What is The Keto Diet? And a Discussion on Metabolism

What is The Keto Diet? And a Discussion on Metabolism

In keeping with our January topic of trendy diets, this week we are going to discuss the Keto Diet. This diet has been recommended for years for patients dealing with epilepsy, as well as for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. Recently, the Keto Diet has come into trend for the general population, and supporters tout its benefits from losing weight, clearing acne, achieving better hormone balance, and just feeling better.

What is the keto diet?

The basis of this diet is a very high intake of fat (consuming 75-80% of calories in the diet from fat), a moderate intake of protein (10-15% of calories from protein), and a very low intake of carbohydrates (only 5% of calories in the diet from carbohydrates). These may sound startling as the current diet recommendations are actually 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates, 20-35% of calories from protein, and 20-35% of calories from fat. Thus, the keto diet is based on keeping protein intake about the same, or increasing it slightly, while dastically increasing the intake of fat, and drastically decreasing the intake of carbohydrates, in the diet.

How does metabolism work?

To understand the reasons why the keto diet is not a general recommendation, let’s delve into a discussion on how our body metabolizes the foods that we eat, specifically the fats and carbohydrates that we ingest. The term metabolism is simply a way to say: the break down of the food that is digested into the smaller units of nutrients that our body will be able to use for energy.

Metabolism of Carbohydrates

In the metabolism of carbohydrates, the starches we ingest are broken down into glucose.  Afterward, glucose is further broken down in several steps:

1. glucose molucule is broken down into pyruvate molecule

2. pyruvate molecule is manipulated to form the molecule acetyl-CoA

3. acetyl-CoA molecule is further converted to form the energy molecules that our organs can use

It may get easy to get bogged down by the molecule names, but they are important to follow to understand how our body uses the fats and carbohydrates that we ingest.

Metabolism of Fats

When our body metabolizes the fats that we ingest, the fats are broken down into fatty acids. The fatty acids can in turn be broken down further into acetyl-CoA. Remember from the discussion above that carbohydrates are also broken down into this molecule.

Comparing The Breakdown of Carbohydrates vs. Fats

At this point in our body’s metabolism, fats and carbohydrates are now in the same form, but carbohydrates had one additional break down step to get there. It is critical to note that in order for the body to continue the breakdown of these molecules, the body has to detect the presence of that first breakdown of glucose, the presence of the pyruvate molecule.  The body needs to be metabolizing carbohydrates to ensure pyruvate is around to trigger ongoing metabolism.

This piece of information is the basis of why a diet extremely low in carbohydrates will not cause your body to burn exclusively fat. Your body can breakdown stored and ingested fat, but only if it also senses the presence of pyruvate from carbohydrates in its system to keep the metabolism cycle going.

Where does the keto diet get its name?

If the body is not able to complete the breakdown of fatty acids because ongoing metabolism is not being triggered, molecules known as ketone bodies (hence: keto diet) are produced and may start to accumulate in the blood. This build up can spill into the urine, and when the molecules are excreted, they can pull out important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium with them, causing an ion imbalance in the body.

Additionally, if this diet is continued over a prolonged time, the body will start to use these ketone bodies as energy in the heart, kidneys, and eventually the brain, a condition known as ketosis.

The State of Ketosis

Ketosis is simply the term that describes the state of the body when your body is using ketone bodies as energy instead of the traditional breakdown of glucose for energy. Although some people swear by the effectiveness of this state for fat burning and weight loss, it is not the commonly recommended diet for the average person. A keto diet should not be embarked upon without the supervision and guidance of a registered dietitian nutritionist, so if you have interest in this diet, please consult with us so that we can assist you in implementing a healthy diet plan that is tailored to your needs.

How Can We Implement The Keto Diet in Accordance with the Recommendations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics?

As always, we can take away some beneficial points that are highlighted with this diet trend. A major component of the keto diet is to avoid processed sugars and refined grains like white breads and white potatoes, which are also recommendations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The diet also focuses on simple, whole foods that provide great sources of macro and micro nutrients. Try out some keto recipes this week and let us know what you think!

Weekly Meal Plan

Day 1: We love the ease of this coconut chicken from Keto Keuhn Nutrition, which uses coconut flour and coconut flakes instead of breadcrumbs. Serve with our own recipe for barley and grilled veggies for a well rounded easy meal.

Day 2: Check out Keto Keuhn Nutrition’s blog post about the nutritional benefits of pork in this recipe for rosemary Dijon pork loin roast. Serve with our own recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Dijon Mustard and Walnuts for a side with flavors that mesh seamlessly.

Day 3: We love a slow cooker and some beef and broccoli. Couldn’t be easier!

Day 4: Encorporate healthy fats from fish into your diet with these salmon meatballs. Serve with a whole wheat pasta if you aren’t sticking to 100% keto.

Day 5: Embrace the benefits of a vegetable based dish in this zucchini lasagna with turkey meat sauce.

This Week’s Grocery List

Keto Grocery List

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