Where to Begin with Keto (and How Plant Milks Can Help)
What does a Keto diet mean?
Keto is all the rage, but it’s easy to lose the message in the hype. In other words: What is all the fuss about? Essentially, by following certain guidelines, you can put your body into a state of ketosis: an extended fat burn that happens even when you aren’t trying.
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate guideline that has gained considerable interest as of late due to its ability to induce rapid weight loss by a process called ketosis. The breakdown of essential macronutrients is:
- 60-75% calories from fat
- 15-30% calories from protein
- 5-10% calories from carbohydrates 1
What does a Keto diet mean?
Unlike those waistbands that tone your abs while you’re watching TV, Keto is neither a gimmick nor a “maybe.” It’s based around a legitimate biological process; perhaps something of a loophole in the general rule that you must be doing something other than fumbling for the remote control to burn fat.
- Reducing intake of carbohydrates to 20-50g per day causes the body to deplete its glycogen stores, thereby inducing a switch from carbohydrates to utilizing fat as the body’s primary fuel source.
- The breakdown of fat causes the release of fatty acids, which are metabolized into water soluble compounds known as ketone bodies, putting a person into a metabolic state is referred to as "nutritional ketosis.”
- Ketone bodies can be easily used for energy production by heart, muscle tissue, and the kidneys. Ketone bodies also can cross the blood-brain barrier to provide an alternative source of energy to the brain.
- Since they can cross the blood-brain barrier, they provide an alternative source of energy to the brain when glucose is not available, or there are defects in glucose metabolism 1
So, essentially, we deprive our bodies of carbs, forcing it to use – and, in process, burn – fat for energy instead. One clarification that should be made sooner rather than later: A Keto diet, while tolerating protein more than carbs, is not a high-protein diet such as athletes might adopt.
What is the difference between Keto and Paleo?
They’re not exactly siblings, but cousins for certain. Both favor fat over carbs, but the two use different criteria to separate what’s good from what isn’t.
- Paleo. Was it consumed in a state of nature (more than 10,000 years ago) before the advent of agriculture?
- Keto. Does it meet the high fat / moderate protein / low carb guidelines?
An example of disagreement between the two diets is fruit. It’s OK in Paleo because ancient people grabbed it from trees and ate it. Keto, on the other hand, does not care if Early Man liked it because most fruits are high in carbs.
What food can I eat on the Keto diet?
Remember the traditional food pyramid with grains at the base? Not happening here. Keto is a subversive diet by old standards. With enhanced understanding of the sadness embedded in sugar and, more broadly, carbs, Keto vindicates meat and dairy lovers…which asks a question: Can it work for the plant-based or vegan consumer?
In short, it may pose a challenge, but yes! Check out the “menu.”
- Meat and fish
- Natural fats and oils (especially those comprised of short and medium chain triglycerides, such as butter, ghee and coconut oil)
- Full-fat dairy
- Nuts and seeds
- Green vegetables
- Fruit (strawberries are the lowest sugar fruit, so are okay when consumed in moderation)
- Root vegetables and tubers
- Low-fat dairy products
- Sweet sauces and condiments
Is Keto right for me?
This depends on what you want from your food. The ketogenic diet strictly limits a common – indeed, ubiquitous – micronutrient, carbohydrates. We’re talking less than 50g per day, which unbalances the traditional plate and limits certain tastes and flavors. It also may be just what you were looking for; possibly even illustrating undiscovered nutritional staples like seeds and tree nuts, which can do some of the work of animal products.
