Let’s take a look at keto weight loss and the role of inflammation. Oh, and ever have someone say “That’s not Keto” – let’s debunk that too!
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That’s Not Keto
Let’s talk about keto and food.
I heard this statement the other day and it was in response to someone saying “that’s not keto”. I don’t even remember what food they were referring to, but the statement was something along the lines of “ketosis is a metabolic state, not a food group”. That sentence really struck me.
To add to that, I also hear a lot of people saying “I’m in ketosis and I’m not losing weight”. There is this expectation that ketosis equates to weight loss. And that is entirely inaccurate.
So if you put these together, what you get is this general consensus among many people actually that ketosis is when you lose weight by eating certain foods and not other foods.
That is both true and not true, but you might be surprised as to why.
What is Ketosis?
Let’s do a recap on what ketosis is. Ketosis is a metabolic state where your body burns fat which produces ketones that it uses for energy. When the body is not in ketosis, it uses glycogen, which is the stored form of glucose, for energy.
Your body actually prefers to be in sugar burning mode because it is easier and our bodies like to do the least work possible. It takes more energy and work to burn fat which is actually what we want!
How Do I Get Into Ketosis?
To get into ketosis, you must be eating very low carb to force your body to burn your fat to get the ketones for energy.
For many people, this means under 20g of net carbs. I can go up to 50 often and stay in ketosis, but I am fat adapted and that does make a difference.
Super basic, right?
For more on keto macros, be sure to check out what you need to know about keto macros.
Keto Diet, Inflammation and Obesity
Keto was originally designed as a nutritional treatment to minimize seizures, long ago. But it has quickly become a weight loss program that many people use.
It is also about healing the body from a lifetime of nutritional abuse. I say that in love because we’ve all been there.
Healing the body can take a while.
Insulin resistance is a biggie that needs to be dealt with, as well as inflammation.
Between the insulin resistance and inflammation, we really do have to consider the types of foods we eat.
According to a 2008 study, weight loss has been linked to a reduction in inflammation  and another study in 2012 states “Inflammation has long been a well-known symptom of many infectious diseases, but molecular and epidemiological research increasingly suggests that it is also intimately linked with a broad range of non-infectious diseases, perhaps even all of them” and finally a study in 2017 concludes that “A proinflammatory diet was significantly associated with a higher annual weight gain and higher risk of developing new-onset overweight or obesity.”
Ok, so since most people use keto for either weight loss and inflammation reduction, we have to consider the foods that are inflammatory as part of the overall keto umbrella.
But when someone says “that’s not keto”, more often than not they are referring to carb content rather than whether it is an inflammatory food or not. And there is where the distinction needs to be drawn.
What are Keto Foods?
This isn’t really the topic of this article, but you can get an entire list of healthy low carb and non inflammatory foods here!
The thing to remember, though, is that it is less about carb content and more about inflammation-inducing. But you STILL need to be mindful of calories, carbs and your macros.
What are inflammatory foods?
According to Healthline and my own graduate level nutrition education (did you know I have a Master’s Certificate in Nutrition?), the following are the highest inflammatory foods:
- Sugar and HFCS – I bet you didn’t know that sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Do you know what else contains fructose? A little bit is fine, but gorging on what you might consider to be healthy fruits is not the best idea.
- Trans Fats – no need to say anything further on that. I think we can all agree.
- Vegetable and Seed Oils – this is due to the high omega 6 content. Omega 6s aren’t bad but they are definitely more proinflammatory than Omega 3s. The SAD is way too high in Omega 6s and we need to get those down a bit. Examples are soybean oils, canola oil, peanut oil, etc..
- Refined Carbohydrates – most refined carbs have had the fiber removed and are a higher glycemic index. Both of these will cause more of a blood sugar spike! Fiber helps with regularity and also to tame blood sugar spikes.
- Excessive alcohol
- Processed meats
I’m going to add to that based on other studies and documents:
- Gluten – according to a 2013 study, “Our data support the beneficial effects of gluten-free diets in reducing adiposity gain, inflammation and insulin resistance” 
- Processed foods and artificial crap, including anything with GMOs
- And just for fun, I’ll throw some more in: grains in general, soy, legumes
Do you know what is not on this list? Carrots.
Do you know how many times I have people tell me that carrots are not keto?
So let’s put the statement “that’s not keto” into proper perspective.
Does the item contain any of the pro-inflammatory foods? If so, yep, that’s not keto. Totally appropriate.
Does the food grow in the ground and simply has a higher carb content than your average hunk of meat? If yes, then the “that’s not keto” statement is crap.
Next time you hear someone tell you that a carrot is not keto, please explain to them everything I just told you.
Keto is not a food group. Ketosis is a metabolic state.
And a common goal of the keto diet is to lose weight and in order to do so, we need to deal with inflammation and insulin resistance and reduce it and remove the inflammatory foods.
You can easily enjoy carrots and other root vegetables in moderation.
Keto Weight Loss Fundamentals
Ok, now, let’s move on to the other statement about ketosis: “I’m in ketosis and I’m not losing weight”.
So, again, ketosis is a metabolic state. Weight loss is not guaranteed.
Food choices matter.
The level of healing your body must go through matters.
Insulin sensitivity matters.
If you properly formulate a keto lifestyle, weight loss will occur if it is needed. When you deal with all the things I just mentioned, your body will release extra weight if you are carrying it. Plain and simple.
It doesn’t always happen right away though.
For more on keto and weight loss, please see Keto Weight Loss.