The need to maintain a healthy lifestyle today has become intensely crucial. This has created a thriving organic food industry in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Many obese individuals and those who desire to lose weight are always looking for the next best diet program on the market. Some have dabbled into many diet regimes sold as the most effective solution to lasting weight loss, only to come out at the end of the program worse off than they were when they started. While others have worked for some, those who participated in some of these weight loss programs found out that they gained back almost twice the weight they lost once they got off the program. This yo-yo diet regime begs the question of what works. What can weight watchers do to keep off this weight while still eating nutritious meals permanently? One such diet that avid weight watchers are arguing as one of the safest food diet programs one could get to keep the weight off permanently is the Ketogenic Diet. Let’s educate ourselves a little.
The ketogenic diet (fondly called the keto diet) is a diet type that requires those who follow it to consume meals that are rich in healthy fats, minimal protein, and little or no carbohydrate. From a medical perspective, when you consume less than 50 grams of carbs daily, your body will eventually run out of its required body fuel (i.e., blood sugar). When your body is in this state, the process of ketosis commences. Ketosis is when the body begins to break down protein and fat into small food molecules called ketones. The production point for these ketones is in the liver and is used by the body and the brain as fuel when blood sugar is low. In the process, the body begins to shed its weight by catabolizing the excess fat storage in the body. Medical professionals and dieticians used Keto dieting in the 1920s to manage medical conditions such as seizures and epilepsy. Some of these other ailments that ketogenic dieting can remedy are respiratory failures, pediatric cancers, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, to mention but a few.
According to Dr. Terry Wahls, “The Herculean challenge with Ketogenic dieting is finding a way of reducing the intake of carbs and protein to the adequate levels that will sustain the state of ketosis. Consuming too much protein channels the body to convert the generated amino acids to glucose. The consumption of excess carbs will not allow the body to produce ketones since the human frame will have the blood sugar it requires. Fat is needed to make ketones.” (Paraphrased). Knowledge of healthy fats is crucial in keto dieting. In the Keto Macrocosm, all fats are not created equal, to say the very least. The medium-chain triglycerides are more desirable than their long-chain counterparts. The body converts these fats (i.e., medium-chain triglycerides) into fuel more efficiently due to their shorter carbon chains. As earlier indicated, converting these fats into body fuel (i.e., ketones) is the heart of ketosis, the backbone, the foundation, and the core of the keto diet regime. What then are the best possible oils of choice for the keto diet? Some are coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, and butter (organic animal fat).
There are various variations of the keto diet. The most researched variants of the keto diet are the Standard and High-Protein keto diets. The difference between the two is the ratio of daily macronutrients (i.e., fat, protein, and carbohydrates) requirements for each of them. The Standard keto diet requires 75% fats, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. Thus, it is high fat, minimal protein, and a low-carb diet. The High-Protein keto diet variant requires 60% fats, 35% protein, and 5% carb. It is like the standard alternative, with an exception to the higher protein content. Besides the standard and the high-protein keto diets, we have two other variants that rely on adding carb refeeds and exercise to the keto diet regimen. The first of these variants is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD). This involves periods of higher-carb refeeds (e.g., 5 ketogenic days, followed by 2 high-carb days). This is usually great for those adding a high-intensity workout routine to their keto diet regimen. The carb refeed days will be the days that they will be involved in the high-intensity workout. The second variant is the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD). This variant allows you to add carbs only just before workouts. The CKD and TDK are only for those adding regular exercises to their keto regimen.
Now we have educated ourselves about keto dieting, let us now consider keto dieting from an African perspective, particularly with an emphasis from a Nigerian perspective.
Ketogenic Dieting the African Way
Today, the keto diet has become a word that you hear from almost every African, especially among the womenfolk. Most Africans, especially Nigerian women, who desire to lose weight by every means possible, look for quick fixes that don’t require them to spend several hours in the gym only to burn a mere 300 calories daily. Thus, they fall back on the promise of keto dieting, which allows them to eat delicious meals yet still lose weight. However, their want of a quick fix for weight loss does not rule out the vital importance of exercise in the journey of weight loss and staying healthy. While most available menus that promise to give the desired result are all Western recipes, African keto weight watchers must search to see what is available in their local communities.
Despite this difficulty, the promise of excellent results within the shortest possible time has made the keto diet most appealing for Nigerian women who have wholeheartedly embraced this lifestyle. Its influence was so significant that stores, food marts, and open market vendors started sourcing keto dieting products, such as psyllium husk, cabbage flour, and stevia to satisfy the insatiable need of the new fad. These products are now readily available on most shelves in stores in major cities in Nigeria. These are items that most Nigerians have never heard of before. However, thanks to keto dieting, they have become household names in most homes, African homes, and Nigeria. As the cliché goes, “Where there is a will, there’s a way.” First, they had the will to embrace this type of dieting. Now, the will has paved the way for various channels of accessing keto products.
Regardless of which type of diet you choose to embark on, you must judiciously follow the right balance of fats, proteins, and carbs for the body to achieve ketosis. How can a bona fide African whose main dish comprises mainly 80% carbohydrate reach the high fat and low carbohydrate meal plan required by the keto diet? A determined African dieter must become smart in finding ways to identify and use local foods to be compliant with the keto diet. For instance, in Nigeria, many keto dieters have found various alternatives to achieve their keto diet goals. They have done so by replacing meals made with tuberous and high-carb grain plants such as cassava (Manihot esculenta) flour (e.g., Garri, Fufu), Wheat, Semolina, Amala, and Pounded Yams, with low-or-no-carb vegetable alternatives such as Aubergines or Egg Plant, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Oats, Carrot and Coconut Flours.
There is a delicacy in the Nigerian keto family known as the cabbage rice, as seen in the image above just before this paragraph. This meal replaces the organic rice that is common in most Nigerian homes as a staple diet. Most keto-compliant meals encourage cabbage as a base for most of its meals, especially in the African regime. Cabbage diced to its barest form and mixed with vegetables, seafood, and eggs make a very filling and delicious meal. Cabbage can also be blended, sieved, and cooked to make cabbage fufu, which replaces the local cassava fufu and garri flakes that are also common as an African staple meal, especially in Nigeria. When mixed and slowly cooked over low heat, Aubergines can become a substitute for the ethnic Yoruba Amala meal. It is safe then to surmise that Africans have begun to find healthy keto food substitutes comparable to their local delicacies that are often carb-laden. They can now worry less about missing out on eating their regional food specialties and still pursue their weight loss goals the keto way. We can say that this is a win for keto dieting the African way.
There is still a whole world of exploration when it comes to keto dieting the African way. This article focuses more on African food with a perspective on West African dishes, case-in-point, Nigerian dishes. I firmly believe that other Africans from other nations in West Africa, North Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, and South Africa have found ways to the keto diet the African way by finding substitutes to their local dishes. As the Editor-In-Chief of www.oaekpost.com, I would love to learn what other culinary artists and geniuses from other African countries are doing to build an African diet the keto way. So, please, use the comment section, and let’s start a dialogue. Let us know what you are doing to the keto diet the African way regarding your local foods. What keto-dieting-substitutes have you discovered? Until then, for those that keto diet, wishing you a future of health and wealth.
(NB. The thoughts and ideas expressed via this article are not professional medical conjectures. Please, seek out medical counsel from a licensed medical professional or dietician before getting on the Ketogenic Dieting regime).