The concept of following a low carb diet is nothing new. Low carb diets have been a popular weight loss concept for decades. Ketogenic diets are diets that take the concept of low carb to the next level, and encourage people to consume a large amount of protein and a moderate amount of fat, but almost no carbohydrates, so that their bodies are forced to burn fat for energy, entering what is known as a ketogenic state, or ‘ketosis’.
Full disclosure: I started the ketogenic diet to start the year, and plan to do a full post on how it has worked for me, so be on the look at for that soon!
Low carb diets were controversial when they were first popularised because health professionals feared that such diets would raise cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. More recent studies, however, have found that this is not the case and that low carb diets can actually be beneficial to your health.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of low carb and ketogenic diets.
Keto Reduces Your Appetite
One of the worst things about living in a calorie deficit is that you tend to feel hungry. Eating low carb helps to reduce your appetite. Protein and fat both take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates, and they don’t have the same impact on your insulin levels, so you don’t get a sugar rush followed by a drop in energy. When people reduce their carbohydrate intake, even if they have not been told to eat fewer calories, they tend to naturally take in fewer calories over time, because they feel less hungry and are less inclined to snack.
Low Carb Diets Can Promote Fat Loss
Not all body fat is equal in terms of health risk. Most people don’t want jiggly thighs or bingo wings, but those things aren’t too much of a health risk. The real health risk comes from visceral fat – the fat that is in the abdominal cavity lodged around your organs. If you have a lot of fat in that area, then you’re at greater risk of insulin resistance and other health issues. Visceral fat can be incredibly dangerous and is a leading driver of metabolic issues in the western world. The ketogenic diet has been found to be more effective than other diets at reducing the amount of visceral fat that a person carries. This means reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The number of triglycerides found in our blood following an overnight fast is one indicator of our heart disease risk. Triglycerides are fat molecules, and if a person has elevated triglyceride levels then they are at a greater risk of heart disease. A diet high in carbohydrates increases your risk of elevated triglycerides – especially if you consume a lot of fructose. Those who follow ketogenic diets tend to experience a dramatic fall in their blood triglyceride levels.
Increases ‘Good’ Cholesterol
There are two different kinds of cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol that increases your risk of heart disease and strokes. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is the good kind – the kind that carries cholesterol away from the body, and to the liver – where the liver will either break it down and re-use it, or excrete it. In the past, it was thought that eating a diet that was high in cholesterol from foods such as eggs would increase your cholesterol levels. More recent research has found that this is not the case and that the best way to increase your HDL levels is to eat healthy fats. The ketogenic diet is rich in healthy fats, which means that it can help to improve your HDL levels. Ketogenic diets can help to improve your ratio of triglycerides to HDL, which is one of the best predictors of heart disease risk. A low triglyceride HDL ratio signals a low risk-factor.
Can Lower Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
Type 2 diabetes was originally called adult-onset diabetes, but modern western diets man that more and more young people are developing the condition. To understand diabetes, we first need to understand blood sugar and insulin.
When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose and other simple sugars in our digestive tracts. The sugars enter the bloodstream, and this is where ‘elevated blood sugar’ comes from. It is not good for the body to have high blood sugar levels, so the body releases insulin to tell our cells to draw the glucose in and then either store it or use it for energy. In a healthy person, that insulin response will minimize blood sugar quite quickly.
People with Type 2 diabetes are insulin resistant. Their cells don’t notice the insulin and respond very slowly to demands to bring blood sugar into the cells. There are around 300 million people who have Type 2 diabetes. The good news is that this kind of diabetes can be managed by diet – unlike Type 1 diabetes, which is a genetic condition which means that the body is unable to produce insulin in the first place.
By following a ketogenic diet, you remove the need for the body to produce large amounts of insulin. Your overall blood sugar levels will be greatly reduced, as will the amount of insulin that is being produced. Over time, it can help the boy to become less insulin resistant; meaning that if you do eat carbohydrates the response will be better.
If you are currently on medication to manage your blood sugar, then be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a ketogenic diet, to ensure that you do not become hypoglycemic.
May Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major indicator of risk for strokes, kidney failure and heart disease. Ketogenic diets have been found to reduce blood pressure, which means that they can also reduce your risk of many of these diseases, as well as metabolic diseases.
It can take a while to get used to eating a ketogenic diet, but it is worth it, and once you adapt to burning fat for energy you should find that you feel much better and have more energy.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, I started the ketogenic diet to start the year. I can confirm that it takes a few days, at least, for your body to adjust to this new way of eating. For the first few days I felt hungry throughout the day, but by end of the first week, my hunger pains started to disappear, and I now feel great. I have lost about 5 pounds so far, feel great, and I am hoping for a major body transformation as well – especially with my stomach fat.
In addition to going keto, I am also incorporating moderate cardio and weight-lifting exercises 3 to 4 times per week. I am documenting my journey, and will have a post here on the site soon!