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Nutritional Food Trends: To Keto or not to Keto ?

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When I’m lazing around on a Sunday afternoon, thinking to myself that I should really be reading a book or tending to the weeds in my garden, I often find I very constructively (ah hem) use my time to scroll through the suggested posts that Instagram so kindly offers forth.

It’s usually an entertaining mix of puppies, gardening, some DIY, recipes, and fitness. Fitness out there in the Interwebs ether, seems often to be inspirational weight-loss stories of people doing amazing things and losing hundreds of pounds and turning their lives around. (check out Lexi at Fat Girl Fed Up.  She's done amazingly well) I find these stories fascinating.

The discipline and determination needed to achieve that scale of change is frankly astonishing. I think the vast majority of us can relate to the emotions we go through when we either resist that piece of cake or when we don’t resist that piece of cake. So, absolute hats off to them, I say. However, it has struck me over the last few months that the majority of the posts that pop up on the weight-loss story posts show that people have achieved this using a Ketogenic diet. The world of nutrition is an absolute minefield to be honest. What we believe to be true one day, can be proved, disproved and proved again in the space of a week. So who should we believe and whose knowledge should be put our trust in? As a Nutritional Therapist, it’s always a challenge to try to strike a harmonious balance for each client. I want them to be healthy. I want them to be well. But most of all, I want them to be happy. And with such an emotional topic as food, that balance can be a difficult one to achieve and maintain.

So what is the Keto diet?

The Keto diet is named after a process that occurs in the body called Ketogenesis. It’s an absolutely normal process which is effectively there to keep us alive in the more meager months of the year. Perhaps not needed quite so much these days with food being available 24/7, but back when we were foragers, it was essential. When the body doesn’t get enough energy through consuming glucose (which we get from the dreaded and wonderful carbohydrates), very basically speaking the body goes to the next source of energy available, fat. So the action of being in ketosis is that the fat reserves that we plied on from those extra bits of cake, the chips in front of the TV of an evening, and the that extra piece of chocolate, are burned up and used to power our amazing and complex bodies. Our brain alone, whether you're Einstein or not, uses up 20% of our energy needs.

Great, I hear you cry, that sounds like a piece of cake (I’ll get my coat).

Well, yes, it does sound easier than 'dieting'. Because we all know these days that dieting doesn’t really work. And the evidence that is presented to me in my Instagram feed shows that it really does.

When I first heard about the Keto diet being a really popular diet, and we’ve all heard the term Atkins Diet bandied around the beautiful and famous, something didn’t really sit well with me. The fact that you can basically eat as much (within reason of course) fat and protein as you want, along with lots of low-carb vegetables, just didn’t quite compute. I was brought up on a farm where meat and three veg was the staple evening meal and one of those vegetables was always a potato. Weight was never an issue in my family, but cancer and strokes seemed to be the preferred family method of dropping off the perch. Everything was cooked in lard (thankfully that habit has long since changed), butter was smeared on bread in epic proportions, cheese was consumed not only with meals but as a late night snack, and meat was an everyday thing. From my grandparents generation and back, most of them didn’t even see their 75th birthday.

Now, I’m not a doctor and I’m not a scientist, but through observation of my clients, from reading both sides of the argument and putting my own 2 and 2 together, it seems to me (and I’m not the only one) that animal fats and proteins seem to correlate with higher rates of cancer, strokes and heart disease.

I know this is a very sensitive subject for some people so please bare with me. I’m not preaching, honest guv, but the observation has been made. And what do most people eat on a Keto diet? Well, it’s pretty much animal products as they don’t contain much, if any, carbs. See what I’m getting at? No? Basically, I would never recommend the Keto diet, or any low carb diet for that matter, as an effective weight-loss solution.

Hold on hold on...not all fats are the same, are they?

No, they really aren’t. Without going into chemistry lessons, because really, who needs that, basically speaking the length of the chains of molecules in fats and how many double carbon bonds they have correlates to how ‘healthy’ a fat is.

But weightloss? I only seem to be able to lose weight when I restrict carbs.

Well, I hear you. I’ve been through it too. I’ve tried it, because what right do I have to offer my opinion on something when I’ve never even tried it myself. And it does work. It really does, but long term it’s neither healthy nor sustainable.

The Internet is a wonderful place and you can read up everything yourself on how to do Keto, whether to do Keto, why not to do Keto and as a free-thinking human being you can decide for yourself, but if you are looking to do Keto to lose weight then I would really recommend having a look at the work of the following doctors:

The first is Dr. Joel Kahn. I first came across Dr. Kahn though the Rich Roll Podcast. I listened

to this episode https://www.richroll.com/podcast/joel-kahn-349/ and I was absolutely fascinated. I’ve since listened to it 3 times more because every time I find something interesting that I missed. If I were asked who I would put my trust in when I came to diet and the heart, it would be Dr. Kahn. I’m continuously astounded how little nutritional education doctors get during their training. So little that it to me seems somewhat negligent. But Dr. Kahn has so many years of experience in treating cancer and heart disease and has real life research and evidence, that he gets my thumbs up every time. His website is chock full of interesting articles about diet and nutrition and new research findings.

So if you're going to go down the Keto road, I'd recommend you do it on a plant based diet.

Another is Dr. Michael Greger. His website is an absolute must for anyone wanting to look into the world of nutrition a bit more, and he does all the leg work for us by reading just about everything ever written about any nutrition subject and summarizing it into something the average reader can digest (coat is at the ready). His Book How Not to Die is an absolute must for anyone looking to improve their health and experience the excellent side effect of that, weight-loss.  Accompanied by the Cook Book that goes with it, you can't really go wrong.

(United Kingdom links to these two books are:  How Not to Die & the Cook Book)

My last recommendation is Dr. Esselstyn. He has decades of experience in treating heart disease with nutritional approaches. Well worth a look.

My apologies that this post is seems somewhat speedily cobbled together. Life got in the way of my writing schedule this week, and so it really has been speedily cobbled together. But you can find everything you need to know on the Mr. Googles and through these health professionals websites.

Do you need help with losing weight? Or just need to get healthier and aren’t quite sure where to start?

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