by Associate Clinician Felicia Pasquale
Want to lose weight, feel more energy than you have ever felt before, and clean up your brain fog? Consider a ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet focuses on burning fat, providing your body with a steady source of energy, and nourishing your brain.
What does “ketogenic” even mean? Ketogenic means “to burn ketones.” Ketones are something that you burn when you are not eating a heavy concentration of carbohydrates, specifically sugar and grains. When eating only fats, meats, and non-starchy vegetables, the body can go into ketosis, which means burning fat or ketones. That sounds exciting! A ketogenic diet typically consists of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.
When we eat starchy carbohydrates such as bagels, breads, sandwich rolls, granola bars, dry cereals, or even oatmeal or potatoes, it doesn’t give our body an opportunity to really burn fat. When we eat these carbohydrates, our pancreas secrets insulin, and sugar is turned into energy for immediate use. Whatever is not used at that time is stored in the liver or adipose tissue (AKA fat). This is definitely not what we want! Can you see how eating too many carbohydrates and sugars will make you gain weight and not allow your body to burn any fat? The body will keep storing the sugar until it’s overflowing. Eating a diet of mostly fat, protein, and minimal non-starchy carbohydrates will allow your body to actually get into the adipose tissue to burn fat (ketosis) which is what you do want.
At first, this change of diet does take some getting used to! Our clients at the Well of Life will ask, “What am I even going eat, especially on the go?!” That’s where we can definitely help them out with plenty of ideas we have gathered over the last ten years. Sources of good fats should include homemade bone broth, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, and grass fed ghee (clarified butter). Healthy protein choices include grass fed beef, pastured or organic chicken and eggs, or wild caught fish, like salmon, cod, haddock, or halibut. Make sure you include some organic non-starchy vegetables, like spinach, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, zucchini, and peppers, to name a few. Some people may feel tired or hungry in the beginning. It’s just your body getting used to using fats and proteins for energy, rather than carbohydrates. Your body will eventually get used to it and thank you one hundred times over!
Since most people’s bodies are used to primarily using sugars to provide them with their main energy source, they can tend to feel a little sluggish in the afternoon. What do most people reach for when this happens? They reach for something sweet or something with a high concentration of “carbs.” There’s no doubt that a granola bar or that “healthy” chocolate-covered protein bar will give you the burst of energy you are looking for. However, what ends up happening is that, one hour later, you need more carbs to get more energy. So, you are on a constant quest for carbs to keep you functional, which is also going to make you gain weight, not to mention put your blood sugar all over the map! That’s because carbs burn like a newspaper in a fire. Newspaper will definitely get a fire started quickly. However, as soon as it is consumed, the fire is gone and the energy source is gone as well. In the body, starchy carbohydrates are expended in no time at all, leaving you hungry and looking for more carbs! Burning sugar constantly for fuel also tends to create more free radical activity in the body. Proteins and fats are much less hazardous to burn. They burn cleaner and don’t create free radicals. Clients will often tell me they feel inflamed all over. They are correct! Sugar is definitely one of the factors that create this type of environment in the body.
Conversely, put a log onto a fire. This is going to take a little longer to get the fire started. However, once you do, you will have a nice, steady, magnificent fire that will burn at an even pace, providing a continuous source of energy throughout your day! This is similar to what happens when you eat primarily fats, proteins, and some non-starchy vegetables. You feel full and satiated until your next meal, not always looking for or needing a snack, because your blood sugar is stable.
Not only do fats provide a steady burning fuel for your body, they also nourish and deliver energy to your brain. MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oils, such as those contained in coconut oil and grass fed butter, provide a steady source of energy for the brain. Yes, the brain needs energy! Don’t starve it with carbs and sugars! Approximately 62-65% of the fat found in coconut oil is of the MCT type. The body is able to process MCT oils much faster than the longer chain fatty acids such as those found in plant oils. MCT oils are sent directly to the liver for processing, bypassing many steps that other oils need to take in order to be digested. For this reason, these fats are also an easy source of energy for the brain. According to scientific studies, coconut oil has been proven to improve memory and recall in older people. This is a major reason Alzheimer’s patients can make dramatic improvements by consuming coconut oil. Providing your brain with this energy source can have dramatic results for you as well. Instead of starving your brain, feed it!
Before starting any kind of diet, always check with your doctor or heath care practitioner. When burning fat on a ketogenic diet, you will eliminate toxins as well. They are stored in adipose tissue, or fat. When eliminating toxins, it is imperative that bowels and kidneys are working properly. These are called your excretory routes, pathways that toxins use to leave the body. Another concern would be someone who doesn’t have a gallbladder. Consuming more fats will require more bile to break them down. Bile is normally stored and concentrated in the gallbladder. Even though the liver will still produce bile, it’s not as effective at breaking down fats without a gallbladder to super concentrate the bile.
A ketogenic diet will provide three of the items on most new clients’ wish lists: weight loss, improved energy, and clearer thinking. Besides helping them reach these goals, it’s going to provide their body with some quality food and nourishment, which they desperately need, a little detoxification, and a means for them to feel so much better about themselves.
Felicia Pasquale, NTP
Felicia Pasquale is an Associate Clinician at the Well of Life Center for Natural Health. The Well of Life Center is a holistic wellness center that specializes in nutrition, chiropractic, massage services, and more. Celebrating their 11th year in business, the Well of Life Center has locations in Doylestown and Bethlehem, PA. For more information, please visit welloflifecenter.com.