What is the keto diet and lifestyle – and is it right for you?

The Keto craze has hit the mainstream. If you want to test out the low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic plan here’s what you can and can’t eat. Buzz60

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Brian Bixler helps young people recover from sports-related injuries. He typically sees patients under the age of 21.

Bixler has specialized training in sports medicine and pediatric orthopaedics.

But when he began his most recent talk on the ketogenic lifestyle, or keto diet , the individuals in his audience looked very different than his typical patients.

About 100 people, most of them over the age of 40, crowded into a conference room looking for more information on a ketogenic or keto diet.

Could this be the answer to some of their health concerns?

Early on, Bixler, of OSS Health , would point out this is not a diet. This was a lifestyle choice, an eating plan and one he made only after turning 50 and realizing he had metabolic syndrome — he had all five factors that placed him at risk of developing diabetes, suffering a stroke or developing heart disease.

He was gaining weight year after year despite running five times a week and eating a low-fat diet, the type of diet he though would keep him healthy.

Finding out he was at risk was crushing because of his family history.

His father — who was a general surgeon — died of a heart attack at age 44. Bixler’s grandfather, his father’s father, then died three weeks later of a heart attack.

Finding a way to improve his own health goes back to the family history he knows all too well.

"Both of them were practicing physicians when they died of heart attacks," Bixler said. "So I want to be the first doctor in my family to retire before I die." Finding keto

In the Ketogenic diet, fat intake is in the range of 80% of total calories. (Photo: UVM Medical Center) Through searching the internet, Bixler learned about the keto diet or lifestyle. It flew in the face of everything he thought he knew about nutrition and eating healthy.

"It was like opposite day," Bixler said. "I went from eating high carbs to low carbs to almost no carbs. I went from low fat to high fat everything: full-fat milk, fatty cuts of meat. I cut down running and started lifting weights again, and I started dropping weight like crazy.

"And basically everything turned around (in about a year), so my blood pressure went to normal and all my labs went to normal."

Besides his semi-regular speaking schedule around central Pennsylvania, he posts on Facebook under Bixler Functional Health Coaching .

"I’m not dieting, I’m not starving — I eat a ton of food — I just switched to this (keto)," Bixler said. What is a ketogenic lifestyle, diet?

The Ketogenic diet includes high fat foods such as coconut, avocado and butter, and is very low in carbohydrates. (Photo: SARAH COWARD/THE NEWS-PRESS, SARAH COWARD/THE NEWS-PRESS) Ketogenic is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan.

The goal is to put your body in a state of ketosis, where your body will break down stored fat into ketones to burn for energy. In other words, instead of burning sugar and carbs for fuel your body will burn fat.

Keto calls for restricting carbs between 50 and 20 grams.

That’s not going to be easy for most people.

"A lot of us have a really bad sugar addiction, the biggest obstacle to overcome to do this right is you need that sweet tooth," Bixler said.

He knows he’s talking to an audience that has consumed processed food and carbohydrates in large quantities and has done so for decades. He was in a similar position several years ago.

"For you to do this, it’s a mind game," Bixler said. "We have been told for so long that we shouldn’t eat fat and we’re going to die, so for you to get over it’s really, really hard." Accepted foods in keto

A plate of ground beef cooked in oil with avocados, tomatoes and green beens could be a typical lunch plate in the Ketogenic Diet. (Photo: RUDY GUTIERREZ / EL PASO TIMES) • eggs
• beef, pork, bacon, turkey, fish, shellfish
• avocados
• whole milk yogurt (NOT low-fat, high-sugar yogurt)
• tree nuts
• seeds
• heavy cream
• cheese
• butter
• coffee (without sweetener)
• olive oil
• coconut oil
• leafy green vegetables
• almond flour, coconut flour Restrictions in keto

• sugar
• grains (cereals, bread, pasta, oats, rice, quinoa)
• starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes)
• sugary drinks (soda, sports drinks, fruit juices)
• fruits (bananas, pears, mango, citrus)
• legumes (beans, hummus, lenils)
• alcohol What’s the difference between keto, Atkins, Paleo?

Ketogenic might sound like some other diets that have become popular during the last 40 years.

Like Atkins and Paleo, keto stresses eliminating high-carbohydrate consumption, but there are differences in the three.
Keto is a high fat and moderate protein diet. Paleo focuses on the types of foods eaten, not the amount. While many of the foods are similar — calling for a restriction of dairy, grains, legumes, refined sugar, salt, potatoes and all high-processed foods — a Paleo diet won’t necessarily put you in a ketogenic state. Atkins was billed as a diet and not a lifestyle change, limiting the amounts of carbs in phases before reintroducing carbs into an everyday diet after a weight-loss goal was met. More: Paleo, Atkins and keto are all low-carb diets, so what’s the difference? What are the benefits? A hamburger patty without the bun and bacon strips topped with sliced avocados, onions and tomatoes is a typical dinner plate in the Ketogenic Diet. (Photo: RUDY GUTIERREZ / EL PASO TIMES) Depending on how strict an individual restricts carbs, keto has shown the potential for weight loss.It can also improve insulin resistance , meaning it could be a great aid for people who have pre-diabetes ( more than 1 in 3 adults ).In Bixler’s case, his HDL (good cholesterol) improved, his high blood pressure dropped and he lost weight — in his 50s. He remarked he’s not selling anything. He has a day job , but he is a proponent of the keto lifestyle."This same program has ridiculous health benefits … we are finding that most of our chronic diseases now are caused by a combination of too-high insulin levels in the blood and inflammation," Bixler said. "And so anything you can do to control those two things, can control all of these diseases." What are the dangers? Bixler did not hesitate, people with diabetes and people with high blood pressure need to consult with their doctor before going on a keto diet, because if done correctly the change in diet can lower blood pressure and insulin levels.He understands not every physician knows the benefits of keto or have researched it.Registered dietitian Julie Stefanski is based in York and has specialized in the ketogenic diet for more than a decade. She also advocates for anyone starting keto, especially individuals who have not seen a doctor in more than a year, to first see a physician and/or registered dietitian to have their lab work checked and monitored. She also notes there are certain medications that cannot be used while on a ketogenic diet."A high fat diet is not always tolerated, especially if you already have digestive issues, have had gallbladder surgery or liver problems," Stefanski said."A very high fat diet can have unpredictable effects on a person’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels. … For some people, these levels can get extremely high. If a physician is not monitoring this, you’ll never feel that these changes are occurring."Fiber and calcium, or the lack of fiber and calcium, in a keto diet could also become an issue, Stefanski said. Keto-friendly calcium foods, like sardines and salmon, eaten on a regular basis could help bone health."There are ways to add fiber to a ketogenic diet, but it’s not possible to come close to the fiber amounts recommended by health experts for fighting cancer and for gastrointestinal health," Stefanski said. "Keto diets often lack good sources of prebiotic fibers known to best support our gut bacteria."Everyone also seems to agree keto newcomers can suffer from cutting down on sugar and carbs. Some call it the keto flu. Headaches, sluggishness and constipation can occur.Dehydration can be common if individuals don’t drink enough water.And if you’ve ever heard of dragon breath, get ready for keto breath . Is it sustainable? One knock against keto is the difficulty in sustaining a diet that limits carbs indefinitely. If it’s a life plan, there are no built-in days for cheating. There are substitute foods (pork rinds instead of crunchy snacks like potato chips), but Bixler has kept to the diet plan for years.His driving force has been focusing on why he started."If you want to do this bad enough, you can," Bixler said. "I want to be heathy more than I want to eat a bowl of ice cream. I want to be healthy more than I want the three-minute satisfaction […]

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