There are four million #keto posts on Instagram and more than 69 million keto diet recipes on Pinterest. But the original keto diet wasn’t actually created to help anyone fit into a smaller pair of shorts.
The ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920s as a cure for epilepsy. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota noticed that some epilepsy patients who had low blood sugar or were starving had fewer seizures, so they created a diet to trick your body into thinking it is starving. When you starve, your body will generate glucose for the brain. Seizures are abnormal electric discharges of the brain and the ketones that are formed in your body to give you energy on a ketogenic diet seem to have an anti-electrical effect on the brain. So an epileptic patient will have less seizures.
The main goal of a keto diet is to put your body into ketosis — a state where it burns fat instead of carbs for fuel. The diet consists of mostly fat, which makes up 75 per cent of your daily calories, along with moderate consumption of protein (20 per cent) and very few carbs (less than 5 per cent). This can be great initially because of the satiating value of fat. Most people aren’t hungry in the first few days and tend to lose a lot of water and muscle initially before the fat loss kicks in, motivating them to move forward. But for a lasting change, being able to maintain a lifestyle beyond the first few months matters much more than your first attempt at forming new habits.
The good stuff
Keto gets your body used to eating more fat and less carbs. This is a great thing because our body performs a lot of functions better when it is using fat as a fuel rather than carbs.
Fat has a wonderful effect on your insulin levels. Balancing your insulin hormone is one of the best things you can do for your body. A lot of metabolic chaos occurs when this hormone is constantly going up and down because of carbohydrates.
If and when you eat the right kind of fat, you can actually reverse some serious hormonal issues because a lot of our hormones are steroid hormones, which means they are made up of fat. So when you change the quantity and quality of fat you consume in your diet, it’s a no-brainer that your hormones will reset and realign.
Eating fat gives your body the sign to secrete more bile, and bile helps clear unwanted toxins from your body. A toxin overload can lead to lesser bile production, which also interferes with fat burning.
More fat also helps your stomach lining stop production of the hunger hormone ghrelin, making you feel full faster. Stable insulin and less ghrelin are the two main reasons people don’t get hungry on ketosis diets.
The bad stuff
I know so many who jump to keto because you can eat cheese and processed meats. But here are few things that can wrong when you go so low on carbs for too long.
Your stomach lining needs carbohydrates so that the mucus lining stays protected. With fewer carbs, this mucus lining gets affected, causing not only dry eyes but also gut permeability issues, making us more prone to food sensitivities and allergies.
When you go below 50-80 grams of carbs, your brain starts to starve of glucose and will wake you up many times in the middle of the night to feed your body carbs.
Keto diets allow just 15-20 per cent protein so don’t be surprised if you notice that you have hair fall. The main iron storage molecule, ferritin, is a protein. So when your protein intake is low it can affect your iron levels and this causes hair fall.
The main reason your cholesterol goes up is because you are eating the wrong kind of fats. You should try to consume good fats such as avocado, ghee and coconut oil.
Rashi Chowdhary is a nutritionist and diabetes educator.