I am 42. Here, at Arata Medical, Dr. Arata focuses on prevention of cognition issues beginning at my very age; that has my attention. Of course am I hoping to decrease my chances of having any sort of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s, but that is such a far-off goal, it’s really hard to be motivated to sustain change starting now. As the coach for our practice, I am always trying to find the immediate rewards in any lifestyle changes that make implementing and sustaining them more likely.
Not only does the ketogenic diet decrease your chances of brain and heart disease down the road, there are some exciting benefits you can enjoy in the here and now. Who else is ready to say goodbye to their spare tire, fatigue and joint pain, and hello to lots of energy and clear thinking? And you get to eat yummy foods full of fat and not have to count calories?! What could be better? Oh, and it helps with all of this:
- Brain health (strong evidence it prevents Alzheimer’s)
- Improves mental health conditions and mood
- Decreases risk of heart disease
- Eliminates migraines, Candida, skin conditions, acid reflux, sinus issues, asthma
- Starves cancer cells
- Improves fertility challenges/optimizes growing baby’s health
- Effortless weight loss
- Fewer cravings
- Improved sleep
First of all, what the heck is a ketogenic diet and why do I want to do it? In a nutshell, a ketogenic diet causes the body to use fat rather than sugar and carbs for energy. Sold! I can’t think of another diet that can claim all of this goodness.
Ready for the details? The ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbs. We are talking 70-80% fat, 10-20% protein and 5% carbs. Sounds pretty crazy, right? To clarify, we are talking about only GOOD fats. Fat isn’t just fat in the same way that a calorie isn’t just a calorie; there are good and bad sources.
Healthy fats are derived from saturated fatty acid fats like MCT oil, coconut oil, lard and tallow (Although, I am complicating my life even more by attempting a fish and plant-based Keto diet, so lard and tallow are out for me). These oils are less prone to oxidization and are best at combating inflammation. Olive and avocado oils are also good healthy fat options.
Polyunsaturated fats are the ones to banish. These are margarine, any vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, corn) and shortening. Trans fats are also not to be eaten. These are fats where hydrogen is added to prolong shelf life, which just sounds wrong, so stay away. If you are eating any prepared foods, make sure you read the labels. Salad dressings seem to be the biggest culprits for me; even the ones that say olive oil only have a little olive and mostly canola or sunflower, which is bad.
Transitioning can be hard, so doing it in phases is the best plan. Your body WILL go through an adjustment period, which can be a bit unpleasant, but worth it in the end, I promise.
- First: Eliminate sugars and high carbohydrate foods, so your body will have no choice BUT to burn fat. I know this may sound terrible, but you do develop a new taste for healthier foods (soda is so sweet to me now it makes me gag), but you also feel so amazing that you will not be sorry you have changed your ways.
- Second: Limit protein intake, and focus on fatty meats rather than lean ones. Isn’t that where all the flavor is anyway!? Yes! I love this idea. People do get really nervous about this idea, but the fact that human breast milk is 60% fat and very low in protein (lower than most other species), and this is a time when a human body is building itself the most. (Perhaps more details to follow on that topic in the future).
- Third: Bring on the healthy fats, please!
Planning meals when you’re new to this can be scary. I have been loving these books (I got them at Costco): The Keto Diet, by Leanne Vogel and The 30 Day Ketogenic Cleanse by Maria Emmerich. These fabulous ladies have written beautiful books with relatable education, but also have created no-brainer meal plans complete with shopping lists to get you on your way. The meals are also made with leftovers in mind, so it is easier than it sounds to prepare all of your food for the week yourself. As I mentioned, I am leaning toward more plant-heavy keto, so these books have way too much meat in them for my taste but are great guides if you like a lot of meat and are new to being keto.
Salmon and egg baked avocados…yes please
There’s always a catch, isn’t there? You cannot dabble in this way of eating. You have to be committed. There are plenty of indulgent “fat bombs” that are decadent treats and the whole meal plan feels like you’re cheating, really, but you will fall out of the state of ketosis and you will switch to being a sugar burner if you eat a birthday cake or pizza even once a week.
It is best to prepare most of your own foods, although eating out can be done pretty easily (I bring my own olive oil and balsamic for salads). This does require more time in your life, but I like to combine mindfulness with the meal prep, for example. Chopping and storing everything for the week can be a meditation that you do on a Sunday afternoon or listen to some great podcasts, or involve the family; you can get creative.
Keep in mind that this extra effort is an investment in YOU and your community. When your mind and body are healthy, everyone and everything around you are affected in wonderful ways. This is not theory; this has been scientifically measured.
So…that’s why I’m making the switch! I started off with the Prolon Fast-Mimicking meal kit (you may have seen Dr. Arata’s video diary of his journey with Prolon on Instagram) so that the transition would go more smoothly. So far, I am feeling GREAT and losing little fat deposits I thought would never go away. I’ll check in along the way with little hacks and recipes as I go along. Stay tuned!
**Please note that not everybody should just jump on the Keto bandwagon without consulting your physician, especially where diabetes is concerned.