The interest in the hot, but controversial ketogenic diet has been growing on a daily basis. The diet consists of mostly fat (generally 70% of the diet or more), with generally lesser amounts of protein and a minimal amount of carbohydrates. During this carbohydrate-restricted diet, blood glucose (sugar) levels eventually fall. Glycogen, which is a form of sugar that is stored in muscle (the body stores most of its accessible energy as fat), is used for energy. After a certain period of time, the body begins to burn its fat stores and the liver begins producing ketones to provide energy to our cells.
Ketones are not the dangerous poisons that some tend to describe them as, nor are they magic beings that cure every disease and ailment known to man, something that more and more people seem to be claiming these days. Ketone bodies are nothing more than sources of energy that can feed cells throughout the body and can also cross the blood-brain barrier to keep our neurons firing throughout the day (and throughout the night, where many of us have already experienced ketosis).
These sources of energy kept the human race intact and alive over its lifetime, especially during periods of limited food supplies and in the winter when we relied on a high-fat and low carbohydrate diet. Ketones are normal aspects of human physiology that allow the body to function close to its normal physiologic state, which may help fight diseases like cancer,1–4 and has certainly been shown to fight diabetes and obesity.5,6
However, many controversies exist regarding a ketogenic diet:
- Who would benefit most from a ketogenic diet?
- What is the correct macronutrient ratio?
- How positively (or negatively) does a ketogenic diet affect athletic performance?
- Can it enhance the treatment of cancer?
- Are some foods better than others to eat while on the diet (i.e. fat sources, glutamine, dairy, etc.)?
- Eggs and egg yolks (from chicken that are pastured or roam the pasture eating insects) provide a significant amount of healthy fat and are very nutrient-dense with basically no carbohydrates present.
- Raw (unpasteurized) cheese made from the milk of cows that are pastured (they only roam the pasture eating grass) and fed 100% grass provides significant amounts of fat with little to no carbohydrates, along with a plethora of other nutrients as well as bacteria for the bowels.
- Heavy cream is a welcome addition to many cups of morning coffee because it provides a hefty amount of fat with little to no protein or carbohydrates, as well as conjugated linoleic acid (if from cows that eat grass and not grains or corn).
While many of these questions may never be answered exactly, as they are likely person-dependent and extremely variable, current ketogenic diets often consist of large amounts of foods from animal sources due to the requirement of excessive amounts of fat. Because of that, vegetarians consistently seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to the ketogenic diet…
What About the Ketogenic Diet for Vegetarians?
Attaining ketosis requires a large amount of fat, which can often be found in animal sources of food. Therefore, the ketogenic diet and animal foods go hand-in-hand. Yet, there are many non-meat and even non-animal sources of food that contain significant amounts of fat. The irony of the ketogenic diet is that those who eat a diet composed mostly of meat (especially lean cuts of meat), often find themselves getting kicked out of ketosis.
Dairy and Eggs
Dairy is controversial, but for those vegetarians that include it or eggs in their diet, several sources stand out as helpful on a ketogenic diet:
CONT’D: Follow the link HERE to continue reading the remainder of the article about the ketogenic diet and vegetarianism.
1. Champ CE, Palmer JD, Volek JS, et al. Targeting metabolism with a ketogenic diet during the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme. J. Neurooncol. 2014;117(1):125-31. doi:10.1007/s11060-014-1362-0.
2. Klement RJ, Champ CE. Calories, carbohydrates, and cancer therapy with radiation: exploiting the five R’s through dietary manipulation. Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2014:1-13. doi:10.1007/s10555-014-9495-3.
3. Champ CE, Baserga R, Mishra M V, et al. Nutrient Restriction and Radiation Therapy for Cancer Treatment: When Less Is More. Oncologist 2013;18(1):97-103. doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2012-0164.
4. Simone BA, Champ CE, Rosenberg AL, et al. Selectively starving cancer cells through dietary manipulation: methods and clinical implications. Futur. Oncol. 2013;9(7):959-976. doi:10.2217/fon.13.31.
5. Forsythe C, Phinney S, Fernandez M, et al. Comparison of Low Fat and Low Carbohydrate Diets on Circulating Fatty Acid Composition and Markers of Inflammation. Lipids 2008;43(1):65-77. doi:10.1007/s11745-007-3132-7.
6. Volek J, Phinney S, Forsythe C, et al. Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet. Lipids 2009;44(4):297-309. doi:10.1007/s11745-008-3274-2.
© 2015 CDR Health and Nutrition, LLC. All Rights Reserved.