Here is a video that I put up on my channel that shares some of the information from this blog post.
Diet, the four letter word
I’m going to start this by saying that I really hate the word “diet”.
Why? Because the word has come to be associated with a few things that I don’t agree with:
- Most people think of a “diet” as a temporary measure. When someone goes “on a diet” that implies that they will, at some point, go “off the diet”. There is nothing sustainable about living that way, and it’s not healthy.
- Most people think of a “diet” as restrictive. They think that a “diet” restricts your food intake to only certain types of foods. If you are focusing on what you can’t have, then you’re not focusing on what you do have — in food and in life.
- Most people force specific parameters on any given “diet”. In other words, they become militant about how they define a particular diet, instead of focusing on what is healthy. Following rules shouldn’t trump nutrition.
A good example of my third point is the “Ketogenic Diet” (or “Keto Diet” as some people call it). People who are committed to the (standard definition of the) Keto Diet define it very narrowly, and the definition they use is, in my opinion, very unhealthy.
Does ketosis cause problems with the liver?
I got a phone call from my dad the other day who said that he heard that ketosis causes problems with the liver and he was concerned about me losing weight through ketosis.
Here’s the thing: ketosis doesn’t cause a problem with the liver. Problems with the liver are caused by the way most people get into ketosis.
Think of it like this: driving a car doesn’t cause accidents. It is the way people drive the car that causes the accident. Your method for using a tool determines the results you get from that tool.
The standard definition of the Keto Diet — which is how most people get into ketosis — is unhealthy. And that is what causes problems with the liver. Not ketosis.
That is an important distinction because it is the cause of a lot of misunderstandings.
But before I go too far, let me explain how most people define the Keto Diet. This video shows both the biochemical reasons why ketosis works, and also provides and explanation of how the standard “Keto Diet” works.
And before you watch it a reminder: the diet described is not what I did to get into ketosis and lose weight.
Why the “Keto Diet” is unhealthy
Now, the video sort of throws a lot of information at you, but the part that is worth noting is that the Ketogenic Diet has the following balance of macronutrients:
- 5% Carbs
- 25% Protein
- 70% Fat
And, I don’t know about you, but that is not healthy.
Not because I think fat is unhealthy (actually I think fat is very beneficial), and not because I think that this is ineffective in getting someone into ketosis (because clearly, it is effective based on the biochemistry of ketosis).
It is because this percentage of macronutrients is unable to provide you with the necessary nutrition, phytochemicals and trace minerals that your body needs to operate in a healthy manner.
In fact, this sort of percentage imbalance is not going to work in the long term. Eventually, you’ll end up with a fatty liver, a fully toxic cellular environment, and lots of gunk in your system.
And, probably a bit constipated too.
The need for nutrients during ketosis
And this is why my dad was concerned about liver health from ketosis. In fact, ketosis doesn’t cause problems for the liver. It is eating all that protein and fat and not enough vegetables that cause your liver, gallbladder, and kidney to become overloaded.
Here’s the thing: when your body is breaking down fat cells for fuel, a lot of byproducts are produced. These toxins have to be processed through the kidney and liver (as well as from bile produced by the gallbladder). If you’re processing a lot of fat for fuel, then that is a lot of waste byproducts that you have to process.
But in order to detoxify your body of fat-burning byproducts, your body needs certain nutrients, phytochemicals, minerals and other tools for that process. And most of those tools come from, you guessed it, nutrient rich foods.
The best ones for detoxifying your liver? Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and the like. Plus dandelion and milk thistle are good for it too. Wheat Grass juice powder also works wonders. Celery is great. You get the idea. All the stuff you already know is healthy is, it turns out, healthy.
Problems with the standard Keto Diet
How much of those sorts of things do you think the typical person on the previously described “Keto Diet” gets? If you’ve ever watched a “grocery haul” video posted by someone on the Keto Diet you’ll notice that almost all their purchases are either meat (ground beef, pork, chicken, and bacon are favorites), dairy (cheese, heavy cream, cream cheese) and fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts, peanut butter, etc.). If they get vegetables it is almost as an after-thought, or they might get some frozen veggies or lettuce to throw in with what they’re eating.
In fact, watch this video and tell me how many vegetables you see.
Exactly. He looks really good (and he seems like a really nice guy who cares about helping people), but I’m guessing his liver, kidney, and gallbladder is not happy campers.
And that is why many people who get into ketosis have problems with their liver. It’s because they overload it with all that garbage and don’t cleanse their organs with healthy foods.
And that is also why I did not go on the Keto Diet.
What did I do?
I utilized a protocol that I call “Keto-Green“. You can read the details here, but essentially my focus for my meals was more like this:
- 70% nutrient dense plants (kale, spinach, blue berries, onions, celery, broccoli, etc.)
- 10% protein (3 – 6 oz. of high-quality protein per meal, or around 10 oz. / day)
- 20% fats (organic coconut oil, avocados, almond butter, etc.)
The role of fat
I really only have healthy fat to make sure my caloric intake is at the right level. Fat, in my case, is the supplement to make sure I’m not putting myself in “starvation mode” (which closes down your metabolic processes), not as my primary focus on what I can eat.
I’m at the point now where I can feel in the evening how my energy and caloric needs are doing and will have some healthy fats before I go to bed to make sure I’m not depriving my body of necessary calories.
As you can see: fats are the last thing that I focus on, not the first.
As a result, my organ health is much better than someone who goes on the “Ketogenic Diet” and I will be able to maintain this for much longer because I’m not overloading my body with toxins. In fact, I’m getting rid of toxins faster than I’m producing or ingesting them.
The benefits to my organs
And here’s the other benefit. By eating this way I actually got into ketosis pretty easily. Just as easily as someone who eats huge bacon, sausage and cheese omelets for breakfast.
Except instead I have a huge spinach/kale salad with some organic chicken and balsamic-oil dressing with avocados and blue berries on it.
Whose organs do you think will survive longer?
I would never advise someone to go on the Keto Diet. At least not as it is defined by most people. Instead, I would recommend that you follow something like a Keto-Green Protocol because it is significantly healthier.
An important question to ask yourself
When in doubt, look at the food in front of you and ask yourself this question: “Is this food providing important nutrients that will help my cells function?”
If your answer is “No, but that’s okay because it doesn’t spike my insulin” then you’re missing the point.
Ketosis isn’t about losing weight. Weight loss is just a result. Ketosis is really about improving cell function and providing a better fuel source for your organs and cells. And if you want your organs and cells to function better, then give it better things to use for the biochemical reactions that happen in them.
Honestly, one of the most insulting things you could say to me is “Oh, you’re on the Keto Diet“, because it is completely false, and I’m not on a diet.
And the best thing you could say? “Oh, you’re focusing on nutrition and eating lots of vegetables“, because that is actually what I’m doing.
Why did I write this blog?
The reason I’m writing this is that I wanted a place to direct people who don’t understand the distinction between ketosis and the Keto Diet. They aren’t the same thing, even though they both have the word “keto” in it.
It just so happens I’m in ketosis because I stopped eating things that are bad for you. Not because I followed some restrictive diet that forces you to clog up your organs with junk.
Finally, here is a video that explains some of what I talked about here, and provides important ways to make sure that you do ketosis in a healthy way:
And here is another one, also from Dr. Berg, that talks about vegetables on a ketosis diet.