Known more formally as “the ketogenic diet,” the keto diet is one of the hottest health trends. Interestingly, the keto diet is not a new way of eating, neither was it originally intended for weight loss. Created in the 1920s as a fringe diet to help epileptics, the keto diet has slowly and quietly grown into a diet industry phenomenon (1).
This fat-heavy, carb-shy diet is thought to help heal nervous system disorders (such as epilepsy, seizure disorder, and tic disorder) as well as metabolic disorders (including both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease). And although it sounds counterintuitive to expect weight loss while scarfing down large amounts of high-calorie fat, ketogenic eating is said to help eaters slim down, as well.
At the crux of the diet is carbohydrates—specifically, a lack of them. As the theory goes, when you drastically cut down on the number of carbs you eat, your body begins looking for other sources of energy to help it function. In the absence of carbs, your body’s own fat is one of its easiest go-to sources of energy. The process of burning the body’s fat for fuel is called ketosis, and it is what the entire ketogenic way of eating is based on (2).
This way of eating encourages your body to use a new fuel source while also causing fewer cravings and less hunger. If that sounds a bit counterintuitive, it is. It is also fat-centric. In fact, the keto diet endorses 3 or 4 grams of fat for every 1 gram of carbohydrate and protein. This amounts to getting about 75–80 percent of your daily calories from fat.
Keto eaters regularly enjoy foods like butter, heavy whipping cream, mayonnaise, bacon, lard, red meat, coconut, avocado, and other fat-heavy food.
Health Benefits of the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet is an excellent plan and aids in some of the following conditions and illnesses:
Improved Thinking Skills:
Your brain is approximately 60% fat by weight. Therefore, you might become confused as you consume high-fat foods. By increasing your fatty foods intake; you will have more of a chance to better your mind. It can maintain itself and work at full capacity.
Obesity and Overweight:
People: Many individuals exceed what is considered healthy figures when it comes to weight. It is an essential step to use the keto diet plan to get started on the right path for weight loss.
By eating fewer processed foods and less sugar; your insulin levels will be lowered, and the acne should improve.
The disease’s progression can be slowed and the symptoms reduced with the keto plan.
Several types of cancer and slow tumor growths are being treated using the keto diet.
Pre-diabetes and Diabetes:
Excess fat is removed with the keto plan, which is what is linked to pre-diabetes, type-2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. In one study, insulin sensitivity was improved by 75%. Similar results with type-2 diabetes patients indicated that out of 21 participants, seven were successful in eliminating all of the medications related to diabetes.
In another one-week study, individuals who were overweight with type 2 diabetes who limited their intake to 21 or fewer grams daily experienced urinary ketone excretion levels that were 27 times higher than their baseline levels.
Reductions from seizures have occurred in children who use the ketogenic diet. The therapeutic keto diet used for epilepsy often restricts the carbs to fewer than 15 grams of carbs daily to further drive up the ketone levels. Don’t try this unless you have the supervision of a medical professional.
Gum Disease and Tooth Decay:
The pH balance in your mouth is influenced by sugar intake. Your gum issues could subside after about three months on a keto diet plan. You will be consuming healthier foods.
Lower Blood Pressure:
By choosing a low-carbohydrate diet, you are finding a way to lower your blood pressure. It is advisable to speak with your physician about lowering your meds while on plan. If you begin to feel dizzy; that is one of the first signs the lack of carbs is working. You are headed in the right direction.
Improvement of your Cholesterol Profile:
An arterial buildup is generally associated with triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which have been proven to improve with the keto diet plan.
Joint Pain and Stiffness:
Grain-based foods are eliminated from your diet on the keto plan. It is believed the grains can be one of the biggest causes of pain or chronic illness. After all, it has been said before, “no pain –no grain.”
Lack of Hunger:
The enormous benefit occurs because fat is naturally more satisfying than just carbs. You just need to wait a little longer to become satiated after a meal. The high-carbs will cause the full-state to last longer.
The keto diet is used to help you drop extra pounds and burn body fat using healthy eating practices. Proteins will fuel your body to burn the fat; which in turn, ketosis will maintain your muscles and make you less hungry. Your body will remain healthy and work as it should. If you don’t consume enough carbs from your food; your cells will begin to burn fat for the necessary energy instead.
Your body will switch over to ketosis for its energy source as you cut back on your calories and carbs.
How The Keto Diet Works
When you eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body eventually runs out of fuel (blood sugar) it can use quickly. This typically takes 3 to 4 days. Then you’ll start to break down protein and fat for energy, which can make you lose weight. This is called ketosis.
Foods to Avoid
Any food that is high in carbs should be limited.
Here is a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:
- Sugary foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
- Grains or starches: Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
- Fruit: All fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries.
- Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
- Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
- Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
- Unhealthy fats: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- Alcohol: Due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
- Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
Foods to Eat
You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:
- Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
- Fatty fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
- Eggs: Look for pastured or omega-3 whole eggs.
- Butter and cream: Look for grass-fed when possible.
- Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella).
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
- Healthy oils: Primarily extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
- Avocados: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
- Low-carb veggies: Most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
- Condiments: You can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices.
Keto Diet Side Effects
- Although the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts (3).
- This is often referred to as the keto flu and is usually over within a few days.
- Keto flu includes poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, digestive discomfort, and decreased exercise performance.
- To minimize this, you can try a regular low-carb diet for the first few weeks. This may teach your body to burn more fat before you completely eliminate carbs.