The ketogenic diet has gained popularity over the last few years as a scientifically-sound way to lose weight. Its theories were first documented in about 400 BC when the Greeks taught that caloric restriction relieved the symptoms of epilepsy.
In the early 1900s, when the only anticonvulsant drugs on the market were heavy-duty, mind-numbing sedatives, it regained popularity as a way to control seizures in epileptics, particularly children. In 1921, two different researchers (working separately) studied data about the ketogenic diet concept, and extrapolated how it might be used to help diabetics control their symptoms and weight. From there it has spread into a well-known low-carb diet.
How the Ketogenic Diet Works
The concept of how the ketogenic diet works is simple. Our bodies are complex machines that can convert the calories they need to run from two different sources: 1) sugar or 2) fat. And they are always used in that order. Sugar first, then fat.
When you eat a normal (non-keto) meal, the simple carbohydrates you consume break down first and are converted to glucose and processed by your body immediately. Calories you need are burned; extra calories are stored as fat.
Since the average American diet is high in simple carbs, this results in an epidemic of weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes in our country. We regularly eat too many quick-acting calories. Our bodies simply can’t use all that fuel at once and so we gain weight.
When you eat a Ketogenic meal—low- or no-carb and high fat—your body switches to its backup fuel source, fat. There are two primary benefits to running your body on fat: 1) fat may provide higher calories, but those calories burn slower, leaving you without the overload of calories that carb-laden eating can produce. And 2) since fat breaks down slower, it leaves you feeling full longer so you aren’t back in the kitchen snacking an hour after dinner.
How Olive Oil Gets Involved
Not all fats are created equal. Natural fats are good to consume and carry different benefits to our bodies, but processed fats are bad for us.
Olive oil is made up of approximately:
- 15% saturated fat – which helps balance our HDL and LDL cholesterols,
- 70% monounsaturated fat – which helps balance our blood pressure, reduce insulin resistance, and reduce belly fat, and
- 15% polyunsaturated fat – which provides our brains with the fatty acids they need, reduces triglycerides, and helps control our blood sugar.
In other words, olive oil brings you a ton of the good qualities of natural fats, and (provided you use common sense cooking methods) none of the bad. It is a perfect Ketogenic food.
So load up on fresh meats, eggs and cheeses, nuts, herbs, fiber-rich vegetables, and natural fats. Your body will initially think the ketogenic diet is a weird way to eat and wonder where all those lovely simple carbs it’s used to have gone. But next thing you know, you’ll find that your energy and blood sugar have stabilized, your snack cravings have eased, and your weight is dropping steadily.
Here are some excellent online resources for ketogenic recipes: