It’s the first week of 2018, which means many people are drafting New Year’s 2018 resolutions, and for a lot of them, dropping 10, 20, 50 or more pounds is top priority. The question is, if losing weight is your top goal for 2018, what’s the best way to get started?
Throughout the years, many diets have entered the limelight, only to fade away almost as quickly as they appeared.
The Military Diet, for example, involved eating foods like hot dogs and ice cream with the promise of losing 10 pounds in just one week. Meanwhile, the Cabbage Soup Diet proposed that eating little other than cabbage soup could help you drop (and keep off) unwanted pounds.
As you can imagine, these diets are ineffective on a long-term basis and almost always lead to rebound weight gain once you quit the “diet” and start eating normally again. Additionally, these eating plans can also have a big impact on your overall health. An unhealthy diet can increase your risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health concerns over time.
Luckily, there is a better way to lose weight that provides significant results in a relatively short amount of time. And as a bonus, you can also fight disease and reap some seriously impressive health benefits. Enter the ketogenic diet, a diet that pairs a high amount of fat with a low amount of carbs for major health-boosting and weight loss benefits.
History of the Ketogenic Diet
Since at least 500 BC, fasting has been used as a natural treatment for epilepsy. Then, in the 1920s, doctors began developing the ketogenic diet, which was designed to treat epilepsy through this same mechanism. (1)
This is because, like fasting, the ketogenic diet involves entering into a state of ketosis. When you consume a very low amount of carbohydrates, like in the ketogenic diet, your body switches from using glucose from those carbohydrates as fuel and, instead, breaks down fat stores for energy.
In recent years, interest has continued to grow for the ketogenic diet, and right now, it is one of the most popular eating plans in the wellness space. That’s actually a good thing, as research has uncovered that, in addition to weight loss, there are a multitude of other potential uses for the ketogenic diet, from fighting depression to helping kill cancer cells and beyond.
How to Keto Diet Works
For Weight Loss
Because the ketogenic diet is a very-low carbohydrate diet that involves switching from burning glucose (sugar) to fat stores for energy, it’s easy to see how the burning of fat stores inevitably leads to weight loss.
In fact, in one study, 83 obese patients were placed on a ketogenic diet for 24 weeks, which led to significant decreases in both body weight and body mass index. (2) Another study showed that a high-protein ketogenic diet decreased hunger and lowered food intake more than a non-ketogenic diet. (3)
In addition to kicking up fat-burning and spurring weight loss, ketogenic diets have also been associated with a slew of other health benefits.
One of the most impressive benefits of the keto diet on health is its potential cancer-fighting abilities, as cancer cells rely on carbohydrates to grow, multiply, and spread throughout the body, and a ketogenic diet deprives them of this fuel. (4)
Dietary guidelines for type 2 diabetes typically recommend moderating your carbohydrate intake to prevent spikes in blood sugar, often allowing around 45-60 grams of carbohydrates at each meal. Some research, however, has actually shown that a ketogenic diet (which reduces crabs much more significantly) could be more effective in regulating blood sugar and even reversing diabetes.
One such study required 84 participants with type 2 diabetes to follow either a low-glycemic index diet or a ketogenic diet for 24 weeks. Compared to the low-glycemic group, those on a ketogenic diet had greater improvements in blood sugar and more were able to either reduce or stop taking diabetes medications. (8)
Research also shows that the ketogenic diet could benefit your heart health by reducing certain heart disease risk factors.
A 2002 study found that the ketogenic diet helped decrease triglyceride levels while also increasing levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol (9), and another study found that following the ketogenic diet for 24 weeks led to a reduction in triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels—all major heart disease risk factors. (2)
Tips for a Healthy Ketogenic Diet
Now that you understand the benefits of the keto diet, it’s important to understand that significantly increasing your fat intake while slashing carbs the healthy way can actually be quite tricky. Thus, a modified ketogenic diet is a good starting place for most, which consists of about 30 percent calories from carbs, 40 percent from fat, and 30 percent from protein.
Here are some other tips for a healthy ketogenic diet:
- Pick healthy fats. This diet is high in fat, but not all fats are created equally. Using olive oil, for example, will get you better results than highly processed vegetable oils or margarine. Other healthy fat options include ghee, coconut oil, chia seeds, flaxseed and avocados.
- Select good carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet really restricts your carb intake, so the carbs that you do eat should be nutrient-rich and healthy. Non-starchy vegetables or low-glycemic fruits are great options.
- Stay hydrated. Because you’re decreasing your fiber intake, constipation is one of the major issues encountered on this diet. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help keep things moving.
Using the ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy should be done under medical supervision. If you have diabetes and are on the ketogenic diet, you should test blood sugar levels regularly to make sure they are within normal limits. Additionally, if you experience side effects like fatigue, weakness, insomnia or irritability, you may want to consider increasing your carb intake.
For most people, however, the ketogenic diet can be a safe, healthy option to increase weight loss and fight chronic disease one bite at a time.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored ‘Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and Five Surprising Steps to Cure It’ and he operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at http://www.DrAxe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DRJoshAxe.