In recent times, the ketogenic diet and low-carb diet have gained much popularity and attention. However, despite its popularity, people often wonder how a diet with high-fat content will affect their cholesterol levels; will it be their saving grace or send them to their doctor to be put on a statin drug? Let’s dig deeper to understand if it’s worth pursuing a keto diet…
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat or lipid that is waxy in texture. It is an insoluble substance that circulates through our blood to reach all body cells. All cells in your body need cholesterol and contain cholesterol. One of the functions of your liver is to produce cholesterol, and it makes enough of it to meet the body’s needs.
Why do you need cholesterol?
You need cholesterol in your body to make hormones, cells, and vitamins (Vitamin D). It helps cells to build their membranes that form in layers. These layers act as gatekeepers controlling and vigilant about what goes in and out of the cell. Your liver produces cholesterol and makes bile, which helps you digest foods.
Why is cholesterol level a concern?
There has been a lot of publicity over the years around the concern for having high-level cholesterol in your bloodstream and the potential link to increased risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) disease. Since the Ketogenic diet, in its strictest form, recommends consumption of 75 percent fats, 20 percent protein, and only 5 percent carbohydrates, people can’t help but think of the impact of high cholesterol levels in their blood. It is, therefore, absolutely a valid concern. People rightly raise concerns about the state of cholesterol level in the bloodstream, but almost all studies study cholesterol levels in patients who also eat a moderate to high carbohydrate diet. These studies have mentioned associated health problems like cardiovascular diseases that include coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and peripheral vascular disease. High cholesterol has also been tied to diabetes and high blood pressure. It is also responsible for building up fatty plaques in arteries all over your body. Even these plaques can block intricate thin blood vessels of the penis, and inadequate blood flow can lead to erectile dysfunction.
Is it Wise To Do Keto Diet Then?
Considering the keto diet’s success in sustainable weight loss and myriad health benefits confirmed by different scientific research, almost everyone can safely choose the keto diet when they consult their practitioner. Those who have these conditions should avoid doing the keto diet unless they are working with a Keto Trained Practitioner: kidney disease, liver disease, familial hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels inherited from family), or fat-induced lipemia since the diet may worsen these conditions. Otherwise, it is healthy, safe, and suitable for most people.
Here are some most common health benefits and goals you may achieve if you sincerely follow a keto diet:
- Weight Loss: A meta-analysis of 13 different randomized controlled trials in 2013 revealed that people following the ketogenic diet (high-fat diet) lost 2 pounds (Ibs) more than those following low-fat diets over one year. Keto diet boosts metabolism and reduces hunger-stimulating hormones that cut appetite and help to lose weight. In addition, it does help in burning fats that lead to considerable weight loss without losing muscle mass.
- Better Heart Health: Though it may sound a little contradictory, the keto diet may lower cholesterol levels in the blood and improve blood pressure and resting heart rates. Carb consumption considerably elevates triglycerides, a fat molecule level in the bloodstream, a well-known decisive heart disease risk factor. By lowering carbs consumption, the keto diet helps people experience a dramatic reduction of triglycerides in their blood, whereas low-fat diets cause triglycerides’ spike in the blood.
- 3. Better Skin and Hair Health: A study in 2012 found that people in the keto diet experienced positive effects and improved healthy skin and hair since they discard processed and refined high-calorie carbs from their diet and reduced carb intake considerably that could reduce acne symptoms. The healthy fats consumed in the keto diet rich in vitamin E rejuvenated skin and hair health.
- Keep some non-communicable disease at bay: A growing body of study indicates Keto diet helps shed pounds, lowers blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and cholesterol slows the progression of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and reduces cancer risk.
- Inflammation check and slowing down aging: Excessive visceral fat around your organs is one of the causes of inflammation, oxidative stress, chronic diseases, and fast aging. A series of studies confirmed that the keto diet is very effective in melting harmful abdominal fat, excels the body’s resistance to oxidative stress, and helps fight inflammation, an underlying cause of many common diseases.
- Increased “Good” HDL Cholesterol Level: Consuming healthy fat is one of the ways to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as ‘good cholesterol, that lowers your risk of heart disease. You’ll be able to increase dramatically “good” HDL levels in your bloodstream if you follow a healthy fat-rich keto diet. Whereas your HDL increases only moderately or even declines on low-fat diets.
Wisely Customize Your Keto Diet
With some educated and cautious efforts, you can minimize the risk of bad cholesterol (Low-Density Lipoprotein) spike in your bloodstream. These are as follows:
- Consult a Doctor, Nutritionist/Dietician: It is always better to start any diet after consulting a doctor, nutritionist, or dietician; especially if you have any known health conditions. First, get a thorough medical checkup to determine if you have any health problems that could conflict with the Keto diet. Then, you can start after you are sure that you are healthy enough or have some minor problems with starting the keto diet. Your nutritionist and dietician then can adjust your meals according to your need to help you gain your health and weight loss goals without exaggerating any of your health problems.
- Get Healthy Fat: While on Keto Diet, try to eat fat from healthy sources such as monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature), and MCTS (medium-chain triglycerides). Try and avoid trans fats, fried foods, processed foods like sweets, and hydrogenated oils.
Some of the good sources of monounsaturated fats are nuts, olive oil, and avocado oil. The high-quality sources of polyunsaturated fat are walnuts, flaxseeds, beef, eggs, fish, chia seeds, and tofu. The polyunsaturated fats are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and Omega-3 fatty acids that help lower triglyceride levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol when consumed on a keto diet. Omega-3 is also a good source of Vitamin E and anti-oxidant good for hair, skin, and fighting against aging. One of the best things about discovering keto is being able to eat saturated fats that were once taboo during the low-fat diet craze. Things like coconut oil, yogurt, eggs, fish, and cheese are some healthy fat sources from saturated fats.
- Reduce Sugar: Keto-trained physicians are now educating patients on sugars being the culprit of clogged arteries, insulin resistance, blood sugar challenges, mood swings, and poor sleep quality; not fat. As mentioned above, it’s important to choose fats wisely and fill your plate with healthy fats.
- Add more fibers to your diet: The Keto way of eating focuses on eating low carbohydrates, but it’s still important to consume fiber to keep things moving and improve good bowel habits. You can add fiber-rich foods from the list below. Some of them are even considered ‘negative-calorie-foods”
- Winter Melon
- Hog plum (South Asian fruit “Amra”)
- Brussels Sprouts
- White Mushrooms
Along with this, you can also snack on nuts, seeds, berries, and low-carb veggies. These foods are rich in fiber and add little calories or no calories. Instead, they burn more calories when digested, thereby called ‘negative-calorie food’, also rich in micronutrients that will help you lower your cholesterol levels.
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