Keto Q&A: Keeping It Simple, Candid, and Tasty

Okay, let’s get the science-y stuff out of the way first. What is the ketogenic diet, and the nerdy explanation of how it works?

The keto diet shifts how your body powers itself. In practice, the diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and extremely low in carbohydrates. By reducing carbohydrate intake, your body transitions from drawing energy from glycogen - a sugar stored in your muscles and liver - to ketones. Ketones are molecules that are created when the body has no access to food, or when the glycogen stores have become depleted.

Step by step, nutritional ketosis is achieved when:

1) Glucose levels fall from decreased carbohydrate intake.

2) After glycogen is used up, enzymes release stored fatty acids.

3) Fatty acids travel to the liver.

4) The liver produces ketones for energy.

5) Ketones become the primary fuel source – this is the state of nutritional ketosis.

 

Got it. But why do I hear of so many people following this diet? Who’s actually a good candidate for the keto program?

The ketogenic diet is medically-prescribed as a proven therapeutic for individuals with drug-resistant epilepsy and a specific few metabolic diseases, and encouraged as another line of defense for patients with certain neurological disorders. But, there’s no denying the movement of the keto diet to the mainstream, with data supporting the adoption of the program for people who want to lose weight, suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetes, want to increase energy and cognitive function, and seek to stave off future disease or mitigate effects of brain injury. 

Is there anyone who shouldn’t follow a ketogenic diet?

Yup. People who are unable to metabolize fatty acids, have been diagnosed with certain other metabolic disorders, are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a history with eating disorders, and/or suffer from other serious health concerns (including pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, impaired liver function, overall poor nutritional status, and history with abdominal tumors, kidney failure, and/or gastric bypass surgery) are definitely not advised to adopt the diet.

Well, assuming I don’t fall into any of those categories, how do I go keto?

As standardized by Dr. M.G. Peterman in 1925, the ketogenic diet originally prescribed 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, 10-15 grams of carbohydrates per day, and the remaining calories filled with fat. Keep in mind that, for an average of 2,000 calories a day, the average American is likely eating between 225 and 325 grams of carbs a day. In contrast, the modern Keto Diet generally sets an upper carbohydrate limit of 35 grams of carbs per day and often encourages people to limit that number even further in order to get into ketosis more quickly. Note: The body’s transition from using glycogen to ketones as fuel is not instantaneous, and results aren’t the same for everyone. On average, it takes between two to four days of restricted carbohydrate consumption to initiate the metabolic state of ketosis. It’s important to note NET carbs when you’re calculating what it takes for your body to get into ketosis. Your net carbohydrate intake is the total grams of carbs minus the total grams of fiber.

Can you please translate these guidelines for my grocery list?

Practically speaking, there are few ingredients disallowed from the ketogenic diet. In fact, most foods are eligible for use of the Keto Certified label, provided that they do not exceed total carbohydrate criteria. As you might suspect, permissible ingredients include meat and seafood, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, all spices, and “good” fats (animal and nut oils, as well as olive, avocado, and coconut oils). But you might be surprised to learn that dairy, grains, legumes, coffee, many supplements, and even chocolate and natural sweeteners can be part of a ketogenic program!

Handier than the list of what is allowed is the short list of that which is NOT: partially-hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors.

Actually, can you just make my grocery list? Like, what foods should I plan to eat a lot of on the keto diet?

  • Meat and poultry – no carbs!
  • Eggs – less than 1 gram of carbs!
  • Seafood – salmon has 0 carbs! And shrimp has just 3 grams.
  • Low-carb fruits and vegetables – spinach has just 1 gram of carbs! Other good ones are broccoli (4 grams), kale (5 grams), and brussels sprouts (6 grams), and berries are the best fruist.
  • Plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese – 5 grams of carbs per 150 grams.
  • Cheese – best? Cheddar (2 grams), with mozzarella and provolone holding their own (3 grams) and gouda pretty darn good (5 grams)
  • Avocados – oh, thank goodness, right? Just 3 grams of net carbs!
  • Olive oil! Adding high-quality olive oil to your meals is a great way to make sure you’re consuming enough fat to keep up your energy levels and offset your fat to carb ratio.

Man, I’m just so excited to eat all the grass-fed hamburgers I want…

Well, hold on. Calories still matter on the keto diet. To lose body fat, your body still needs a caloric deficit. Focus on consuming more nutrient-dense, whole foods, striving for sustainability and balance. Incorporate green leafy vegetables and sources of fiber into that meat-heavy meal plan. Oh, and to keep electrolytes well-balanced, be sure to not restrict your salt intake.

 My buddy won’t stop talking about how life-changing keto is. What are the real benefits?

