If you’ve ever witnessed ‘Hangry Amy’ – sorry, hubs and mom and dad – you know, like most people, that diet has a profound affect on my energy and mood. (Not to mention what it does to my skin. Case in point: If I eat a full Fage 0% Greek Yogurt cup my skin all but explodes into a red angry mess of bumps around my mouth.) To avoid the rollercoaster highs and lows often felt with eating a diet full of processed foods and sugary carbohydrates, I try to eat exceptionally clean- non gmo, almost entirely organic – and focus on mainly eating fiber rich and nutrient dense whole fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats and some grains. This has been enough to keep me energized and feeling good for a long time, but as a new mom where there are so many days I often skip breakfast or don’t find time to eat lunch until 3pm, I can feel my body crash and burn on the glucose rollercoaster. I become moody, stressed, anxious and feel depleted when I can’t refuel right away and it has me wondering if turning to a high fat keto diet could be the answer. Will becoming a ‘fat burner’ versus a ‘glucose burner’ make a difference in my energy and mood? That is the question I want to answer.
I know loosely what a ketogenic diet is, essentially a high-fat diet, because (a) I don’t live under a rock – after all, it is the number one trending diet at the moment – and (b) my husband tried the ketogenic diet a few months ago which was met with success; success being measured in terms of weight loss. I watched him make pizza crust made out of mozzarella and chicken breasts, eat sausages and spoonfuls of coconut oil, and me with my love for greens and fish all but gasped! and looked on with sheer horror.
I never thought a keto diet would work for me until I learned there are various forms of the ketogenic diet. One of these being – ketotarian – which according to my interview with Dr. Will Cole, leading functional medicine expert, IFMCP, DC, and author of Ketotarian, has the same goal as a traditional keto diet – to reach ketosis through a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb macronutrient ratio – but is done without all the saturated fat.
“A traditional keto diet is high in both meat and dairy which some people are sensitive to and can further perpetuate inflammation and the health problems they are trying to heal from. Ketotarian offers vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian options (to the keto diet),” explains Dr. Cole.
When I realized that I could follow a keto diet, but do it my way – plant based, low saturated fat, no dairy, and no eggs – I began to wonder if a keto diet might give me back my pre-baby energy and vigor. I decided it was at least worth a shot.
Before I get into what I’ll be eating during my #BondRemake plant based keto diet, see below for a little breakdown of what exactly the ketogenic diet is and its benefits.
What is a ketogenic diet
The keto diet is essentially a high-fat diet where your meals are 70-80 % fat, about 20% protein; and 5% carbohydrates (Cleveland Clinic).
Due to the low availability of carbohydrates which causes blood sugar levels to drop, the body switches from burning glucose that comes from carbohydrates (such as grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits) to burning ketone bodies, a type of fuel the liver produces from stored fat (harvard.edu) for energy.
According to “Should you try the keto diet?” published on the Harvard Medical School website, getting the liver to make ketone bodies requires:
- Eating fewer than 20-50 grams of carbs
- Typically takes a few days to reach ketosis
- *And eating too much protein can interfere with ketosis since protein is broken down by the liver into amino acids which are used to create glucose
Ketogenic diet benefits
Because the keto diet switches the fuel your body runs on to mostly fat, it makes it easier for your body to burn off your fat stores. This is great if you’re looking to lose weight, but there are also other touted benefits like “lower inflammation, boost brain function, restore energy, burn fat, crush cravings, stabilize blood sugar, and more,” says Dr. Cole.
Some studies even argue that a ketogenic diet can enhance cognitive function, improve motor function, coordination and recovery. Another one showed ketones improved physical performance and cognitive function and memory in rats.
And according to Dr. Alberto Villodolo, whose book Grow A New Body helped inspire my #BondRemake journey, ketosis increases cellular detoxification and can even help repair the brain by turning on the production of stem cells in the brain. It does this he says by activating BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which enhances brain repair.
Foods I will be eating on my ketotarian diet
After assessing this keto calculator, I found that based on my height/weight/activity level I should be eating 70g of protein, 20g of carbs and 195g of fat on my ketotarian diet. The amount of fat I am required to eat is daunting. To give you some perspective – 1 avocado has 30g of protein.
My goal is to do this completely plant based and avoid sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol etc that make up a lot of keto baked goods. These sugar alcohols, or sugar replacements, are low-carb sweeteners derived from natural plant sources that are put through a chemical process that involves adding an alcohol molecule to them. The sweet receptors bind to your tongue so you get that sugary flavor, but the sugar alcohols aren’t fully metabolized or absorbed by the body so they clock in at “zero net carbs” and at very few calories.
Keto cookies and keto pancakes do exist, but I want to try to do my ketotarian diet in the without sugar alcohols mainly because I want to set myself up for phase II and phase III of my #BondRemake journey: Phase II – A candida cleanse and Phase III – Repopulating my microbiome with good bacteria.
Here are the foods I will be eating:
- Fatty cold water fish rich in B12 and omega3s: salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna
- Plant sources of healthy fats: avocados, MCT coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pecans, macadamia and Brazil nuts, olives
- Vegetables: Lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, cabbage, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, Brussel sprouts
- Fruits: raspberries blackberries, strawberries, lemons, limes
One thing that Dr. Cole stressed to me is the importance of tracking macros. He said that one of the downfalls of this diet is many people don’t track their macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein) and aren’t able to tap into the benefits of a keto diet since they aren’t truly in ketosis.
I plan on not only tracking my macros, but testing my blood and urine in first thing in the morning with these keto testing strips.
The main point of this exercise is to see if a ketogenic diet will increase my energy. I want to feel vibrant and whole again, and be able to power through my demanding days as a mom with the energy I need.
Once I’m about one week into my keto diet, I will begin Phase II of the #BondRemake and begin my Candida Cleanse. I am convinced that the overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans in my gut has led to an imbalance in my gut and skin microbiome contributing to my perioral dermatitis and other IBS symptoms I regularly experience like bloating, gas and constipation. Stay tuned because I’ll be sharing a recipe for a fermented fungi that rids the body of Candida in my Phase II article. And be sure to follow me on Instagram where I’ll be regularly posting what I’m eating and experiencing all throughout this process!
*Incase you haven’t read it, check out my blog post “The #BondRemake Mommy Makeover Wellness Edition” to get a full rundown of what’s coming in the next couple of weeks and why I’ve decided to do an overhaul on myself wellness style.
written by Amy Chang; photographed by Wing Ta for BOND EN AVANT