Benefits of Keto diet plan
Helps treat and/or reduce the risk of:
- A meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials comparing the efficacy of ketogenic vs. low-fat diets found that participants on the former lost nearly 1 kg more than those on low-fat diets at 12 or 24 months. 2
- An evaluation of 26 healthy adults in the military assigned to a 3-month exercise program found that those who consumed a ketogenic diet lost 7.7kg and experienced ~50% increase in insulin sensitivity, while those who maintained their normal diet experienced no improvements. 3
- Cardiovascular Disease
- In an investigation that assigned 12 men to follow a ketogenic diet and 8 to follow their habitual diet over the course of 6 weeks observed that those on the ketogenic diet experienced significant reductions in triglycerides, fasting serum insulin, and a trended increase in HDL cholesterol. 4
- A review examining the impact of ketogenic diets vs low-fat diets on metabolic markers reported greater improvements in triglyceride levels, HDL, and LDL particle size (specifically, shifting from the small, dense pattern B lipoproteins to the large, fluffy pattern A lipoproteins) among the ketogenic diets, but not the low-fat diets. 5
- Monitoring lipid levels in healthy individuals and those with hypocholesterolemia consuming a ketogenic diet past 56 weeks observed decreases in triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL, as well as increases in HDL, demonstrating its efficacy across demographics over the longer term. 6
- Type II Diabetes
- In a crossover study that assigned 13 obese patients with Type II Diabetes to high- and low-ketogenic, very-low-energy diets over 3 weeks observed significant improvements in blood sugar control and a correlation between the concentration of ketone bodies and hepatic glucose output only for the high-ketogenic diet. Interestingly, weight loss did not differ between the two groups, which further substantiates the potency of the ketogenic quality of the diet to positively impact metabolic health. 7
- Similarly, an investigation that assigned 28 participants with Type II Diabetes to a ketogenic diet for 4 months noted metabolic improvements occurred independently of weight loss, in specific reporting a 16% decrease in HgA1c and reductions or discontinuations in diabetes medications for most participants. 8
- Neurogenerative Diseases
- Following a 3-month modified ketogenic diet (15g net carbohydrates per day) resulted in improvements in quality of life and decreases in seizure frequency and severity for 33 of 55 adults with drug-resistant epilepsy. 9
- A case study of an elderly female diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease / Metabolic Syndrome and carrying the genetic risk variant, ApoE4, for Alzheimer’s disease found that consumption of 10-week ketogenic diet significantly improved her glycemic control (decreased HOMA-IR from 13.9 to 3.48, and HgA1c from 5.7% to 4.9%) and boosted her Montreal Cognitive Assessment score from 21 to 28 (out of 30). 10
- Children (n=59) with inherited refractory epilepsy receiving either a ketogenic diet or modified Atkins diet experienced impressive improvements in seizure frequency and severity beginning at one month (63% had >50% seizure reduction) and up through 2 years (41%). 11
Shortcomings / Risks of Keto diet plan
May induce flu-like symptoms at the beginning
- People accustomed to consuming >150 g carbohydrates per day may experience some fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and constipation for a few days (and potentially up to a few weeks) upon starting a ketogenic diet, as their bodies shift to becoming efficient at burning stored and dietary fat. 1
May stress the kidneys in individuals with compromised renal health
- Ketogenic diets can often mistakenly be interpreted as high protein diets, which is not accurate. When formulated and followed correctly, it is recommended to limit protein intake to ~1g/lb of body weight in order to prevent the body from manufacturing carbohydrates out of gluconeogenic amino acids.1 For novices attempting a ketogenic diet, however, protein intake may be abnormally high and hinder the kidneys’ ability to excrete the nitrogenous waste. 12 Contemporary studies in healthy humans have observed no harm from following a high protein diet, so this may only apply to those with poor renal function. 13
May increase risk of ketoacidosis in diabetic patients
- Generation of ketones in massive concentrations can cause the pH level of blood to become highly acidic, leading to liver, kidney and brain damage.1 Symptoms include cotton mouth, nausea, increased frequency of urination, nausea, halitosis or fruity-scented breath, fatigue and breathing difficulties. As such, diabetic patients (typically only those with Type I Diabetes) should check with their doctors before attempting a very low-carb ketogenic diet. 14
May lead to nutrient deficiencies over the longer term
- A ketogenic dietary prescription limits carbohydrate intake to 20-50g per day. This inevitably restricts foods high in natural sugars and starches, such as fruits and root vegetables. 15 Such plant items are an especially rich reserve of magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, B vitamins, flavonoids and dietary fiber, which are extremely limited or non-existent in animal foods. Low intake of these nutrients can jeopardize mucous and saliva production, digestive health and athletic performance, among many others. 16
What does a vegan Keto diet look like?
Admittedly, plant-based Keto is not as easy as animal product Keto. Vegetarians and flexitarians can at least pull from plant-based sources like eggs and dairy. Vegans cannot. Foods like nuts, avocados, green vegetables, and coconut oil, however, can help adherents of any of these diets achieve the challenging ketogenic balance.
