The Ketogenic Diet is unlike any other diet in the world in that it utilizes a high fat, minimal carbohydrate and moderate protein system in order to reset your body's ability to burn unwanted, stored fat. By restricting carbohydrates that are converted into glucose, you begin the journey to re-program your metabolism to start burning stored fats for fuel and energy instead of first burning beneficial glycogen that is stored in your muscles.
The hallmark of a ketogenic diet is being in ketosis for extended periods of time, and is achieved by carbohydrate restriction. While there isn't a strict prohibition of artificial sweeteners, grains, and manufactured foods, there is a strong preference in the community to lean towards natural, whole foods. Keto is for overall health, and weight loss is a welcome side effect for many people.
I'm honestly a little skeptical about it the idea of keto permanently. My brief glance at the literature seems to imply that it can have side effects of kidney stones, skeletal fractures, and slow the growth rate of children, but that was a study on kids with epilepsy (which it treated very effectively), so who knows how that applies to adults. And the other studies I found dealt with overweight and obese subjects, so it may be hard to find something on the long term effects on otherwise healthy adults.
The Atkins diet, on the other hand, is solely focused on weight loss. There is no restriction on artificial sweeteners or manufactured foods, as long as the foods consumed fit the Atkins prescribed ratios. There are four phases to the Atkins diet. The first phase is the most strict, designed to get you into ketosis. The second phase is a tolerance testing phase, where you add more foods to see how many grams of carbohydrate you can still eat and lose weight. The third phase is more generous with carbs, and the fourth phase is the most generous, and it's in either the third or fourth phase that most people find a good maintenance level.
This is one reason why tracking your food intake should be a priority. There are apps like Cronometer, MyFitnessPal, and LoseIt! that allow you to record all your foods for the day, and each has a large database of fresh foods, packaged foods, and restaurant meals, plus you can enter in your own recipes. This way you can know exactly what macro- and micro-nutrients you're getting, with no guess work.
¢ Cardiovascular Disease: This is definitely a point of confusion and controversy since a diet that relies so heavily on meat and fat is naturally thought to raise blood cholesterol and cause heart issues. However, some evidence suggests that this may not be the case. In fact, the keto diet may help improve triglyceride, HDL and LDL levels. A 2017 review looked at all of the available evidence around the ketogenic diet and cardiovascular health and found that the diet may be associated with some improvements in cardiovascular risk factors. Mind you, the authors also expressed their concerns with maintaining the diet in the long term, and they proposed that these benefits may not be long-lasting. It's clear that we need long-term studies to fill that gap.
The current hypothesis is that the brain functions differently on ketones than on glucose, and this is what causes certain brains to reduce epileptic seizures. I would then also hypothesize that certain people who feel that œbrain fog lifted on ketosis is due to either placebo effect OR their brain actually functioning differently on ketones vs glucose.
Here's the Knowledge Stage analogy: Say we are hungry and want to go out to eat. It wouldn't make much sense to sprint to the nearest restaurant, right? Wouldn't we be better served to take the few minutes to learn about what's available, and then make a plan? Yes, we would take the time to Yelp or ask a friend for some knowledge and use that information to decide where we want to go.
The macronutrient ratios for the keto diet can range between 65-90% fat, 5-25% protein, 4-10% carbohydrates depending on the person. Those are actually pretty large ranges, so they deserve an explanation. There are a lot of details that come into play to calculate your macros for ketosis including your current weight, target weight, exercise frequency, and more.
Totally agree that it's not something for everyone, though. Even one of the authors I read said he sometimes sneaks a french fry or a bite of cheesecake/ice cream, though he's able to stop after just a little bit and it doesn't throw him off horribly. Of course, that's not license to eat junk all the time, but it does mean that once you're well-adapted, you can sometimes indulge.
Eggs and dairy. If you think there's nothing better than butter and cheese, you're in luck! Eggs, butter and cheese are all a big part of eating Keto. You'll want to make sure your items are as unprocessed as possible, so stick to cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella and blue, and look for butter and egg products that are organic or come from free-range animals.
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