The keto diet consists of eating foods high in fat and low in carbohydrates to put your body into ketosis – a metabolic state wherein fat instead of blood sugar is burned for energy production.
Note that keto diets can contain high levels of saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. McManus suggests only eating small amounts of saturated fat to get maximum benefit out of keto dieting.
Heart-healthy diets must include a range of nutrients and not all fats are created equal. Consumption of high amounts of saturated fats from red meat or fast food may contribute to an accumulation of “bad” cholesterol in your bloodstream and increase risk for atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Protein can help lower both cholesterol and triglycerides levels in your bloodstream, according to Chokshi. A keto diet typically has only moderate carbohydrates; therefore most of your calories come from healthy fats and proteins; she advises her patients to incorporate lean proteins into their daily meals to keep cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control.
Although keto diet has its critics – such as fitness guru Jillian Michaels who recently criticized it as dangerous – it has proven beneficial to many clients of Atlantic Health System cardiologist Angela Ryan Lee MD. When first started out on, strict keto plans can cause LDL and triglyceride levels to spike; however, over time these levels often stabilize over weeks or months.
One key reason the keto diet can help lower cholesterol and triglycerides is because its main ketone body, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), mimics fasting state by inhibiting NLRP3 inflammasome; an inflammasome is an intracellular command center responsible for pro-inflammatory cytokines that is released when people become inflamed, contributing significantly to heart disease risk. By mimicking fasting state with BHB it reduces inflammation significantly within your body which is essential in combatting heart disease risk.
The keto diet consists of high amounts of fats and minimal carbs, encouraging your body to use stored fat for energy. One key metabolite called beta-hydroxybuterate (BHB) has been proven to directly inhibit inflammatory markers found in both your heart and blood vessels – and, according to Steinbaum, can even reduce LDL cholesterol levels significantly.
But it’s crucial that you consume only the appropriate types of fats in your diet. A diet high in saturated and trans fats increases your risk for atherosclerosis, leading to heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular issues. Instead, opt for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from fruits, vegetables, eggs and fish which contain monounsaturates that can help manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels while simultaneously supporting heart health.
Though criticized by fitness gurus such as Jillian Michaels, Susan Ryskamp, RDN is finding impressive success using the keto diet with clients at University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. Her patients have seen decreased total cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as improvements in other heart health indicators like blood pressure and inflammation levels.
While the keto diet’s advantages may appear appealing, it’s essential to remember that heart disease development involves multiple factors. Blood pressure, cholesterol levels, family history, stress levels and smoking all play an integral part. While studies indicate a connection between keto diets and reduced risks of heart disease (and some research suggesting it’s effective), long-term benefits have yet to be proven; before beginning one of these diets or any similar approach it’s wise to consult your physician or cardiologist first and expect some fluctuation in weight, cholesterol and blood pressure – due to fluctuating diets increasing heart disease risk by an estimated 40%!
When your body cannot access carbohydrates for energy, ketosis occurs: when fats are broken down to produce fuel. Ketone bodies produced from this process provide energy for both body and brain use. Dieting restricts foods high in carbs like whole grains, beans and fruit which leads to an increase in blood sugar and cholesterol, leading to higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, keto diets tend to contain excessive levels of saturated fat that aren’t good for our hearts – the American Heart Association advises limiting them to no more than 7% of total caloric intake.
Keto diets that promote heart health typically consist of an assortment of vegetables, low-glycemic fruits and lean meats; fiber should also be included regularly to combat possible constipation issues. Furthermore, it would be wise to reduce processed meat consumption since its high trans-fat levels increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Nonstarchy vegetables like leafy greens (kale, Swiss chard and spinach) and other dark watery veggies (zucchini, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and asparagus) make the best choices for the keto diet as they contain less than eight net grams per cup in net carbs. Starchy foods such as corn, potatoes or sweet potatoes contain higher carbs per serving and should be limited accordingly.
Before embarking on the keto diet, it’s wise to consult your physician or cardiologist. Although some individuals may benefit from following it, others should avoid it due to its potential negative impact. It should especially be avoided by those suffering from heart failure as high-fat diets can increase triglycerides levels significantly and lead to blood sugar abnormalities; also familial hypercholesterolemia causes LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels to spike significantly.
Fruit is rich in carbohydrates and sugar; nonetheless it remains an effective component of the ketogenic diet. The goal is to reach ketosis where fat breakdown becomes primary energy source; fruit that are low net carbs but packed with essential nutrients is ideal.
Avocados, with their heart-healthy monounsaturated and saturated fats as well as their fiber content, make an excellent addition to the keto diet. Furthermore, their abundance of lutein and beta-sitosterol antioxidants may also help lower cholesterol levels; enjoy them as a spread, add them to salads or blend into smoothies!
Berries are another high-fiber, low-carb fruit to enjoy on the keto diet. Blackberries in particular are heart-healthy with over 3g of dietary fiber per half cup while providing plenty of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K. Strawberries offer nearly 7g of carbohydrates while still providing plenty of micronutrients such as dietary fiber.
Other popular fruits that fit within the keto diet’s guidelines are figs, cantaloupe and watermelons. A cup of sliced ripe cantaloupe contains just 6 grams of net carbs while providing significant amounts of potassium, vitamins A and C; similarly watermelons offer plenty of vitamin A along with its many antioxidant benefits.
Exotic fruits such as mangoes and pineapples don’t lend themselves well to a keto diet due to their abundance of carbs, but kiwis make an exception by being relatively low-carb while offering many nutrients such as vitamin C, fiber, folate, vitamins B6 & E plus potassium.
Nuts are an essential snack for keto dieters, providing healthy fats while being low in carbohydrates. Nuts also boast vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which may help reduce inflammation, raise cholesterol levels, increase satiety and support weight loss.
Nuts are easy to carry around in a bag or pocket and make for a convenient snack when hunger strikes between meals. Plus, nuts provide heart-healthy unsaturated fats and proteins while providing heart-friendly dietary fibre that lowers cholesterol and regulates blood sugar.
Pine nuts, which are low in carbs, make an excellent keto dieter snack as they contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that supports brain health and prevents cognitive decline. Furthermore, pine nuts provide magnesium, vitamin E and copper, making them an essential addition to a keto diet diet plan.
Though nuts are an ideal addition to a heart healthy diet, it’s essential to monitor their consumption as they can be high in calories and contain an abundance of fat. Some individuals are sensitive to the proteins present in nuts – known as lectins – which cause symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain and cramps. If this applies to you, try cutting back and enjoying nuts only occasionally as an indulgence or try replacing them with seeds such as sunflower or sesame seeds as an alternative source. Additionally, soak or roast your nuts to reduce carb content while adding flavour; for extra kick try mixing different varieties such as pecan nuts versus brazil nuts versus macadamia nuts versus hazelnuts when selecting different varieties with various amounts of net carbs such as pecan nuts versus macadamia nuts versus hazelnuts when selecting nuts with differing net carb amounts such as pecan nuts versus brazil nuts versus macadamia nuts versus hazelnuts etc.