You may have heard (from your buddy) that the keto diet promises - or, at least, dangles - such outcomes as weight loss and anti-aging, and even miracle-cure potential for cancer and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

While you can certainly find anecdotal reports of such positive outcomes in the void of human clinical studies, evidence-based potential benefits of a ketogenic diet include:

  • Appetite reduction
  • Better-quality sleep
  • Effective weight loss
  • Higher energy levels
  • Improved emotional disposition
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved liver health
  • Lower blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Reduced inflammation markers
  • Sharper mental faculties

Are there any downsides to the keto diet?

There can be, though they will vary from person to person. Adverse effects to watch out for include:

  • Micronutrient deficiencies, including thiamin, folate, calcium, and magnesium – supplements can help fill in the gap.
  • Increase in lipid numbers, including total cholesterol and triglycerides – often rise in the first few months on program, but level off back to starting levels by the one-year mark.
  • Hormonal impacts, including irregularities in menstruation – not unexpected since keto is meant to mimic starvation, a state known to cause menstrual interruption or cessation. 
  • Gastrointestinal issues, including constipation and vomiting – such symptoms generally resolve within the first few weeks on the program.

The ketogenic diet may require more doctor supervision than other diets to ensure that any of these potentially more serious adverse effects are well managed.

When I buy a packaged food product at the store, how do I know it’s keto-friendly? Who decides that?

The Keto Certified label was developed and trademarked by The Paleo Foundation to identify food products that meet the standards of the ketogenic diet, including the mitigation of the most well-known adverse effects of the keto diet. Moreover, the Foundation recognizes that improving palatability, availability, affordability, and convenience of compliant foods is crucial to preventing diet discontinuation.

Per serving, Meal and Meal Replacement products must not contain more than 10g net carbs, Snack products must not contain more than 6g net carbs, and Condiments must not contain more than 2g net carbs. Note that for products which contain minimally processed, whole-food ingredients or ingredients with reduced digestibility, an additional margin of 1-2 grams net carbohydrate per serving is permissible.

Cool. I’m ready. Will I be keto forever?

Well, many people experience relatively rapid weight loss when following the keto diet correctly, and then revert back to their previous state when returning to a less strict regimen. But, a ketogenic diet can be a viable approach for some as a long-term lifestyle change when adopting a more sustainable approach that incorporates whole foods, plenty of vegetables and fiber, focuses on nutrient density, and allows for an overall decrease in caloric intake vs. output over time.

Last question: what does The New Primal have to do with keto?

As indicated, sustainability of this diet hinges heavily on making it relatively easy and undeniably satisfying. The New Primal’s catalog of products – from snacks to seasonings to sauces – makes keto food prep a full-flavor no-brainer. And, the overwhelming majority of our lineup is Keto Certified. Of course, our meat sticks are the most spontaneous friend to your regimen. But having our Noble Made shakers and bottles (like our NEW Garlic Parmesan Sauce) keeps all your low-carb ingredients deliciously keto-compliant with recipes like these:

Keto Taco Pie (made with Noble Made Hot & Spicy Marinade and All-Purpose Seasoning)

Twisted Bacon (made with Noble Made Classic Buffalo Seasoning or Classic BBQ Seasoning)

Garlic Parmesan Broccoli Salad (made with Noble Made Garlic Parmesan Sauce)

Keto Bang Bang Shrimp (made with Coconut Aminos)

Keto Buffalo Popcorn Chicken (made with Noble Made Buffalo Seasoning and Classic Ranch Dressing)

Keto Garlic Parmesan Shrimp Pasta (made with Noble Made Garlic Parmesan Sauce)

Keto Beef and Green Bean Casserole (made with Noble Made Coarse Dijon Mustard)

Crispy Garlic Parm Wings (made with Noble Made Garlic Parmesan Sauce)

Almond Butter Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower (made with Noble Made Almond Butter Turmeric Dressing)

Grilled Mississippi Chicken (made with Noble Made Classic Ranch Dressing and coconut aminos)

One Pan Steak Fajitas (made with Noble Made Classic Steak Seasoning)

Grilled Buffalo Turkey Burgers (made with Noble Made Buffalo Seasoning)

Chicken Breakfast Sausages (made with Noble Made Classic Poultry Seasoning)

Everything Bacon and Egg Cups (made with Noble Made Everything Bagel Seasoning)

Bacon Mac Deviled Eggs (made with Noble Made Coarse Dijon Mustard)

Citrus Zest Flank Steak (made with Noble Made Citrus Zest Dressing)

Bacon Wrapped Pork Medallions (made with Noble Made Citrus Herb Marinade)

Cheeseburger Pie (made with Coconut Aminos and Ketchup)

Baked Feta Pasta (made with Noble Made Citrus Herb Seasoning)