For many people, the new year marks the perfect time to begin a new way of eating (let’s not call it a diet – that’s such a loaded word). Perhaps it’s just the simple goal to lose weight (and if only it were simple!) and be more active. It might be working to lower blood pressure, reduce high blood sugar levels or “bad” cholesterol metrics, curb a nagging sugar craving, or feel more energetic — whatever the reason, the most dismal part of winter seems to be the time our minds turn to making changes and enjoying new beginnings.
Throughout the month of January, we’re going to look at several different types of popular contemporary diets, and share a few recipes that illustrate that particular way of eating.
To start off, let’s look at the Keto diet.
The ketogenic (or “keto”) diet is a super high fat, low-carbohydrate diet. It is similar in a number of ways with the Atkins and other low-carb diets that many folks dabbled in a few years ago. Adherents to this eating regimen aim to eat extremely few carbs – only about 5% of total caloric intake. Another 15 – 25% of the daily energy comes from protein, and a whopping 75% of the diet consists of fat.
Normally, the (more plentiful) carbohydrates you eat get converted by your body into glucose, which fuels brain function and is an energy source for the rest of you. Because you are eating virtually no carbohydrates on the keto diet, your body is forced into a state of ketosis, in which the body burns fat to maintain your energy level. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.
Originally developed to treat people with epilepsy about one hundred years ago, early researchers found that the ketogenic diet raised levels of ketones in participants’ blood, which led to fewer epileptic seizures in patients.
Ketogenic diets can cause notable reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has health benefits that can include weight loss, improved memory function and increased energy levels.
What’s on a ketogenic menu? Removing carbohydrates from your everyday eating regimen is a pretty big shift, as is cooking without flour and sugar. The diet includes non-starchy vegetables and dark leafy greens, and lots and lots of extra butter, cheese, eggs, healthy fats, and meat.
And as you make those dietary changes, incremental and sweeping, think about using spices and herbs, gourmet oils and balsamic vinegars in your ketogenic recipes. These ingredients add flavor to your new way of cooking – without adding carbs (or many calories).
We have some excellent salt-free spice blends and quite a few sugar-free blends too. We’ve learned, from personal experience, delicious flavors in healthier recipes can help you stay on track and accomplish your new year’s health goals.
[Also: Because it is a pretty drastic change in how the “average” American cooks and eats, it is recommended that people consult with a dietician or nutritionist, and with your health care provider, before diving into a ketogenic diet.]