It seems like there comes a time in every ingredient or nutrient’s life that it comes under fire, receives massive praise, or both. The back and forth of nutrition science is not only confusing, but it’s also incredibly frustrating for those of us who are out here just trying to eat our veggies & do our best. 🙋🏻
The Real Deal is a new blog series, written by our Lead Registered Dietitian (AKA the Realist Dietitian), Claire Siegel. In this series, she’ll be addressing hot topics in healthy eating, cutting through all the clutter to give you the real deal. If you’ve got a topic you want covered, leave a comment below!
The ketogenic diet, or keto, is definitely having its day in the sun right now. It’s the diet du jour of many progressive nutritionists and popular biohackers. But is this super low carb, high fat diet really all that it’s cracked up to be? And how could it possibly be healthy? Here’s the real deal.
Keto is a high fat, moderate protein, very low carb diet. This typically translates to 65-75% of one’s calories coming from fat, 15-25% from protein, and only 5-10% from carbs. Most experts recommend a daily intake of 20-50g of carbs, depending on your activity level.
Under normal conditions (at least as the American diet stands today), the carbs you consume (and, to some extent, excess protein) are broken down into glucose. Glucose, a simple sugar, provides energy for cell functions. After food is digested, glucose is released into the bloodstream. In response, the pancreas secretes insulin, which directs the muscle and fat cells to take in glucose. Cells obtain energy from glucose or convert it to fat for long-term storage.
In the absence of carbohydrates in your diet, your blood sugar & glycogen stores become depleted and your body looks to non-glucose forms of fuel. Your body converts fat into ketones (i.e. ketogenesis, or the making of ketones) to use as energy instead. In this low insulin, fat-adapted state, your body can easily access and burn stored body fat.
Keto should not be confused with ketoacidosis, a life threatening condition characterized by extremely high blood sugar & ketone levels that almost always occurs in Type 1 diabetics or those with poor functioning livers.
Most of keto’s recent burst of popularity has to do with its aforementioned fat burning boost, which comes from the manipulation of insulin and from the increased satiety of dietary fat. But keto boasts other serious health benefits too. It’s a trusted therapeutic treatment for epilepsy, and there’s also promising research showing its ability to enhance neurological function, protect against cognitive decline, reduce inflammation and oxidative damage, and slow or stop the growth of cancerous tumors. The difference between running on sugar and running on ketones is often likened to the difference of a gas vs. hybrid car. Glucose is quick to burn, but it produces excessive free radicals (exhaust) as it does. Ketones are more efficient, providing more cellular energy than glucose.
But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Keto isn’t without its pitfalls or difficulties. If you abruptly reduce your carb intake to just about nil, you may suffer from sicky symptoms often referred to as the “keto flu.” Not only will this leave you feeling less than awesome, but it could also discourage you from continuing at all. Of longer term concern with keto is diet quality. Done correctly, a healthy keto diet will consist of lots of plant-based fat and non-starchy vegetables for fiber and micronutrients.
When it comes to trying keto, I say go with your gut. If the idea of swapping out your beloved carbs for fat makes you want to cry, then keto’s not your thing and that is totally ok. You’ll only stick to and benefit from a nutrition lifestyle you can do with joy over the long-term! There are plenty of other ways to eat real and be your healthiest self. (Trust us, it’s kinda all we do at Snap Kitchen.)
If keto sounds like something you can manage (and maybe even enjoy– hello, avocado), then go for it! Load up on plenty of non-starchy veggies, especially greens, and vary your sources of plant- and animal-based fats. And know that you can rely on us to make it super easy to keep it keto:
- breakfast platter
- crispy scottish salmon
- crispy chicken
- naked beef (pro tip: add ghee to those green beans for some extra fat & flavor)
- parmesan chicken
- provencal flatbread
- almond crusted chicken nuggets with ranch
- house smoked salmon
- …And more! Everyone’s needs are individual, so check out our menu and see what works for you. Remember that you can always add fat from avocado, ghee, olive oil, MCT oil, coconut oil, and nuts!