Focus on exercise: The most compelling studies favor physical activity for mental acuity, says Gary W. Small, M.D., the director of the UCLA Longevity Center and a coauthor of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program ($14, amazon.com). A study from the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who were fitter at midlife had a 36 percent lower risk of developing dementia later in life than did their less-fit peers. “When people exercise, the areas that control memory, thinking, and attention increase in the brain,” says Small. “Regular exercisers also have less of the abnormal protein deposits in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer’s.” That’s not to say that diet has no impact, says Small: “It’s just that the effects of exercise are more pronounced based on the evidence we have now.” Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish, nuts, and flaxseed) and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables (like strawberries and spinach) have been shown to improve brain health, while refined sugars and processed foods can have the opposite effect.
Protein is needed to help keep your body growing, maintained, and repaired. For example, the University of Rochester Medical Center reports that red blood cells die after about 120 days. Protein is also essential for building and repairing muscles, helping you enjoy the benefits of your workout. It can be a source of energy when carbohydrates are in short supply, but it’s not a major source of fuel during exercise you’re well-fed.
People with diabetes are advised to eat complex carbs (like green vegetables, whole grains, beans, and more), which take longer to digest and cause less intense spikes in blood sugar. Simple carbs (such as soda and fruit drinks, white bread, and more) are digested rapidly and can cause immediate blood sugar spikes. (If someone with diabetes is hypoglycemic, however, these simple carbs are often used to increase blood sugar back to safe levels again).
There are numerous benefits that come with being on keto: from weight loss and increased energy levels to therapeutic medical applications. Most anyone can safely benefit from eating a low-carb, high-fat diet. Below, you’ll find a short list of the benefits you can receive from a ketogenic diet. For a more comprehensive list, you can also read our in-depth article here >
Just this week, a 25,000-person study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich suggested that people on the lowest-carb diets had the highest risk of dying from cancer, cardiovascular conditions, and all other causes. Another study, published this month in the Lancet, also found that people who followed diets that were low in carbs and high in animal proteins had a higher risk of early death compared to those who consumed carbs in moderation. (The opposite was true, however, for low-carb dieters who opted for plant-based proteins over meat and dairy.)
Because people with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, there’s a specific concern that the saturated fat in the diet may drive up LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels, and further increase the odds of heart problems. If you have type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor before attempting a ketogenic diet. They may recommend a different weight-loss diet for you, like a reduced-calorie diet, to manage diabetes. Those with epilepsy should also consult their doctor before using this as part of their treatment plan.
The ketogenic diet has been studied in at least 14 rodent animal models of seizures. It is protective in many of these models and has a different protection profile than any known anticonvulsant. Conversely, fenofibrate, not used clinically as an antiepileptic, exhibits experimental anticonvulsant properties in adult rats comparable to the ketogenic diet. This, together with studies showing its efficacy in patients who have failed to achieve seizure control on half a dozen drugs, suggests a unique mechanism of action.
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.
To see if I was a good fit for the keto diet, Wali requested I have some lab work done, including a cholesterol panel and a fasting insulin level test. My results came back normal, which meant there was no medical necessity for me to go on the diet. If I were pre-diabetic or insulin-resistant, Wali would have been more likely to make the keto diet part of my treatment.
The researchers agree that the diet itself isn’t inherently dangerous. But, cautions Weiss, “If you have any medical condition, if you take any medicine at all – there are lots of things that change how medicines work in our bodies, and nutrition is definitely one of them. If you’re making a real change in your nutrition, you really should talk to your doctor.”
Achieving ketosis is a pretty straightforward, but it can seem complicated and confusing with all of the information out there.4If you want to learn more about ketosis and the scientific process around it, you can visit a very in-depth discussion about on Dr. Peter Attia’s website. Here’s the bottom line on what you need to do, ordered in levels of importance:
“For Chris Pratt, it’s a non-issue,” Bonci says, but for non-celebrities, all that fresh produce can be pricey. It can be wonderful to participate in a bonding activity with your congregation, she says, but she worries that participants might feel pressured into adopting a diet that doesn’t fit their budget. And while the rules provide a rough guideline, followers should be careful to consume enough protein and maintain a balanced diet.
Planning on picking up the pace tomorrow? Eat food that will help keep you going strong. For breakfast, opt for a high-carbohydrate meal—one similar to what you'll be eating on race day, so you can find out what foods digest best (for you!). Try a whole-grain English muffin or a bagel with peanut butter or a low-fat cream cheese. Then, have a well-rounded meal post-workout to help with recovery. Andrew Kastor's favorite? One to two slices French toast with a side of fruit. "The protein-to-carbohydrate ratio is perfect for enhancing my recovery," he says. We like that it's super-yummy, too.
Take action: To maintain an even blood-sugar level, eat five to six times a day, or about once every three hours. In addition to your main meals, fit in two to three 200-calorie snacks. Ideal snacks contain lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates—for instance, yogurt with granola, an apple with low-fat cheese, or peanut butter on crackers with a banana. Frequent eating can also help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression (both of which can influence energy), since low blood sugar can increase your level of the stress hormone cortisol.
A systematic review in 2018 looked at 16 studies on the ketogenic diet in adults. It concluded that the treatment was becoming more popular for that group of patients, that the efficacy in adults was similar to children, the side effects relatively mild. However, many patients gave up with the diet, for various reasons, and the quality of evidence inferior to studies on children. Health issues include high levels of low-density lipoprotein, high total cholesterol, and weight loss.
“The first step is to change your mindset, and mentally decide that you are a healthy person,” Mangieri encourages. “But it’s never just one lifestyle change! Make sure every part of your life proves it. Eat nourishing foods and drink plenty of water. Get out and move and build strength. And don’t forget to sleep and de-stress. One good decision supports another.” But also, if you really don’t know where to start with a healthy diet for weight loss, talk to a registered dietitian. That could ultimately be money much better spent than on a personal trainer.
In many developing countries, the ketogenic diet is expensive because dairy fats and meat are more expensive than grain, fruit and vegetables. The modified Atkins diet has been proposed as a lower-cost alternative for those countries; the slightly more expensive food bill can be offset by a reduction in pharmaceutical costs if the diet is successful. The modified Atkins diet is less complex to explain and prepare and requires less support from a dietitian.
Even if you've been eating right on track, it may be tough to stay on track if your partner, coworkers, or friends don't share your healthy-eating habits. What to do? If your partner loves pizza, try ordering a pie that's heavy on the veggies and light on the cheese—then supplement it with a side salad. Or, if your friends are having a girls' night out, suggest a restaurant that's got healthy appetizer options, instead of the typical fare of onion rings and cheese dip. And at work, instead of Friday baked-goods day, suggest a Friday "make it healthy" day, and swap in baked pears with cinnamon or mini fruit-and-nut muffins for brownies and blondies.