Which Elmhurst® products are best for Keto?
Ketogenic drinks exist, and Elmhurst has them. While ranges may be flexible, the ideal fat-protein-carb ratio for Keto-friendly foods is 75-20-5. That is: 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrate. Not every food you consume will be in this range, but you don’t want any to deviate too much. Here are the very best Elmhurst® fits:
- Unsweetened Milked Hazelnuts™ – Our hazelnut milk is 75% fat, 17% protein, 8% carbs
- Unsweetened Milked Walnuts™ – Our walnut milk is 73% fat, 20%, 7% carbs
- Unsweetened Milked Almonds™ -- Our almond milk is 58% fat, 26% protein, and 16% carbs
Whether in cereal, coffee – or from the carton – these dairy-free products will help you keep on the Keto course.
As with anything, you have to weigh the good and the bad. Will Keto give you the benefits you seek, and is it worth the trouble to adopt this somewhat restrictive diet? That’s up to you. What’s up to us is providing some information and, most importantly, options to support your Keto quest. And we have!
- Masood WU, KR. Ketogenic Diet. NCBI Bookshelf 2019; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/. Accessed September 20, 2019, 2019.
- Bueno NB, de Melo IS, de Oliveira SL, da Rocha Ataide T. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. The British journal of nutrition. 2013;110(7):1178-1187.
- LaFountain RA, Miller VJ, Barnhart EC, et al. Extended Ketogenic Diet and Physical Training Intervention in Military Personnel. Military medicine. 2019.
- Sharman MJ, Kraemer WJ, Love DM, et al. A ketogenic diet favorably affects serum biomarkers for cardiovascular disease in normal-weight men. The Journal of nutrition. 2002;132(7):1879-1885.
- Volek JS, Sharman MJ, Forsythe CE. Modification of lipoproteins by very low-carbohydrate diets. The Journal of nutrition. 2005;135(6):1339-1342.
- Dashti HM, Al-Zaid NS, Mathew TC, et al. Long term effects of ketogenic diet in obese subjects with high cholesterol level. Molecular and cellular biochemistry. 2006;286(1-2):1-9.
- Gumbiner B, Wendel JA, McDermott MP. Effects of diet composition and ketosis on glycemia during very-low-energy-diet therapy in obese patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 1996;63(1):110-115.
- Yancy WS, Jr., Foy M, Chalecki AM, Vernon MC, Westman EC. A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005;2:34-34.
- Roehl K, Falco-Walter J, Ouyang B, Balabanov A. Modified ketogenic diets in adults with refractory epilepsy: Efficacious improvements in seizure frequency, seizure severity, and quality of life. Epilepsy & behavior : E&B. 2019;93:113-118.
- 1Morrill SJ, Gibas KJ. Ketogenic diet rescues cognition in ApoE4+ patient with mild Alzheimer's disease: A case study. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews. 2019;13(2):1187-1191.
- Jagadish S, Payne ET, Wong-Kisiel L, Nickels KC, Eckert S, Wirrell EC. The Ketogenic and Modified Atkins Diet Therapy for Children With Refractory Epilepsy of Genetic Etiology. Pediatric neurology. 2019;94:32-37.
- Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Nieuwenhuizen A, Tome D, Soenen S, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annual review of nutrition. 2009;29:21-41.
- Devries MC, Sithamparapillai A, Brimble KS, Banfield L, Morton RW, Phillips SM. Changes in Kidney Function Do Not Differ between Healthy Adults Consuming Higher- Compared with Lower- or Normal-Protein Diets: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Journal of nutrition. 2018;148(11):1760-1775.
- Fedorovich SV, Voronina PP, Waseem TV. Ketogenic diet versus ketoacidosis: what determines the influence of ketone bodies on neurons? Neural regeneration research. 2018;13(12):2060-2063.
- G Engel M, J Kern H, Brenna JT, H Mitmesser S. Micronutrient Gaps in Three Commercial Weight-Loss Diet Plans. Nutrients. 2018;10(1):108.
- Tulchinsky TH. Micronutrient Deficiency Conditions: Global Health Issues. Public Health Reviews. 2010;32(1):243-255.