Our next instalment in the dietary lifestyles series is about “paleo” and “keto” diets. I’m relatively new to both types of diet themes. Paleo diet I remember learning about in early 2014 and trying it for about a week (I did no research, just used it as an excuse to buy sausages…..fail). Keto diet – I just learned about a few weeks ago. So here we go:
A paleo diet is short for a “paleolithic” diet, meaning closely resembling the way our ancestors (cavemen) used to eat. There have been a few offshoots of paleo diets along the way, but from my research it looks like the orthodox paleo diet is meant to emphasize connecting with your food (real, whole food) and getting the highest quality products (i.e. grass fed organic beef, organic vegetables, un-processed nuts and seeds). The apparent benefits of following the Paleo diet are said to be weight loss, minimized risk of chronic disease, more energy, muscle growth, and improved sleep. The apparent complaints about paleo are that it eliminates the nutrients from all grains, and the assumption that humans have not evolved from the paleolithic era.
The founder of the Paleo diet has a website explaining the diet guidelines. The premise seems to be emphasizing high protein intake, low carbohydrate intake, moderate to high fat intake, and alkalizing foods (fruits/veg).
What you are “allowed” to eat: grass-fed meat, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, whole oils (olive, flax, macadamia, etc).
What you are “not allowed” to eat: dairy, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugar, salt, potatoes, processed foods, refined oils.
So…there you go. For me, I find dietary lifestyles where you rely on someone else to tell you what you are ‘allowed’ to eat to be neither sustainable nor empowering. So this is not the diet for me. But I do see the merit in emphasizing whole real foods (I agree with limiting refined sugar, oils and processed foods). If you feel that this connects with you, I encourage you to listen to your body for cues on what it does and doesn’t like.
Researching this diet made me quite irritable last night. I have vowed to make these dietary lifestyle posts as objective as possible so I apologize in advance if any of my irritated thoughts slip through, haha! 🙂 it’s ok, emotions are with us for a reason, right?
The ketogenic (“keto”) diet originated in the 1920’s as treatment for a patient suffering from epilepsy. It was shown that by increasing fat intake (and subsequently reducing carbohydrates and protein) he was able to recover from seizures. Check out this website for more info on how it started! In more recent research, it has also been used as a therapeutic diet for people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This is great news for these people! For our purposes though, the rest of this post will be dedicated towards educating those who are trying out keto as a lifestyle for weight loss.
The diet: The premise is to follow a 4:1:1 ratio of food – to consume 4 grams of fat for every 1 gram of carbs and protein. As you can see, it is a very low carb/protein approach. From an earlier post I hope you all remember that your body uses glucose/sugar as its #1 source of fuel and energy. In this diet, however, there are too few glucose molecules to use up so the body starts burning fat. When your body only has the option of burning fat for energy (instead of glucose), molecules of fat breakdown called “ketones” start floating around your bloodstream.
*****let’s take a 1 second break and remind ourselves that this diet was created as a therapeutic treatment for patients with epilepsy, not for the average person wanting to lose weight. Read on to find out why this is a poor dietary lifestyle choice for the average person******
To do this diet “properly”, you should first go to your doctor to see if you are safe to proceed. You then need to purchase test strips and test your urine levels daily to a) ensure you are burning ketones and b) ensure you are not entering a state called keto-acidosis. Ketones are acidic compounds, and when you have elevated levels of ketones you get something called keto-acidosis, essentially very acidic blood. THIS IS DANGEROUS.
The downsides: what about protein? Protein is needed for literally all body functions, including building cells, tissues, muscles, eyes, hair, skin, organs, etc. Carbohydrates are your body’s natural source of energy and your body is designed to use them as fuel. Switching ketones for glucose is not sustainable and you are definitely not fooling your body into thinking this is normal! Too much fat can be very hard on your body, especially your arteries, liver, and digestion. Finally, becoming obsessed with a keto diet can lead to terrible, terrible advice such as this: “frying bacon in coconut oil then dipping it in mayonnaise is always encouraged“. This is advice from a holistic nutritionist (yikes!) who started her keto diet more than 6 months ago (research is limited if a keto diet is a safe option long term).
The only good part about her blog is that she makes good recipes. I did make her chocolate fudge flaxseed muffins and they turned out very well! I even forgot to add baking powder and they were still yummy 🙂
Hope that was informative! Have a good week everyone 🙂