One of the biggest questions that anyone asks in relation to a high fat diet is this: “will eating a high fat diet cause heart disease.”
And this is where everyone starts to lose their minds.
On one side, we have the lipid hypothesis, which points at fat as the main cause of heart disease while ignoring every other possible hypothesis and every study that demonstrates that there is not a relationship between fat intake and heart disease all while tapping its finger on its Ivy League medical diploma.
On the other side we have the low carb high fat cult that argues for high fat intake as if it is some verse from the bible. In the minds of these people, carbohydrate in all of its forms is the devil and they point their fingers and laugh at the non converted as if they are on a one way road to high blood sugar hell.
Very few have ever tried to meet in the middle.
Now, I’m obviously someone who believes in the benefits of a high fat diet. I helped create a course called Keto Camp for God’s sake. But I also think that this madness needs to stop. We are doing nothing but talking past each other.
This is not me saying that the lipid hypothesis isn’t wrong. Evidence in recent years has consistently pointed to the fact that there is no relationship between fat intake and heart disease in both epidemiological and human subject studies. Evidence has also demonstrated that a high fat, low carbohydrate diet can help athletes to perform as well or better than they would on a high carb low fat diet.
But what I am saying is this: there are other paths to healthy living besides a ketogenic diet, and there is a right way and a wrong way to do a ketogenic diet, and if done the wrong way, the ketogenic diet can be very unhealthy.
So here are four ways to ensure that your ketogenic diet does not venture down the path of ignorance toward disease and early death:
Eat Nutritionally Dense Food.
As with any diet, you need to ensure that the food you eat contains enough vitamins and minerals to support your body. The reason here is this: despite the fact that there isn’t any demonstrable relationship between fat intake and heart disease, there is a very demonstrable relationship between inflammation and heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and brain disfunction. We also know that carbohydrates, fats, and protein, all cause some sort of inflammation. That means that if you’re eating anything besides air and water, you also need to be taking in vitamins and anti-oxidants to battle those free radicals and inflammatory cytokines. So whether you’re doing keto, vegan, paleo, or anything else, you need to be eating nutritionally dense foods like vegetables and organ meats to ensure that you’re getting what you need to fight that battle.
Make sure your food is digestible.
Repeat after me, “anything that cannot be digested will cause damage to the body.” That means that even if you are eating lots of vegetables, if you are not preparing them properly, their tough outer walls could cause damage to your intestinal tract. Similarly, nuts, some of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet, could also cause damage. And guess what happens when you damage your gut: inflammation throughout your body. Make sure that you are cooking your vegetables, and make sure that you’re soaking your nuts. This increases their digestibility.
Don’t make it a meat and dairy only diet, and don’t think that you can eat any and all meat with reckless abandon.
The ketogenic diet is not a high protein diet. Protein should only encompass about 10-20% of your total calories. Additionally, if you’re eating factory raised cattle, you’re also getting lots of Omega 6 Fatty acid, which helps to raise inflammation in the body. Most of your fats should come from things like coconut oil, olive oil, tree nuts, avocados, and grass fed butter. You should be eating lots of vegetables, and these make a great vehicle for eating fats when they are sautéed in oils. When you do eat meat, keep it to about 4-6 oz a day and stick to grass fed, wild caught, and free range sources to avoid the Omega 6 bomb. When you can, opt for organ meats like grass fed beef liver. It has way more micronutrients and vitamins than regular muscle meat. But don’t feel the need to eat meat all the time. In fact, the ketogenic diet could be done very successfully as a vegan diet if you should choose.
Incorporate periodic fasts.
This is advice I would give to anyone following any diet, but it is especially true for ketosis. The more often we eat, the more we cause inflammation in our digestive systems. Incorporating a fast every so often gives the digestive system a much needed rest. This is also particularly helpful for ketosis as it will give your body a period of time without any insulin secretion. Additionally, fasts can help with growth hormone and DHEA production because these hormones do not release optimally if insulin or leptin is in the blood stream. I personally fast every morning up until noon. Then I allow myself to eat up until 10PM. When I’m fasting, I do not consume anything but water, a bit of coffee, and one or two servings of coconut oil. There are, however, two cases where I would avoid completely fasting: if you are a woman or if you have adrenal fatigue as confirmed by a blood test. In these cases, I would make sure that you are getting a good amount of fats and vegetables in the morning and throughout the day. This is because women are prone to hypothyroidism from periods of fasting, and those with adrenal fatigue could benefit from periodic insulin secretion to prevent cortisol release.
The ketogenic diet can be one of the most valuable dietary tools in our tool box, but like any diet, it can be very unhealthy if it is not done properly. The basic rules of nutrition still apply regardless of what diet paradigm you are using whether that be keto, vegan, paleo, or any other program. Foods need to be nutritious and digestible if they are to be considered healthy.
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