to avoid include grains, sugars, fruits, starchy vegetables, processed foods, and sweetened beverages. While some people may confuse ketogenic diets with ketoacidosis, the two are entirely different conditions. Finally, research suggests that a ketogenic diet may have potential benefits for people with autoimmune disorders, but further research is needed to confirm these findings.