As a health coach, I help people get on all kinds of special diets, including going ketogenic. Often times, it is prescribed for those with insulin issues like Type 1 and 2 Diabetes and nervous system issues like MS. For these diagnoses keto is extremely effective in stopping and reversing symptom progression and oftentimes, healing the body. However, as it has gained popularity, I have seen it take an extremely unhealthy, and even detrimental, turn.
I have women coming to me after 6 months or longer doing keto with their hair falling out in clumps and being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and needing medication for the rest of their life. I have men coming to me with extreme fatigue and bowel issues. Done right keto is therapeutic. Done wrong it will ruin your health.
How To Do Keto Right
#1 Eat Your Vegetables
This is the top mistake I see people making. They focus on the meat and cream cheese while avoiding the vegetables. I’m sorry to break it to you but keto is a plant-centered approach to eating. While you are to avoid the high carb veggies like potatoes, you NEED the fiber, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, vitamins, and minerals vegetables give us. Top vegetables to enjoy are dark, leafy greens (raw and cooked), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc), peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, onion, garlic, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, radish, and many, many more.
#2 Enjoy a Variety of Fats
Many people chose keto over paleo because it includes dairy. Full-fat dairy has health benefits for sure, but so do extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, other coconut products, avocado (the fruit and oil), egg yolks, olives, and even tallow and lard. You are doing a disservice to yourself if you aren’t eating a large veggie-filled salad with an olive oil and vinegar herb dressing, or are skipping green smoothies made with full-fat coconut milk or avocado. Minimize the dairy and enjoy a variety of healthy fats throughout your day.
#3 Include Fermented Foods
While you may lose weight, if your microbiome isn’t healthy, your overall health will continue to suffer. Fermented foods are low in carbs and full of probiotics, vitamin C, and much, much more. Homemade sauerkraut (like my recipe) is pennies to make and you’ll get up to 1 trillion probiotics in a tablespoon. Other fermented foods include any vegetable fermented, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and plain yogurt.
#4 Quality Foods
When it comes to meats, you want to purchase pasture-raised, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens and eggs, and wild-caught fish and game. When it comes to produce, be sure to follow the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 that the EWG puts out annually. Be sure to check what kind of olive oil you are buying as many are cut with other oils like soybean. You want to get the most nutrition for your buck and not continue to inflame your body.
#5 Understand the Macro Ratios for Keto
A true ketogenic diet is 75-80% fat, 15-20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. Many people who think they are doing keto are doing a low-carb primal diet. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if you doing ketogenic for nervous system issues like MS and seizures or diabetes management then making sure you are following a true ketogenic diet is essential.
A Word Of Caution
Many people see the ketogenic diet as a new diet fad. In a way it is. It is an effective diet for weight loss and extremely therapeutic when done correctly. The key word though is “correctly.” You can’t skimp on the veggies and dark leafy greens. If you suffer from any form of thyroid issue, adrenal fatigue, or hormone imbalance, keto is probably not the best option for you. Intermittent fasting is also therapeutic and much more sustainable long-term without harming your endocrine system.
Always talk with a holistic and open-minded medical professional before starting a ketogenic diet.