Clean Eating


The fat-forward ketogenic – or keto–diet has hit full-fledged trend status, as many have discovered its power for weight loss, improved focus and overall health. But with that success has come a bastardization of this super-low-carb eating style. Peek at #keto on Instagram, and along with healthy plates, you’ll find images of triple fast-food burger patties dripping with American cheese.

Designed to shift the body from burning sugar for energy to using its own fat stores, this diet prompts the body to produce compounds known as ketones in a process called ketosis (some people like to refer to the shift to burning the body’s fat stores as being “fat adapted”). It potentially offers “protection against common chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or dementia, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and even cancer,” says Josh Axe, DNM, author of Keto Diet (Little Brown Spark, 2019). “The keto diet is beneficial for protecting your brain, lowering the risk for metabolic syndrome and for dealing with many other common health problems, like fatigue, hormonal imbalances and mood swings.” But as with so many things, you have to do it strategically to reap the benefits.

What is keto again?

In general, the ketogenic diet calls for about 70 to 80% of total calories from fat, 10 to 20% from protein and 5 to 10% from carbohydrate. Those numbers represent percentage of calories, not percentage of your plate; fat has more calories per gram than either protein or carbohydrates (9 for fat vs. 4 for protein and carbs), so you need less volume of fat to get to that 70 to 80%. This is important, because there’s a common misconception that “going keto” means giving up vegetables and focusing on meat and cheese.

Keto 2.0

You don’t have to forgo vegetables to go keto — just the opposite. “It’s essential to eat nonstarchy vegetables on the keto diet like leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, mushrooms, peppers, etc., in order to get fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” Axe says. Diane Sanfilippo, author of (Victory Belt Pulishing, 2019) agrees, “The reality is that to get into ketosis, not eating carb-heavy foods will do the trick — and sticking to a certain pretty low level of carbs overall, of course — but that isn’t at the expense of lots of vegetables. I include tons of veggies in my meals, especially green leafy vegetables, and there’s absolutely room for them in the keto diet.” Getting the fat needed for keto “doesn’t require loading up (Grand Central Life and Style, 2016). “You can eat a lot of plant-based fat, such as nuts and nut butter, olive oil, avocado, coconut butter, even very dark chocolate.”

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