Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)
Please note this is not to be taken as health advice or used to treat and health condition. If you want to know more about how this information can be applied to you, please seek advice from your health care provider.
Both Personally and professionally I believe that being in a state of ketosis is beneficial for human health. However, I don’t agree that it is something to be sustained long term and I certainly don’t agree that being in ketosis is our default nutritional state. When we look back through history at traditional cultures and diets, how we ate was influenced largely by our environment, the seasons and the produce we had available. There would be periods of feasting and famine, times of increased and decreased carbohydrate sources from the varying local plant foods they had access too, something that we have lost in our modern times. Now we are in a constant ‘fed state’, rarely experiencing deprivation of caloric energy, but for many consuming a SAD diet (Standard Australian Diet) or heavily processed diet would be lacking essential nutrients.
What is Ketosis
Ketosis is a physiological state, it’s something that naturally occurs in a state of fasting or starvation, or when there is limited carbohydrates (that are broken down to glucose) and glycogen (stored glucose) is depleted through movement. The end goal is to enter a state of ketosis, this occurs when our metabolism switches from burning glucose to burning ketones for fuel. In order to produce ketones, the diet must be carefully managed so that more fat is being consumed and carbohydrates are limited with moderate protein.
The ketogenic diet is a term used to describe a low carbohydrate and high-fat diet, this is to support and maintain this state of ketosis that can be difficult to maintain. There’s no one size fits all approach to this, due to our biochemical diversity some may maintain this ketogenic state far easier and be able to consume higher amounts of carbohydrates than the next.
Where most fall short in this is, they consume too many carbohydrates without realising. This can be through different milk products, like almond milk and soy milk, yogurts, cacao powder or chocolate and even nuts and seeds. Others may not track appropriately and simply not eat enough fat in their diet. Choosing the right fats is also important, more on this later.
So, What Are My Thoughts on Ketosis?
I think it’s great when done appropriately. A standard ‘keto diet’ is heavily focused on meats and dairy products like cream and cheese, which I don’t agree with. We need minerals, we need polyphenols as these are great for our health and there are many great high-fat plant foods that can be included in the mix.
I personally cycle in and out of ketosis quite easily. I practice of time restricted feeding, ensuring that I eat within a 10-hour window or less but not reducing my food quantity, I combine this with fasting intermittently for 16-20 hours only a few days out of the week, combined with a low carbohydrate, high fat diet allows me to remain in a state of ketosis. I’ll do this for 2-3 weeks at a time, no more. This feels good for me, its balanced and it gets me the benefits of being in ketosis short term. But this would not apply to everyone as we are all so wonderfully unique.
What Can Go Wrong
A true ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fat, however its paramount that protein is moderate and at the right amounts for you. There are certain amino acids broken down from the protein we eat that are able to be used as glucose via a process known as gluconeogenesis. For women, in the long term low carb diets or restrictive dieting can influence female sex hormones and have negative outcomes on female fertility, our menstrual cycles, mental health, sleep and more. As women we have a beautifully complex and perfectly designed system which relies on our intricate hormonal dance, something we don’t want to disrupt with extreme dietary approaches.
Another occurrence with many low carb dieters is the demonisation of all carbohydrates that can take place, so its important to remind you all of the vast difference between carbohydrates found in refined flours and sugar or those that are from whole-food sources like potatoes and other starchy vegetables and whole fruit. Eating too many refined carbohydrates can have damaging effects on metabolic markers and blood sugar levels however I have not come across any research to show that eating carbohydrates from whole-foods leads to metabolic dysfunctions or conditions like diabetes.
I am mindful of the change to our microbiome that occurs with the restriction of carbohydrates. The bacteria within our gut feeds off of fibre from the diet, fibre is found in carbohydrate containing foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and beans. A ketogenic diet restricts many of these food groups and as a result the bacteria starve. It’s important to ensure you’re consuming non-digestable fermentable fibres like resistant starch that don’t contribute to our carbohydrate load. I always advise you work with a health professional on this to ensure your diet is appropriate.
What Can Go Right
The application of a ketogenic diet has been shown to have therapeutic effects for many health conditions, however this does not mean that it is to be applied to everyone. We know from research that conditions like epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, PCOS, Parkinsons and Alzheirmers Disease may benefit from the application of a ketogenic diet as well as to support weight loss in some people groups, like menopause (working with a health professional, of course). There is no one-size-fits-all approach to diet.
Another known benefit of ketosis is that fasting mimicking effects it has within the body. This triggers autophagy a process of cell cleaning, removing old cells and repairing damaged ones. This can have benefits on our immune system, brain function, skin health, energy, inflammation levels and more.
I see many people benefit greatly from this style of eating, but many also don’t. We are so beautifully and wonderfully unique and this should be celebrated. I have seen differences between different body types that can help indicate whether a low carb approach is right for you, but please always consult with your health practitioner before radically changing your diet.
Some Food for Thought
When thinking about trying a low carb or ketogenic diet ensure that you’re still getting a wide variety of plant foods, this is still possible to do so while maintaining your ketogenic state.
Make it primarily plant-based. Eat plenty of low carb vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and spinach.
If choosing to eat meat, opt for quality meat products like grass-fed organic beef, pasture raised hens, wild caught fish, and organic pastured eggs.
Drink lots of water, add a little sea salt for electrolytes
Eat a variety of fat-rich plant foods like avocado, macadamias, hemp seeds and olives
Always opt for whole foods, not binge on ‘fat bombs’ and coconut oil
Listen to your body and work with a professional, please!
Interesting in trying this out for yourself? Get in touch, I’d be happy to put together a tailored to you ketogenic plan to suit your needs and be aligned with your health goals.
Yours in health,