Over the past ten years, numerous scientific studies have emerged forcing many doctors and nutritionists to revise their thinking of what is considered a “healthy diet.” At the forefront of new scientific data is the continuing evidence of the importance of healthy fat in the diet. This concept is now being combined with principles from the Mediterranean diet (which includes healthy amounts of nuts and fresh vegetables) and is called the ketogenic Mediterranean diet.
Researchers have discovered more about the causes and mechanisms underlying diseases like diabetes, cancer, and arteriosclerosis, and for this reason, many previously held concepts of a healthy food pyramid have been disregarded. No longer are grains, breads, beans and starchy vegetables being used as the basis for a healthy diet.
The traditional Mediterranean diet features liberal consumption of olive oil, fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, potatoes and nuts, along with moderate amounts of lean red meat, abundant fish, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and moderate amounts of red wine. The emphasis is placed on consuming fresh, whole foods and minimizing processed foods such as those packaged in a box, jar or can.
A traditional ketogenic diet is one that requires about 50-70 percent of your food intake to come from beneficial fats such as coconut oil, butter, eggs, avocado, raw nuts, red meats, poultry, shellfish, cheese, and fish. It is devoid of sugar, flour, whole grains, starchy vegetables, and beans. Ketosis is a term that describes how the body will break down and liberate stored body fat for energy in the absence of carbohydrate consumption. This breakdown of fat causes the formation of what are called ketone bodies, which are used for energy, thus the name ketogenic diet. To arrive at a state of ketosis, the diet must contain less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. That would mean that less than 200 calories per day will come from carbohydrates. The average American diet contains literally hundreds of grams of carbohydrates, and this diet cannot lead to ketogenic fat burning.
The ketogenic Mediterranean diet features generous amounts of olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, moderate red wine, green vegetables and salads, fish as the primary protein, lean meat, fowl, eggs, and cheese. This diet totally eliminates whole grains, legumes, starchy vegetables like corn, potatoes, peas and all foods containing flour and sugar. Fruit is not included, although fruit can be a healthy food choice in most instances. The emphasis on olive oil, fish, red wine and healthier fat choices make this diet different than other low carbohydrate and ketogenic diet plans.
There is strong evidence suggesting that the ketogenic Mediterranean diet is excellent for weight and appetite reduction. This same evidence suggests that ketogenic diets are the appropriate diet for patients with diabetes, heart disease, and epilepsy. There is also emerging evidence supporting a ketogenic diet for use in patients with acne, headaches, neurotrauma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, sleep disorders, autism, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. Research has shown that the ketogenic Mediterranean diet reduces fasting glucose levels and prevents insulin resistance. There is also scientific evidence that this diet significantly decreases total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol.
No single diet is right for everyone as we are all genetically unique. You may have sensitivities, allergies and digestive issues which dictate a different dietary path. Persons with gallbladder disease may find a high-fat diet undesirable. However, most people should strive for a diet high in healthy fats – as much as 50-70 percent of the calories you consume – with moderate amounts of high-quality protein, preferably fresh deepwater fish, and abundant green or brightly colored vegetables. Starchy vegetables, grains, and other flour products should be minimal. Sugar, artificial sweeteners, and high fructose corn syrup, in particular, should be avoided as these up-regulate fasting blood sugar and insulin resistance, and increase body inflammatory burdens which are responsible for many chronic degenerative diseases.
In addition, several nutritional supplements are helpful for blood sugar and anti-inflammatory effects including omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil), magnesium, chromium, lipoic acid, curcumin, vitamin D and resveratrol. It may also be beneficial to supplement any high-fat diet with digestive and or pancreatic enzymes, as well as a good whole food fiber supplement (be sure to choose a fiber supplement that does not contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners).
Remember to be proactive and informed when making your health care decisions.
Dr. John Dixon can be reached at the Natural Medicine Group (760) 345.7300.
Sources: 1) www.advancedmediterranean.com; 2) www.ncbi.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PmC 2586625