The Keto Diet – How It Works, What To Eat, Risks And More

It’s no question that carbohydrates play a major role in the Jamaican diet: the “Usain Bolt approved” yellow yam, sweet potatoes, bread, oats, mangoes, bananas and tomatoes, are just some of the foods rich in carbs, that are heavily consumed in the ‘typical Jamaican diet.

Although there are many types of weight loss regimens: water diet, vegan diet, low-carb diet etc., there’s a low-carb diet that is not yet popular amongst Jamaicans, the Keto Diet.

The Keto (short for Ketogenic) Diet was originally created to treat neurological diseases such as Epilepsy. This diet is a food regime where a person consumes moderate amounts of protein and low amounts of carbohydrates. Though many have successfully used this diet for weight loss, it is mainly aimed at treating persons with diseases such as Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Diabetes, along with some others.

Breakdown

When carbohydrates are consumed and broken-down during digestion, they create the body’s preferred fuel source: glucose (a simple form of carbohydrate – sugar). There is a limit to the amount of glucose that the body can burn for energy, excessive amounts of carbohydrates therefore equate to excessive glucose: what the body cannot burn, it stores as fat. Due to the current presence of readily accessible high carb foods such as bread, pasta, cereal, juice, honey, sugar, beer and fruits like banana and raisins, often times persons exceed this limit, and end up overweight.

On the diet, due to a lack of glucose, the liver produces fuel molecules called ketones from breaking down stored fat, which act as the substitute for glucose. This process is called ketosis.

How to Achieve Keto

For the diet to work the body must reach a state of ketosis: this is a metabolic process where the liver produces fuel molecules called ketones, as a result of breaking down fat stored in the body for energy, (as a substitute), when there is a lack of glucose. This process may take a few days and requires persons to eat fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day.

For better understanding, this is represented by a ½ cup of rice or one half of a burger bun. It is easier to see just how many carbs we consume per day. The diet may vary from person to person, but carb intake must be low and protein intake high.

Foods that are encouraged for consumption during the Keto Diet include:

  • Berries (tiny portions)
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Bacon
  • Fish
  • Avocado
  • Leafy Green Vegetables (Kale, Spinach, Lettuce)
  • Cucumber
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and Seeds

Dangers/ Risks of the Keto Diet

This diet though encouraged, poses certain risks which may include:

  • Lack of nutrients such as Magnesium and Vitamins B and C – this is due to the limitation of the variety of foods that a person can eat.
  • Constipation – may result from the lack of fibrous food in the diet.
  • Mood Swings and Drowsiness – lack of sugar as fuel source.
  • Ketoacidosis – in persons with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes. This occurs when the body stores up too many ketones and the blood become acidic, which can damage the Liver, Kidneys and or the Brain.

This diet is far from easy for many persons. Here’s Dr. Alfred Dawes’ : The Ketogenic Diet: A Personal Experience.

If you do intend on trying the diet, speak with a health professional first. Each person’s body is different, this diet may not be for you. Speak to a professional to see if it is achievable or if another diet is advised.

Written by Rhea Braithwaite, student of Campion College.  Edited by Kaeonna Walters. This post appears courtesy of the Do Good Jamaica Professional Pathways high school internship program.