As health concerns become increasingly prevalent, the ketogenic diet, also known as “keto,” is becoming a new health trend in the United States.
The science behind keto, which is a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet, is that carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose and then are transported around the body as a fueling source. But, if there is only a small amount of carbohydrates in the diet, the liver converts fat into acids and ketones, and those are used instead of glucose as an energy source.
“We use it a lot,” Dee Harris said, who is a nutritionist and dietician for D-Signed Nutrition in Fort Myers. “Keto is great for neurological conditions such as epilepsy. We have had many experiences where keto has shown to promote brain health.”
According to Harris, sending ketones to the brain rather than glucose creates more nerve synapses in the brain, which can have positive effects such as memory retention.
The potential benefits of a ketogenic diet don’t stop at neurological improvement. A lot of athletes are using it.
According to Harris, athletes that burn fat versus carbohydrates allow themselves to burn a lot more calories. The ketones in the body rather than glucose allow for higher levels of energy to be sustained for a longer period of time.
However, for the average everyday citizen, partaking in a ketogenic diet is not the simplest process. It’s a strict diet, even requiring a daily intake of some unfamiliar fuels such as coconut oil.
According to Harris, coconut or MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil is necessary on a ketogenic diet to have the energy to get a person through the day.
“A lot of people do it incorrectly,” Harris said. “It’s a tough diet to sustain because carbohydrates are in a lot of food we are so used to eating like bread and fruit. For experienced people on the ketogenic diet, they are only allowed to about a cup of berries a day, and that’s about it for their carb intake.”
According to Harris, people don’t need to follow the diet in a highly strict manner to see improvements in their body. Staying away from processed foods, chips and sugar will make major, positive differences in the body.
“Know what you’re doing and get your meal plan done carefully by someone who knows what they are talking about,” Harris said. “Keto is just a buzz word right now. The better and broader goal is to clean up your diet in general.”