If you have a chronic disease like RA you may have thought about going Keto. But what exactly is a Keto Diet and how could it help you?
On a ketogenic diet, the body’s metabolism uses fat instead of carbohydrate as its preferred source of energy and produces ketone bodies. The goal is to stay in “ketosis” by adjusting your macronutrient intake (carbs, proteins, fats) to ensure production of those ketones.
However, full disclosure, before you start any diet, especially one that encourages elimination or severe reduction of nutrients, you should talk to your doctor or dietitian about your current health, any medications, and make sure that your ketogenic diet delivers your body what it needs.
In this blog post, I’ll talk about the basics of a keto diet and how you can develop a better keto diet nutrition plan to deliver all the nutrients your body needs to run better, and ultimately, help you feel better.
Keto Diet Basics
A Keto Diet is built on fats. Fats are not all created equal or processed equally, which means they don’t all help your body run better. Because you are getting in a lot of them, you need to make sure they are better more often. Here are some fat do’s and don’ts.
- Do get in a variety of fats. Yes, avocado and olive oil are good for you but so are walnut, flax, chia and hemp seed oils.
- Do choose unrefined or mechanically (not chemical) refined oils and ideally choose organic for what you consume often.
- Do go nuts over nuts and seeds. Yes, you do have to watch those portions to make sure you stay in ketosis. However, foods like hemp seeds, pack fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese among other key nutrients, and likewise, your walnuts help satisfy you while giving your brain and heart the omegas they need too.
- Don’t overheat your fats when cooking. Keep the temperature down when cooking with fats because high heat can turn them from healthy to harmful!
- Don’t go for the meat and dairy if eating out and you don’t know the source. In a pinch, like the airport or you’re out for a night, or just need some cream for your coffee it won’t be an issue. But, if possible, choose better quality animal products or choose plants if you are unsure.
- Don’t overdo it on “keto” products that seem too good to be part of your daily nutrition plan. They likely are. Yes, a daily treat with cacao works, but your better nutrition plan shouldn’t just include eating brownies, ice cream, “milk” shakes and quesadillas even if they are keto-friendly.
So What’s A Better Keto Diet Nutrition Plan
While the ketogenic diet will meet your fat needs, you may need to tweak it a bit so that it’ll give you all the other nutients your body needs to run better.
1. Protein. While you may want to lower your protein intake to stay in ketosis, you still need to meet your daily needs to retain or build lean body mass and for things like hormone health. Some better nutrition keto-friendly protein choices include: hemp seeds, cashews, pistachios, organic grass-fed cheese, organic eggs from pasture-raised chickens, wild salmon and sardines.
2. Magnesium. Known as Mother Nature’s muscle relaxant, this mineral works inside of your cells to turn off the stress response. Because many of the richest sources of magnesium are higher carbohydrate (grains, beans, etc.), following a ketogenic diet may increase your risk of not meeting your daily magnesium needs. Some better nutrition choices include: cacao, seeds, greens and a quality supplement.
3. Vitamin D. We all need the “sunshine vitamin” which is actually a hormone, and it is hard to get in enough from food and beverage on any diet. Good news is that your ketogenic diet will help you absorb it better as it is a fat-soluble vitamin. Make sure to get your levels (vitamin D 25 OH) checked at least annually with the goal of >40 unless otherwise advised.
Here are some ways to get it in better: wild salmon and sardines, fortified dairy and non-dairy, and a quality supplement. Most adults do well with 2000iu of vitamin D3. If you are vegan there are D2 supplements from mushrooms exposed to sunlight. However, you may need a higher dosage especially if you are deficient.
4. Carotenoids. these are the pigments that make foods yellow, orange, and red, and they help your eyes, bones, heart, and brain stay healthy and reduce risk of chronic disease. Good news is they’re also fat-soluble so your ketogenic diet will help you absorb them better.
However, the richest sources of carotenoids – carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, squashes, tomatoes – also pack carbs so you may not get them in on your ketogenic diet.
Here are some better choices: Greens: spinach, collards and beet greens can help you get in some carotenoids with less carbohydrate. Enjoy them sautéed or as part of a smoothie or use them to replace bread for wraps and tortillas. Choose a quality supplement that includes mixed carotenoids as well as lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.
