A ketogenic diet is a type of very low-carb diet that is gaining popularity in health and wellness circles for a number of reasons. “Keto,” the root word of ketogenic, is short for “ketosis,” which refers to the metabolic state that occurs when most of the body’s energy comes from ketone bodies in the blood, rather than from glucose. This is in contrast to a glycolytic state, during which blood glucose—or sugar, derived mostly from carbohydrates—provides most of the body’s fuel.
If all this sounds too technical, remember that when the body relies on ketones for energy, the results can include blood sugar control and the treatment of certain health conditions, including heart disease and type-2 diabetes. But the most popular consequence reason many people turn a the ketogenic diet is weight loss.
A 2014 review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health states, “One of the most studied strategies in recent years for weight loss is the ketogenic diet. Many studies have shown that this kind of nutritional approach has a solid physiological and biochemical basis and is able to induce effective weight loss along with improvement in several cardiovascular risk parameters.”
While the ketogenic diet can certainly provide many health benefits, it’s important to steer clear of common pitfalls. Here are the five most common Ketogenic diet mistakes.
- Not Getting Enough Healthy Fats
A traditional Ketogenic diet consists of about 75 percent fat, five percent carbohydrates and 20 percent protein. So, considering the types of fat you consume on this low-carb, high-fat diet is very important, because all fats aren’t created equally. Aim to obtain healthy fats from coconut oil (and other coconut products), olive oil, avocado, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sprouted nuts, organic grass-fed meat and raw dairy products. Avoid conventionally raised meats and non-organic, pasteurized dairy, as well as heavily processed oils like canola, safflower and sunflower.
For a less extreme plan, I recommend a ratio that is about 40 percent fat, 30 percent protein and 30 percent carb. Results may not be as rapid as with the traditional ketogenic diet, but as long as you focus on healthy fat and protein sources, results will come.
- Eating Conventionally Raised Meat
I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s worth mentioning again: Paying attention to the quality of the meat you consume on a ketogenic diet ensures that you are not only getting higher quality protein, but also higher quality fat as well. According to a study conducted at California State University’s College of Agriculture, grass-fed beef nutrition is significantly higher in omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional, grain-fed beef. CLA is a powerful polyunsaturated fatty acid that’s been shown to help fight cancer, discourage weight gain and build muscle.
Not only is grass-fed beef a top source of animal protein, but it’s also higher in precursors for vitamin A and E, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants, than grain-fed beef. You also want to opt for grass-fed and organic meats to avoid factory-farmed meats that are known for being higher in unwanted health destroyers like antibiotics and growth hormones.
- Choosing the Wrong Carbs
When you’re following a Ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are going to be the food group at the bottom of your consumption list. However, it’s important to remember that this is not a no-carb diet, and you should incorporate the right carbohydrates into your meals, particularly unprocessed, complex carbs.
Some examples of great carb choices include sweet potatoes; ancient grains (ideally sprouted) like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and brown rice; whole fruits; beans and legumes; and small amounts of natural sweeteners like raw honey.
Note: If you’re very active, consider carb cycling or at least eating a modified keto diet that does not severely restrict carb intake. Carb cycling is the process of eating more carbohydrates on certain days. Among other benefits, it can provide more energy for exercise and aid muscle recovery.
- Not Getting Enough Fiber
When followers of a ketogenic diet cut out carbs, they sometimes end up on a low-fiber diet, which can lead to constipation. To avoid this common mistake, make sure to consume high-fiber foods like non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits daily. Any healthy, low-carb diet should always have an emphasis on vegetable consumption because vegetables—especially leafy greens like kale and mustard greens—are extremely low in sugar yet high in fiber content. They’re also loaded with health-promoting antioxidants and phytonutrients.
- Eating Too Many Processed Foods
In an effort to reduce your carbohydrate intake, you do not want to end up consuming a bunch of unhealthy, overly processed “low-carb” bars, shakes, cookies and other seemingly healthy food products. Read ingredient labels carefully because these foods are often loaded with a laundry list of ingredients including unhealthy preservatives. Plus, no matter what diet you’re following, focus on consuming whole, healing foods.
Beware of any “diet” or “sugar-free” fake foods that contain dangerous artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. These sugar substitutes may have no calories and zero grams of sugar, but they have been linked to numerous health conditions including headaches, digestive distress, migraines, mood disorders and even cancer.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored ‘Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and Five Surprising Steps to Cure It’ and he operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at http://www.DrAxe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DRJoshAxe.