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I am fast approaching my one-year anniversary on a ketogenic diet, after years of Green Paleolithic eating, and wanted to do a summary of my results and lessons so far.
When I went keto, my diet lost none of its greenness, or paleolithic-ness, but it did change substantially. Carbohydrate sugars moved from about 40% of my daily calories to less than 10%, and fats from a similar level to more than 70% of my calories. Out went sweet fruits and starches, and in came more low-carb vegetable fruits and of course added plant and animal fats – especially fish, eggs, avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and butter.
Notably, the protein portion of my diet stayed about the same, at slightly below 20% of calories, though my total daily calorie intake (and therefore total protein) have declined by about 30% in the past year, primarily via reduced meal frequency and thus more efficient food use. As I mentioned, also unchanged was the high amount of greens and vegetables, along with small portions of cheese, that I have eaten for most of my adult life.
My Typical Daily Meal – Easy, Natural & Perhaps Optimally Healthy
In my case, giving up sugar-rich grains, legumes, processed foods, and sweets was not an issue, since I have long avoided these non-Paleo foods for personal and ecological health reasons. I also was not a regular drinker, but quickly found that keto and alcohol do not mix well for me, and stopped using alcoholic beverages entirely. Lastly, my red meat intake has steadily declined in the last year as well. I now rarely eat meat and have wild caught or naturally-raised fish almost every day.
Like me, you probably see many news articles suggesting ketogenic eating is hard to sustain, radical or unnatural, and unhealthy. I’d like to briefly take on each of these claims, while describing my experience on what I will call a Green Paleo Keto diet.
First, I have found ketogenic eating remarkably easy to follow, and even stupidly so – with a bit of commitment and once you make the transition to new eating patterns. This is primarily because hunger is greatly reduced when we are in ketosis, giving us new freedom to choose what and when we eat. When I began keto, my appetite was noticeably lowered within a few days, old food cravings stopped entirely after about a week, and at the end of the first month, I thought I might eat this way, and easily so, for the rest of my life. Now, it is nearly a year later, and I never go off keto eating or depart from a healthy plant and fish-rich diet.
In practice, the foods I eat are enjoyable, delicious, and satisfying. For months, I have been entirely free of the food longings and temptations that plagued me most of my life, even while eating a whole-food Paleo diet, and I never feel deprived. In fact, since I no longer have urgent hunger and am freer to choose and optimize my eating patterns, I now usually eat only once or twice a day – consuming one big meal, or a small and medium meal 1-4 hours apart. I also mostly eat the same foods most days, and again, I am perfectly happy with my ketogenic diet.
Second, what is radical and unnatural? Keto is very different from the way most people eat today. But is modern or traditional agricultural-age eating the standard by which we should judge natural nutrition? Overall, as its name implies, a Green Paleo Keto diet is similar in many ways to how humans and pre-humans ate in wild nature for millions of years. Then, eating required foraging, was often intermittent and low in carbs, and therefore engendered ketosis – though this varied by locale, season, custom, and food availability. But reflecting this natural legacy, I would point out that modern people often easily enter and function during ketogenic metabolism.
In any case, there was no refined sugar, no processed food, no agricultural crops, and no convenience food in earlier life. Food, as a whole, was whole, moving or quickly eaten by other species, and otherwise required substantial work. Food therefore was fairly inconvenient, often leading people to eat less and less frequently than is common today, again promoting ketosis. And while natural perils were much greater and lifespans shorter in primitive life, there appears to have been far less nutritionally-related disease at comparable age levels. So, which diet is radical and unnatural?
Third, as with many diet innovations today, the healthiness of sustained ketogenic eating is an open scientific question. Owing to the newness of intentional ketosis, it will take years of longitudinal study to understand its health effects and limitations. But based on current nutritional science recommending whole and green eating above all, it is possible that the healthiness of keto will depend on the wholeness and greenness, or cleanness, of the foods eaten, rather than the proportion of carbs and fats. Again, this is an open question. As such, anyone claiming keto is categorically unhealthy – including the meal in the photo above and detailed in the chart below – is speculating, or simply parroting current nutritional orthodoxy.
In my experience, moving from Green Paleo eating to a Green Paleo Keto diet provided a number of apparent benefits. It caused me to quickly lose almost ten kilograms (20 pounds) of body weight and move from roughly 18% to 8% body fat. Importantly, however, I have regained about a third of this weight in the last year, but primarily in the form of muscle mass rather than body fat. I am now at about 10% body fat, but can quickly lower this amount by either eating less or fasting (yes, I’ve done this as an experiment).
As I mentioned, I now have low hunger overall, usually eat only once or twice a day, and thus intermittently fast between 20 and 23 hours per day. I also periodically and easily do multi-day fasts as a health practice. Again, despite these seeming limitations or deprivations, I never deviate, or feel tempted to deviate, from my Green Paleo Keto eating pattern, and mostly eat the same core foods (listed below) every day. And as I approach sixty, I can say that I have no medical complaints or symptoms, take no medicines, have boundless energy, exercise regularly and strenuously, and feel fantastic – morning, noon, and night!
A Green Ketogenic Diet – Built From Essential Foundations of Nutritional Science
The chart above summarizes my normal roughly 2000-calorie daily eating plan, which is down from nearly 3000 calories before switching to keto and reducing my meal frequency. I eat these foods 6-7 days per week, varying my selection but not proportions of veggies and fish, in either one sitting or two as I mentioned (in the latter case, with the “side” as a brunch and everything else as my main afternoon meal). Importantly, I sometimes eat less than this full amount – especially when I am less active, the weather is warm, or otherwise simply feel full or less hungry.
Perhaps helpfully, let me add that I often eat before social engagements, and then either do not eat or have a light salad at the event. This is a great way to stay both in control of our diet and well-nourished. And if healthy foods are not available, wherever I am, I simply fast or perhaps have a coffee, and wait for better fare. Again, and crucially, fasting or delaying eating is always a waiting, easy, and untroubling option when we are in ketosis, or are naturally keto-adapted, and can tap our body fat for energy.
As you can see in the photo and chart, the way I eat is neither draconian nor indulgent. I like to think of it as naturally luxuriant. Overall, this flexible framework meets all of my nutritional needs – macronutrients and micronutrients – and contains no novel or unusual foods. And notably, there are no processed foods or plainly unhealthy ones as well, personally or ecologically, my unorthodox or controversial proportioning of foods notwithstanding
Importantly, along with healthfully lowering calories through keto, I also have been able to reduce my daily food costs by about a third – by eating less, eating more simply, eating out less, and eating less when out. And my move to mostly one-meal-a-day (OMAD) eating and more regular meal patterns has added about an hour of free time to my days, allowing me to do fun and impactful new things (like writing this post).
Given my very positive ketogenic experience at the one-year mark, I would encourage you to consider both greener and ketogenic eating, especially if you have health complaints, are overweight, feel you lack control of your diet or life, or otherwise are experiencing reduced physical or cognitive vitality.
HumanaNatura’s OurPlate healthy eating model and Twenty Guidelines offer a good general overview of key considerations and practices for optimizing our modern diets. And the innovative HumanaNatura Personal Health Program provides detailed information on health-maximizing Natural Eating and other essential natural health practices.
To celebrate my first anniversary on keto, I plan to continue my new way of eating uninterrupted, and as I do, would welcome your comments and questions!
Health & best wishes,
Mark Lundegren is the founder of HumanaNatura.
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