As with every other diet, you must follow the keto diet properly. Although it is very healthy, the keto diet can become unhealthy if you are unaware of your eating patterns and choices. When you are on a diet, it is easy to convince yourself that since you are technically on a “diet,” all your food choices are also “technically” OK. This is a big pitfall for anyone who begins the keto diet to lose weight and be healthy.
In this chapter, you will learn how to safely follow the keto diet by adopting a healthy mindset and nutrition.
Do Not Overdo Your Fat Consumption
One of the easiest ways to misuse the keto diet is to overdo your fat consumption. Since your diet is about 70 percent fat, it can be easy to convince yourself that eating hamburgers, chips, fries, and other unhealthy fats is fine. This is far from the truth. Since the keto diet is primarily fat, you must ensure your fat consumption is packed with healthy fats from healthy sources. A deep-fried chicken sandwich, fried in saturated vegetable oil, will affect your body differently than a baked chicken lightly drizzled with heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil.
For some keto dieters, the temptation to use fat to overcompensate for taste can also be a problem. If you are used to eating carbs, you may find it challenging to get used to a new taste system that is not over-reliant on salt and glucose. For some keto dieters, this translates into consistently cooking food in rich oils, such as palm oil and butter. Unfortunately, an over-reliance on unhealthy fats and oils will soon increase your cholesterol levels, leading to health complications, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
On the keto diet, you must eat plenty of fiber, green leafy vegetables, fish, and lean meat. This will ensure you feed your body with healthy micro and macronutrients. It would help if you also cooked your legumes, lean meats, and fish in healthy ways. This includes air frying, baking, and grilling. Use cooking methods that require very little oil and very little frying. It may not be easy to get used to this system at first. After all, we live in a culture where unhealthy eating is normalized. We have become accustomed to cheap and widely available frozen unhealthy meals and takeout, whereas healthy food is still expensive and difficult to find.
Choosing your health in this food distribution and preparation system may seem impossible, but there is a way to change your mindset that will bring you happiness. All you need to do is to know the facts. Although overweight people and people with health issues are often portrayed as lazy people with no discipline, this is far from the truth. The truth is that our human brains evolved to reward us with dopamine when we eat unhealthy foods. Why? Because back when food was still scarce, our bodies tried to gain as much fat as possible. As discussed earlier, our bodies rely on fat as a backup energy resource when food (or glucose) is not readily available. Since our brains did not know when we would next find food, they evolved to reward us for eating as much unhealthy food as possible when it was available. Fortunately, food is no longer scarce in many societies globally. Yet, our brains still have not evolved to recognize this fact. It still believes food is low, so it rewards you when you have a big, greasy hamburger with a sugar-packed cheesecake for dessert. It releases dopamine, making you feel good. Your brain is programmed to overeat unhealthy foods and overlook healthy food because it is stuck in survival mode.
So, how do you break out of survival mode? Simple. You train your body and your brain to thrive on healthy food. When your body craves unhealthy fats, sugars, or excess glucose, you find an alternative, healthy replacement. Furthermore, you practice consistency and discipline, feeding your brain healthy meals. While it won’t release much dopamine, it will make you feel good long-term. Dopamine gives us a high. It lasts quickly, leaving you scrambling for your next food high. When you consistently fuel your body with healthy foods that make you feel good without massive highs and lows, your body soon gets used to it. That is why people with healthy diets are physically and mentally unable to eat unhealthy foods. They have trained their body and minds to seek out good food. Their brain recognizes that the triple bacon cheeseburger will wreak havoc on their internal system, making them feel sick before eating it. It is also why you feel very ill when you eat an unhealthy meal after weeks or months of being on a healthy diet.
Eat Plenty of Fiber
Your body loves fiber! Fiber cleanses the colon, feeds good bacteria, and leaves you feeling great mentally, emotionally, and physically. Michael Smith, ND, BHSC, of Planet Naturopath, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, says about fiber and the keto diet: “Too much…fat and too little fiber cause diarrhea. And too much cheese brings on constipation. Not enough water will do that, too, particularly in the early stages [of the keto diet].”
Eat a Balanced Diet
Another reason to practice the keto diet healthily is to avoid nutrient deficiencies. One easy mistake that people on the keto diet make is to forgo fruit from their diets since fruits contain a lot of carbs. However, this can quickly lead to a nutrient deficiency, so you need to find recipes to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet. Don’t forget that there are plenty of vegetables too that contain a lot of body-friendly nutrients. For example, Kale, spinach, and beetroot are nutrient-packed super veggies that energize you while boosting your immune system. The great news is that many leafy vegetables have almost no carbs and can be added in bulk to your meals. Even root vegetables like garlic, turmeric, and ginger are nutrient-packed, as are most herbs. This is good news for you since you can season your food with great herbs while still getting great micronutrients from your meal—and without coming out of ketosis!
Before starting the keto diet, you should speak to your doctor or nutritionist about nutrients. You can curate a diet based on specific vegetables and fruits. This is especially imperative since some of us need more of a particular nutrient than others.
The keto flu is the dreaded illness that keto dieters get at the beginning stages of their diet. It is caused by chemical changes occurring in your body as you wean your body out of glucose reliance. As your body burns through its last glycogen stores, it expels more sodium than usual. This is also partly why you begin to lose weight because sodium causes our bodies to store extra water. You will get headaches, fatigue, constipation, and even diarrhea as it removes all this sodium. Not only does it flush out sodium from the body, but All this flushing results in toxins accumulating, further exacerbating your flu-like symptoms. This may also include rashes, changes to your skin, and body aches.
It would help if you took good care of yourself during the keto flu, but it is no cause for concern. Symptoms of flu are common whenever you try to clean up your diet. You will feel better in a few days, especially if you take steps to heal. You should:
- Eat keto-friendly foods during the flu: Don’t be tempted to revert to carbs to feel better. Keep only keto-friendly ingredients at home so you will not be tempted to cook or eat something that will bring you out of ketosis. If you do and decide to return to the keto diet, you will suffer the flu symptoms a second time.
- Drink plenty of water: It will help flush out the sodium and the toxins much quicker through your urine and sweat. At the same time, you want to replenish your body with its electrolytes so your electrolyte levels do not fall to dangerous levels.
- Eat more sodium: Eat a little more than usual. In addition, drink bone broth, an excellent food for improving your digestive system health and helping you heal faster.