What is the Keto Diet?
The keto, or ketogenic diet, is a very low carb, very high-fat diet. It has recently gained a lot of popularity in the wellness sphere because of some of its health benefits.
What is ketogenic?
Carbs (sugars and starches) are the preferred fuel for your brain and muscles. They use carbs first, whenever they’re available. This is why maintaining stable blood sugar can affect your attention, mood, and energy level.
However, when very low amounts of carbs are available for fuel, your body starts making compounds known as ketones. These are your body’s backup fuel. And your body makes them from fat.
Ketogenic literally means “the generation of ketones.”
After a while being on a diet very low in carbs, your blood level of ketones increases. This is the metabolic state known as “ketosis.” It’s the same process that your body goes through if you’ve fasted for 72 hours and depleted your supply of carbs as fuel. That’s the trigger for turning fat into ketones.
It’s important to note that ketosis from a ketogenic diet is not the same thing as the dangerous condition known as ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a dangerous metabolic state in which excessive amounts of ketones are produced.
Keto for weight loss
With a high fat intake, it may be surprising to know that studies show that a ketogenic diet is effective for weight loss. It can also have better results than low-fat diets. At least one study showed that people lost 2.2 times more weight on a ketogenic diet than those on low-fat or calorie-controlled diets.
This is possible because eating all that fat and protein is filling! It helps release satiety hormones that tell us that we’re full and satisfied, and we don’t need to eat anymore. Many people don’t need to count calories or track food intake, as they do with low-fat or calorie-controlled diets.
So, by eating enough fat and protein to go into ketosis, you can actually feel fuller and eat less food overall. Which of course, helps with weight loss.
Keto for improved health
Some studies show other health benefits of the ketogenic diet. As you can imagine, having very low levels of carbs can help reduce blood sugar and insulin issues. One study showed improved blood triglycerides (fat) and cholesterol numbers. Others show lower blood sugar levels, and even up to 75% improvement in insulin sensitivity. And several studies show reduced seizures in children who follow a ketogenic diet.
Not everyone should go on a ketogenic diet. Make sure you speak with a trained healthcare practitioner before you try it. If you have any of these health conditions, especially, the keto diet is not for you:
Impaired fat digestion
History of pancreatitis
Impaired liver function
Previous gastric bypass surgery for weight loss
Type 1 diabetes or impaired insulin production
History of alcoholism or excessive alcohol
How does it work?
The ketogenic diet involves getting 60-75% of your calories from fat, 20-35% from protein, and just 5% from carbs. Many people find it quite restrictive and are unable to stay on it for a long time.
The foods to focus on for a ketogenic diet are meat, fatty fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb vegetables (cucumber, celery, peppers, zucchini, leafy greens, etc.).
The main thing to avoid are foods that are high in carbs. These include sugary foods and desserts, grains, fruits, legumes, starchy vegetables, alcohol and “diet foods.”
And because of the limits on fruit and starchy vegetables, many people on the ketogenic diet need to take supplements. This is because, in addition to their sugar and starch, fruits and starchy veggies are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. So, if you’re cutting those foods out, you still need to give your body those nutrients. And often, it means needing supplements.
A common side effect of the ketogenic diet is the keto flu. Keto flu is a collection of signs and symptoms that your body is changing and can include low energy and feeling drained; increased sugar cravings; bad breath; irritability and unstable moods; as well as digestive issues like constipation.
Although very popular these days, as it can be helpful for weight loss and other health conditions, the ketogenic diet is not for everyone, so make sure you check with a knowledgeable practitioner before you begin.