The ketogenic diet has some really solid science and research backing it, but that doesn’t mean everyone gets it on the first go. We get many questions on our Lean Machine Keto Diet Program on a daily basis and we thought to make it more transparent, we would ask a doctor himself to answer these questions and reassure everyone on the principles of the ketogenic diet. A type of one-on-one lesson, if you may!
Dr. Vinay Bhardwaj is an MD, Neurosurgeon and also the Head of R&D at Grow Fit. An expert on everything related to the keto diet, we had him answer some of our more frequently asked questions in a session we like to call “What’s Up, Doc?”.
Let’s delve right in!
FAQ 1: What are the benefits of a ketogenic diet?
Doc: It’s really important to understand that for different people there are different benefits. The ketogenic diet helps reverse some of the problems that arise from industrialized diets. If you look at some of our current diets today, you’ll see that it is very rich in starch, the protein and fiber have been stripped out of the food, and the fats that are being taken out and replaced are very unhealthy. The ketogenic diet is a way of addressing those problems in a very targeted, therapeutic manner. People suffering from lifestyle diseases like diabetes, PCOS, and insulin resistance can be benefited from this diet as it helps reverse the bad effects of such food on their bodies.
For others, there are cognitive benefits which include less brain fog, improved mental clarity, more energy and fewer hunger pangs. People always on the go can also find this diet useful as it helps control their food situation and keeps them from resorting to unhealthy food during travel or work.
You should really know why you are trying this diet out before you start it as the benefits are different for different people.
FAQ 2: What if I am really not looking to lose weight? Is the ketogenic diet useful for me?
Doc: Yes, there are other benefits apart from weight loss. In fact, the weight loss is secondary. When you put yourself into a state of nutritional ketosis, what you are doing is fixing some of the problems that have occurred due to things like insulin resistance or leptin resistance. The weight loss happens as a consequence of fixing the metabolism. The other benefits are mainly metabolic flexibility – the capacity for the body to adapt fuel oxidation to fuel availability. In simpler words, the ability of the body to use whatever fluid substrate in any situation.
For example, if you are a marathon runner, having the ability to burn fats better is very effective for increased stamina. If you are a bodybuilder, being more sensitive to the foods you give yourself post-workout to build muscle is good. To put it short, the benefits of a keto diet are mostly at the cellular level, with weight loss being one of the natural side-effects.
FAQ 3: Is it possible to maintain the keto diet while being vegetarian?
Doc: Yes, it is possible but it takes a good amount of planning. There is nothing wrong with vegetarian protein. In fact, it is actually a little better than non-vegetarian protein in a keto diet as vegetarian proteins are methionine-rich and leucine-rich. The protein isn’t the difficult part, it’s what comes with the protein in most vegetarian foods that have to be checked. For example, in beans, legumes etc, with every gram of protein you’re having, you’re also having 2-3 grams of carbohydrates. So to make sure you stay within your permissible carb intake, you have to instead eat a lot more dairy like paneer, ghee, and cheese. Your diet ends up becoming dairy-rich, but as long as you’re okay with that, you’re good to go.
For vegans, on the other hand, the best way to do a healthy well-balanced keto diet is to use isolated sources of protein like pea protein. Also, with a vegan keto diet, getting omega-3 fatty acids and excluding omega-6 fatty acids becomes challenging. It is still possible though but just takes a little bit of thought.
FAQ 4: Won’t eating so much fat increase my cholesterol?
Doc: The research surrounding cholesterol has been back and forth over the past few years. However, according to the latest research, cholesterol content in food is not really a risk factor for heart disease or any other disease. There are a good number of clinical studies done on people who are vegan as well as on people who are non-vegetarian – non-vegetarians eat a lot of cholesterol-rich foods like animal fats while vegans do not have any cholesterol in their food. And the studies show that vegans don’t live any longer than non-vegetarians. So, there is no useful data to suggest that low-cholesterol or cholesterol-free foods increase longevity or heart health.
Cholesterol is a type of lipid molecule that is biosynthesized by all animal cells. When it is packaged in a larger molecule called HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein a.k.a Good Cholesterol) in your bloodstream, it is very beneficial as higher HDL levels are associated with lowered risk of heart disease. Whereas, if it is packaged in smaller, denser LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins a.k.a Bad Cholesterol) molecules, it can cause inflammation in blood vessels.
Instead of demonizing cholesterol, we should look at how we can reduce the body’s demand for cholesterol by reducing inflammation. A ketogenic diet is one which reduces insulin requirement and omega-6 in the diet leading to overall inflammation coming down. This results in total cholesterol levels coming down, HDL levels going up and LDL levels coming down. So, in this way, we get the beneficial effects on our lipid profiles even though we are on a high-fat diet.
If you have more questions regarding the keto diet, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Vinay will personally answer you!
Stay tuned for Keto FAQs: Part Two where the doc tackles some more tricky questions.