In over twenty years in practice, I’ve seen a lot of diet trends come and go — Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, high-carb, low-carb. Some of them have been really solid and based on how the human body naturally processes food. Others…not so much.
The Rise of Keto
Over the last four or five years, various Keto diets have popped up, and most of these diets are pretty good. I’ve written about eating for Ketosis a few times here. Again, they aren’t perfect, and there are some eating plans that aren’t very smart (bacon only? really?), but the concept works: about 80 percent of your total calories each day should come from healthy fats and some meats. That’s a complete 180-degree turn from where our food supply has gone over the last 60 years or so.
(If you want to see how I feel about the bad rap fat got in the 20th century, you can read it here. A few badly-conceived research studies pinned all the blame for heart disease on saturated fat. Millions of people switched to “low-fat” foods and our rate of obesity and chronic diseases exploded. How did that happen? Could it be that our understanding of fat was manipulated by a handful of people who stood to profit from the confusion?)
The Rationale of Keto
Anyway, the Keto diet moves people away from calorie counting and portion control to focus on giving your body the right kind of fuel. Your body was designed to burn fat for fuel, not sugar or other carbs. When your body makes the switch to burning fat and producing ketones, your body enters a state called “ketosis.”
There are plenty of healthy reasons to do this (managing blood sugar and insulin levels, reducing seizures, etc.), but most people do it to lose weight. Your body (on a cellular level) thinks it is fasting. While you can’t fast for more than a few days at a time, you can enjoy the same benefits of extended fasting for weeks or months at a time by limiting your carbs and entering ketosis. Granted, there are limits to the Keto diet as well, which I wrote about here.
The Keto diet is exciting to a lot of people right now. You’ve probably already see videos and articles about it. You probably have at least one friend who is trying it. I think the diet has a lot of merits, but I want to provide a little guidance if you’re considering it.
The Error of Keto
One of the key mistakes people make when they get on the Keto diet is that they confuse “low carbs” with “meat and fat only.” The biggest problem with the Atkins Diet back in the 1980s and 1990s was that it was “high protein,” so people were eating a ton of beef and pork products to the exclusion of any grains, so they weren’t getting enough dietary fiber. That will take you down the road to heart disease quickly.
Yes, you absolutely should avoid sugars and starchy foods, but you still need fiber. You can’t digest that meat and fat properly if you don’t give your body the fiber it needs to sustain your healthy digestive bacteria in the gut. If you know someone on the Keto diet, you’ve probably heard them complain about constipation. They aren’t getting enough fiber (and maybe not enough water, too).
Where To Find Fiber
But how do you keep to a low-carb diet and still get the fiber you need? If you associate fiber with bread and whole-grain cereal, then this is probably confusing to you. It doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of foods that are Keto-friendly and high in fiber, including:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Spinach and other leafy greens.
Sounds like a great salad to me. Blend a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and you have an unbeatable salad.
There are also plenty of nuts and seeds that make a great Keto-friendly snack, provided you keep the portions small. I suggest you chop up a quarter-cup of raw walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, or almonds, and sprinkle them over your salad.
“Super” Keto-friendly Foods
Avocado is not only a great source of fiber and healthy fat, it’s also high in potassium. It’s a Keto staple that is used in hundreds of recipes. Drop an avocado in your next smoothie, over a salad, or as a side to some grilled wild salmon, and you have a terrific, heart-healthy meal that will keep you satisfied for hours. Drop a little lime, salt, and cilantro over it. Wow!
Coconut is one of the most perfect food sources known to man. I know they talk about “super-foods,” but coconut is cheap, easy to come by (especially here in Florida), and delicious with just about anything. It’s a perfect fat source, high in fiber, and coconut’s high concentration of folate and selenium are great for your brain. I’ve seen coconut milk, coconut flakes, coconut chips, coconut oil, and even coconut flour.
Chia seeds are another superfood that you can add to a smoothie or soak in a bottle of water. They are great for balancing blood sugar and promoting digestive health, and they are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
If you have “gone Keto” and experienced the digestive issues we talked about earlier, then I recommend a bulking fiber like psyllium husk to help “flush out the pipes.” You can buy it as a powder or in capsule form.
The More You Know
Here at Fundamental Health Solutions, we teach people to think right, eat right, move right, and live right. It’s not enough to have a healthy spine or a free-flowing nervous system. We want to see you enjoying wholeness in every part of your body. If you’re thinking about starting the Keto diet, you have my blessing, but I want you to know how to manage it so that you enjoy the best benefits and don’t get caught in the pitfalls that come along with any diet. If you have questions about it, please put them in comments on Facebook or stop by my office behind the YMCA on Pine Ridge Road in Naples.
And don’t forget to take a few seconds right now to share this article on your favorite social media channel. You might surprised at who you know that has “gone Keto” and needs to read this.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas