Keto for beginners: How to turn your body into a fat-burning machine
What's the science behind this trendy diet? Which foods can you eat? Dietician Larina Robinson answers all these questions and more
Keto is one of the biggest diets of modern times. It's a low-carb, high-fat diet that encourages your body to burn fat for energy.
On a keto diet, you'll be saying goodbye to carb-loaded bread and pasta, plus many fruits, grains and starchy vegetables. The allure of bacon, eggs and lashings of butter may sound very tempting, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind before getting started.
In this extract from her book, 'The Body Dietetics', dietician Larina Robinson explains the science behind this trending diet and explains which foods you can eat and should avoid:
WHAT IS THE KETO DIET?
The ketogenic "keto" diet was originally used to manage a range of conditions that affect the brain and nervous system, including epilepsy. Today, it is known for its potential to accelerate weight loss, improve your energy levels and enhance mental focus. However, consistency is crucial, and you'll need to be strict with the diet to get the best results.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. When it doesn't get enough, it kicks into "survival mode" and begins to use fat and some protein for energy instead. This survival mode is the state of ketosis, and is what you're trying to achieve by following the keto diet.
In ketosis, you're essentially switching your body into a fat-burning machine. Insulin levels decrease and large amounts of fatty acids are released from your body's fat stores. The liver then converts most of these into ketones that provide fuel for your body.
HOW DOES MY BODY GET INTO KETOSIS?
For ketosis to occur, you will need to eat about 50g or less of carbohydrates per day, which means a range of high-carbohydrate foods must be excluded or eaten in very small amounts, including grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, sugar and most fruits.
A keto diet naturally contains less fluid from food sources, so make sure to drink plenty of water to prevent unwanted digestive side-effects
Opt for high-fibre, low-carbohydrate foods to keep your digestive system happy and help you feel full for longer, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, coconut, cauliflower, spinach, avocado and raspberries.
Don't forget hydration! A keto diet naturally contains less fluid from food sources, so make sure to drink plenty of water to prevent unwanted digestive side-effects, including constipation.
WHAT TYPES OF FAT DO I EAT?
Aim to eat a variety of different high-fat foods as the bulk of your meals, alongside a small amount of protein-rich food and very limited carbohydrates. Think coconut, nuts, cream, butter, coconut oils, avocado, oily fish, olive oil, cheese, sugar-free dark chocolate and seeds.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOULD I HAVE?
Be careful about overdoing your protein intake. When we eat too much protein in the absence of carbohydrates, the body converts protein into sugars, bumping us out of ketosis. Aim for 30% of your daily protein intake to be from good-quality sources such as chicken, beef, pork, lamb, eggs and fish.
IS THE KETO DIET RIGHT FOR ME?
The keto diet offers a range of potential benefits if you are dedicated to following it correctly. However, please check with your doctor before starting any new diet. The keto diet is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with kidney, liver or gall bladder problems, children or those with Type 1 diabetes.
It typically takes two to four days on the keto diet to reach a state of ketosis. — Bauersyndication.com.au/Magazinefeatures.co.za
• 'The Body Dietetics' by Larina Robinson will give you a foundation of keto-appropriate recipes, covering drinks, snacks and main meals. Each recipe is accompanied by a handy nutritional breakdown. Says Robinson, "Make sure to keep track of how many carbohydrates you consume each day, as it can add up quite quickly!"