With school starting I want to help our kids and grandkids focus. For that matter many of us adults could use some help in this matter as well. Though changing what you eat, or what your kids eat, may not be easy it’s certainly worth the effort—especially if you want them (and you) to focus and think.
I’ve been writing these columns for nearly twenty years now (!) so long-time readers know that I don’t like the word “diet.” So let me start with calling it the Ketogenic Food Plan. The Ketogenic Plan has grown out of the Paleo style of eating which is what out ancestors did–from early humans up to about 100 years ago. Then things changed. Face it; our grandparents ate simple, home-grown, home-prepared food. Not the overly preserved, packaged stuff that dazzles the eye in modern supermarkets and big box stores.
What we eat today is responsible for our health tomorrow…or next year. Approximately three percent of chronic disease is caused by genetics. The rest is caused by lifestyle choices. Most chronic disease today, from diabetes to heart disease, is caused by those choices. The generation following me may not live as long as I will, and the generation after them may live even less long. When money and the economy are people’s biggest concerns we’ve lost perspective. What does it matter if you are rich if you don’t feel well or our Earth is gasping its last breath?
Each of you must make your own choices regarding what you eat, but you may have some control over what the kids eat. All, repeat, all, modern food plans stress the need to avoid packaged sugared food. Yet stores, which are money-making enterprises, continually include more packaged foods, leaving the poor oranges and avocadoes to languish. The simple truth is that low- or no- sugar foods, high good-fat foods, and less-packaged foods, like our ancestors lived on, are the way things should be.
The Ketogenic Plan has lots of good fats, protein, and less than five percent carbohydrates. The healthy fats include fish (2-3 times per week), nuts (a handful per day), full-fat dairy, eggs, nuts, and even butter. Some say the brain needs glucose to function, but sugar has compromised out health. The brain is composed of 90% fat and functions better with good quality fat, but not the manipulated fats found in many of today’s foodstuffs. The good fats include avocadoes, unprocessed, full-fat cheese, sardines, and other foods, but not cakes, French fries, etc.
When food enters your stomach it triggers receptors to signal the hypothalamus to register that feeling of satiety (being full enough). Good fats do this readily but manipulated fats and carbohydrates make you want to eat more and more to achieve that state. Eating carbs makes you want to eat more carbs as you’ve no doubt discovered. Eggs have been given a bad rap for years. Yet dementia and heart disease continue to rise. Eggs are a very good source of good fat. And for the record, the yolk contains lecithin, which keeps cholesterol under control. Most cholesterol is made by your body anyway.
The Ketogenic Food Plan means fewer grains, sugars, and legumes. You, and your kids, will do better with a breakfast of eggs, avocadoes, and nuts than an expensive bowl of over-processed grains known as cold cereal. Today’s children (and many adults) cannot think straight on just air and that is most of what’s being eaten. They, and we, become befuddled, confused, and sluggish. The Ketogenic Plan encourages a very low carbohydrate intake in order to cause your body to use ketones from healthy fats to fuel your brain instead of glucose. Very low manipulated fats mean bread, grains, and legumes, as well as starchy vegetables are restricted.
The Ketogenic food plan was researched as a way to help those who had seizures. I have a friend who asked about his seven-year-old granddaughter who was having dozens of seizures every month. I’m retired now and not practicing so couldn’t treat her, but I could tell him what I know or learn. Just like this column does every month. My advice was the Ketogenic Plan. His kids put their daughter on the plan and within one day her teachers noticed she was calmer and more focused with fewer seizures.
Aim for 70% of your calories coming from the good fats (again that’s eggs, avocadoes, full fat dairy, nuts, seafood, etc.) and less than 50 grams of carbs. That’s still plenty so you can occasionally give the kids tortillas or rice or beans. While the Ketogenic food plan is also touted as a weight loss program, I think that ANY plan that decreases junk food, packaged food, and simple sugars will go a long ways towards weight loss.
Give it a trial but realize it may take a few days for the body to switch from burning glucose (sugars) for energy to burning ketones (fats) for energy so a few days of tiredness could ensue. Vegans and vegetarians will need to find sources of proteins that do not include manipulated soy products (most of which are genetically modified) unless they include some fish, eggs, and dairy. Increased protein may cause some constipation so be sure to drink from two quarts to one gallon of water per day, depending on weather and activity level. If a little more fiber is needed increase whole grain foods and vegetables. Check with your doctor if you have kidney problems and the high protein can be irritating to kidneys.
Now just watch those brains focus. You’ll see changes in yourself and your kids and your grandkids. Focus! Think!