5. Eat a Rainbow. Your body needs plant nutrients from all the different colors daily to do its cleanup work and help prevent disease. While you are limiting carbs, you will be limiting sources of a lot of these colors, so make sure to get them in with better keto nutrition choices.
Spice up your keto dishes, beverages, and snacks. Spices are a super-efficient way to get in plant nutrients and they help your keto choices look and taste delicious. Choose a rainbow of non-starchy vegetables, spacing them throughout your day.
Brown and white are a part of your nutrition rainbow too so don’t forget your mushrooms and, of course, the keto hero, cauliflower.
6. Fiber. Your body needs this to help you feel full, to remove waste, and to promote a healthy environment for good bacteria. While you may be ditching traditionally fiber-rich foods for their carb count, you still need to reach your better fiber count daily.
Give these better choices a try to help you meet your daily fiber needs:
- Berries give you some sweetness and shouldn’t blow your carb count, they also provide a good source of fiber.
- Seeds like ground flaxseeds, chia and hemp can help you reach your daily goals as foods or as supplemental powders you add to smoothies etc.
- Avocados and coconut aren’t just helping you stay in ketosis deliciously, they contribute fiber too.
- Vegetables help you meet your rainbow and fiber needs, just make sure to eat the skins.
7. Coq 10. Our body needs this key antioxidant that also helps prevent the formation of free radicals. While our body makes it, some things such as aging and medications like statins reduce how much we make daily. Food sources of this nutrient include:
- High quality organ meats and some muscle meats.
- Fatty fish: wild salmon, sardines and mackerel.
- Nuts and seeds: sesame and pistachios in particular
- Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower and spinach
Unfortunately, foods aren’t a great source – most servings provide under 3 mg of Coq 10 and we often want more than 60 mg daily. So, while it is good to get it in through these choices, you may also want to consider a supplemental source.
Potential Benefits of the Keto Diet For Women With RA
For women with rheumatoid arthritis, the ketogenic diet may be particularly beneficial. Research suggests that the diet may reduce inflammation in the body, which is a hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis.
One of the ways the ketogenic diet may reduce inflammation is by changing the way your body metabolizes fats. When you’re in ketosis, your body produces ketones, which are molecules that serve as an alternative source of energy.
These ketones have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, meaning they can help calm down the excessive inflammation happening in your body.
Moreover, the ketogenic diet is known to regulate insulin levels. When you eat foods high in carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels spike, and your body releases insulin to help manage them. However, high insulin levels can contribute to inflammation. By limiting carbohydrates on the ketogenic diet, you keep your insulin levels stable, which may reduce inflammation in the long run.
It’s important to note that while the ketogenic diet may have potential benefits in reducing inflammation, it may not work the same way for everyone. Each person’s body is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.
Giving your body what it needs to run better helps you reach and keep your better health goals.
Whether you are following a ketogenic diet for a short period or need to be on it longer term, meeting your total nutrition needs with a combination of foods, beverages and supplements helps you reap the benefits of your ketogenic diet and may help reduce risk of creating any nutrient gaps in the future.
Remember, adopting a healthy lifestyle goes beyond just diet. Regular exercise, stress management, and getting enough sleep are also vital for managing inflammation and supporting overall well-being.
Living with an autoimmune disease can be challenging, but understanding the power of nutrition and how it can positively impact your well-being is a game-changer.
Personalized nutrition counseling provides you with the individualized guidance and support you need to navigate the complexities of your condition.
Imagine having a compassionate and knowledgeable expert by your side, someone who will listen to your unique concerns, explore your dietary preferences, and develop a customized plan tailored specifically to you.
Whether you’re dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s, or any other autoimmune condition, a registered dietitian specializing in autoimmune diseases can be your invaluable ally.
A registered dietitian can help you uncover potential food triggers, suggest anti-inflammatory foods that may soothe your symptoms, and guide you in making sustainable dietary changes that fit your lifestyle.
It’s all about finding what works best for you, making small but impactful adjustments, and embracing the power of nourishing yourself from the inside out.
So, lovely ladies, don’t hesitate to take that proactive step toward personalized nutrition counseling. I’d love to help provide you with the knowledge, tools, and unwavering support to help you optimize your nutrition and live your best life.
Remember, you deserve to thrive, and with personalized nutrition counseling, you can unlock a world of possibilities for your health and well-being. Go ahead and take charge of your journey. Your future self will thank you for it!
***Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice***