Is Keto the Way to go for Brain Health?
What human organ weighs about 2% of our body weight, consumes 20% of total calories and is comprised of 60% fat? The BRAIN. We know how food consumption affects our physical health, but what about our Brain Health?
What is a Ketogenic Diet, or Ketosis Diet or Keto, for short? Simply stated, one eats normal amounts of protein, very high amounts of fat and low amounts of carbohydrates (less than 50 grams a day). Wow!
Why I, Dr. Tant, needed the Keto Plan
Everyone seems to be on the Keto Plan to lose weight. But I wasn’t looking for weight loss, rather all the benefits that came along with it. I started to have some major memory lapses, too young for that, so I began investigating brain health. I needed to be back to top mental shape and stumbled upon Keto. What I found, through research, was amazing. I’m going to summarize some of the research, then tell you how it has affected me.
Big Question, will a Keto Plan help our brains?
The current research seems to indicate – Yes! Several studies have shown both cognitive improvement and a slowing of disease progression in Alzheimer’s patients. Additional studies have indicated that healthy adults also show improved verbal memory performance. Plus, besides feeding our brain, the Keto Plan has been shown to help with high cholesterol, diabetes, Alzheimer’s/dementia, and even cancer.
The Ketogenic diet is not something new, its been around since the 1920’s originally geared towards people with epilepsy. It appears, through research that, brain cells operate up to 70% more efficiently when they run on ketone bodies. These observations raise the possibility that several neurologic disorders, genetic and acquired, might benefit by ketosis. Additionally, very low carbohydrate consumption, even in the short term, can improve memory function in older adults with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Another effect, repeatedly observed, is decreased brain cell death in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases when on the ketogenic diet
Let’s understand why Keto Plan/Ketonic Diet can be such a powerful plan for brain health. Here is the physiology of our body function, if you want to skip over this part, not a problem, but there is a need to explain why our body/brain is reacting to the nutrition put into our mouths.
If carbohydrate intake is low, it triggers a response like how our body would act during starvation. Instead of utilizing glucose, the primary source of energy, our brain wants fat, an alternative energy. But before fats are used, the liver must convert to ketones. Then, ketones are used by our body and brain when there is lack of glucose.
Since ketones don’t require insulin to enter cells, our energy problem is solved, our brains run at full capacity. Keto plans can increase the amount and efficiency of the mitochondria. By improving the number and energetic output of the mitochondria in your brain, you provide a significantly higher amount of energy. Ketone metabolism has shown much lower levels of oxidative stress in comparison to glucose metabolism, effectively lowering inflammation and supporting mitochondrial health. Thus, glucose provides more energy. Ketones prevent neurons’ ability to store glutamate, decreasing excitatory transmission, thus enhancing calming and neuroprotective qualities by limiting excitotoxicity.
Whew! If you don’t have a science degree, don’t worry, your body will feel the difference… Basically, removing sugars from your diet and consuming healthy fats, such as avocado, coconut, olive, macadamia oils, and butter are two steps that can improve your total body health dramatically. Was that a bit more basic? Remove sugars, eat healthy fats! Before we go ahead with how one gets into a state of Ketosis and what kinds of foods we can enjoy, let’s look at other research supporting a Keto plan for brain-related health issues. Two studies, five years apart, found a ketogenic diet as a legitimate alternative therapy for brain cancer. The brain can feed off either ketones or glucose as fuel, cancer can’t run on ketones. The diet itself inhibits the growth of cancer by starving it of what it needs to grow, glucose. It should not be viewed as a cure for brain cancer, but it may work with chemotherapy and radiation. Much of the research has been done with animals and scientific models used for humans. Since the positive effects Keto has on brain health, researchers are beginning to look at ADHD, migraines and cluster headaches. All health concerns facing many women and men. So what is this state of “Ketosis” and how does one achieve it? Two methods create the metabolic shift from using glucose to ketones as your main source of energy: Fasting – the method of complete cessation of caloric intake for a period. A 48-hour fast will generally result in ketosis for an adult. Diet – adopting a high fat, moderate protein, and low net-carb diet, will take 2-3 weeks to achieve ketosis. However, achieving a state of ketosis takes work and planning. Limiting your carbohydrate intake to 20-50 net grams per day will lower blood sugar releasing stored fatty acids, which the liver converts to ketones. Consume at least 60% of calories from healthy, high-fat foods, like avocados, eggs, dark chocolate, fatty fish, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and butter. Increasing physical activity increases ketone production, get your body moving. Don’t forget adequate protein, one needs to maintain muscle mass when carb intake is low.
What can you eat, not eat, maybe eat?
Now is the time to look at a Keto Meal Plan. Bottom line – reduce carbs and increase fat and protein. Your body will tell you what you need, it may seem overwhelming, but not difficult. Your meals must focus around the following foods: – Fatty fish: wild caught salmon, mackerel, and herring – Meat: grass-fed beef, pork, and organ meats – Poultry: chicken and turkey – Eggs: organic, pasteurized whole eggs
– Avocados: whole avocados – Dairy: yogurt, butter, cream – Cheese: cheddar, mozzarella, brie, goat cheese, cream cheese – Fats: coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil – Nuts/Seeds: macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds – Nut Butter: natural peanut, almond and cashew – Vegetables: greens, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, peppers – Condiments: salt, pepper, lemon juice, herbs, spices
The following foods should be restricted: Bread and baked goods, sweets and sugary foods, pasta, grains, starchy vegetables, beans and legumes, fruit, sweetened beverages, high-carb sauces, beer and sugary mixed drinks.
Make sure to avoid the following: margarine, canola and corn oil; processed foods and diet food with preservatives.
Beverage choices should include lots of water, sparkling water, unsweetened coffee with heavy cream and unsweetened green tea.
Snacks can include almonds, jerky, olives, celery with cream cheese dip, kale chips, coconut milk, macadamia nuts, and berries with heavy whipping cream.
Are there different types of Keto Plans?
Which one would you prefer:
· Standard ketogenic diet: Very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs
· Cyclical ketogenic diet: Periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
· Targeted ketogenic diet: Allows you to add carbs around workouts. · High-protein ketogenic diet: Includes more protein, ratio 60% fat, 35% protein, 5% carbs.
Will you experience any side effects?
You may experience poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, and digestive discomfort, which has been termed “Keto Flu”. Eating differently may change the water and mineral balance of your body. As with any changes in eating patterns, each person may experience different side effects, but its natural. Stay with your Keto Plan.
Think the Ketogenic Diet / Keto Plan is right for you? Talk to your doctor before adopting a Ketogenic Diet / Keto Plan.