What is the Keto Diet? Discover the science and benefits behind it, as well as useful tips on how to implement it.
The ketogenic or keto diet is a type of diet that focuses on foods that are high in healthy fats, adequate amounts of protein, and very low in carbohydrates. The goal is to get more calories from fat than from carbohydrates. Reducing carbohydrates puts the body into a metabolic state called ketosis, which burns fat from food and the body for energy.
The ketogenic diet was originally used to reduce the incidence of epileptic seizures in children, but it has also gained considerable attention for its powerful weight loss effects. However, in addition to weight loss, the keto diet has been shown to offer other health benefits. It has been found to improve heart health, stabilize blood sugar levels, increase mental clarity, boost energy, and more. However, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, as it requires a major change in diet and involves sacrifice for many people.
Keto Diet for Beginners
The ketogenic diet, which switches the body’s fuel source from glucose to fats, is an effective way to lose weight and improve overall health. In this article, we look at the health and weight loss benefits of the ketogenic diet and provide insight into how it works, what to eat, and how to effectively incorporate it into your lifestyle. Buckle up for a journey into the world of high fats and low carbohydrates!
What is the keto diet?
The ketogenic diet, which switches the body’s fuel source from glucose to fats, is an effective way to lose weight and improve overall health. The benefits are many, ranging from lowering blood sugar levels to improving mental clarity and increasing energy. However, the restrictive nature of the diet requires proper counseling before starting. While it can lead to weight loss and reduce the risk of chronic disease, success ultimately depends on the individual’s ability and motivation to stick with the diet long-term.
How does the Keto diet work?
The ketogenic diet is based on the scientific premise of putting the body into ketosis, a specific metabolic state. When we eat a diet high in carbohydrates, our body converts those carbohydrates into glucose for energy, causing insulin to rise. Because glucose is the easiest for the body to convert and use as an energy source, it is favored over all other energy sources, causing the body to store fats instead of using them.
When you reduce your carbohydrate intake and increase your fat intake, your body goes through a transition. After glucose stores are depleted, the body begins to break down stored fat into molecules called ketones through a process called ketogenesis. When the level of ketones in the blood reaches a certain point, the body enters a state of ketosis.
In ketosis, the body burns fat instead of glucose for energy with incredible efficiency. This fat burning makes the ketogenic diet a popular method for people who want to lose weight. In particular, people who find it difficult to lose weight even with supplements, such as metabolism-boosting weight loss pills, often achieve good results with the help of the ketogenic diet. In addition, ketones can serve as fuel for the brain. By reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat burning, the body keeps insulin levels consistently low, which can also promote fat loss.
The change in metabolism from a carbohydrate-based to a fat-based energy system occurs after approximately 72 hours of fasting or after several days to weeks on the ketogenic diet, during which less than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates are eaten per day. Keep in mind that this is a drastic change that may affect everyone differently. It is important to consult a doctor to make sure this is a safe option for you and to monitor your progress.
Pros and Cons of the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet offers a number of benefits, but it’s important to look at both sides of the coin when trying a diet.
- Weight Loss: As mentioned above, the ketogenic diet facilitates weight loss[5, by turning your body into a fat burning machine. Your body will use its fat stores for energy, resulting in weight loss.
- Controlled blood sugar: The ketogenic diet may also help control blood sugar levels, because the diet is low in carbohydrates. This may be beneficial for people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
- Improved heart health: If the diet pays attention to food quality (favoring heart-healthy fats and lean proteins), the diet can help improve heart health.
- Nutrient deficiencies: Due to the restrictive nature of the diet, there is a risk of not getting essential nutrients from food groups such as fruits, vegetables, and grains that are restricted in this diet.
- Keto Flu: The initial transition to the ketogenic diet can be difficult. It can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, headache, dizziness, and irritability, known as “ketoflu” . However, studies suggest that exogenous ketones may ease the transition into ketosis and possibly prevent ketoflu.
- Not sustainable: The diet may be difficult to maintain over time due to its restrictive nature and may reduce motivation, making it unlikely to be suitable for long-term lifestyle change.
Keto Diet – What Can You Eat and What Can You Not?
A ketogenic diet focuses on foods that are high in fat and protein, but low in carbohydrates. Here’s a basic overview of what to eat and what to avoid.
What to eat
- Fats and oils: Avocados, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and other healthy fats are essential to the ketogenic diet.
- Protein: Fish, shellfish, poultry, meat, and eggs are all excellent choices. However, it is important to balance your protein intake with high fats and low carbohydrates.
- Low-Carb Vegetables: Most green vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and other low-carb vegetables are recommended.
- Dairy products: Full-fat dairy products such as cheese, cream, and butter are allowed.
What to avoid
- Carbohydrate-rich foods: These include grains such as bread, pasta, and rice, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, oatmeal, and peas.
- Sugar: Sugar in all forms should be avoided. This includes not only white and brown sugar, but also honey, agave nectar, and high-fructose corn syrup.
- Fruit: Most fruits, with the exception of small amounts of berries, are usually avoided because of their high sugar and carbohydrate content.
- Legumes and beans: These are high in carbohydrates and should be avoided.
Even though certain foods are allowed on the keto diet, it is always important to consider the nutritional value of the food. Just because something is low in carbohydrates doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Always make sure to include nutrient-dense, whole foods in your diet to maximize the benefits and lose weight in a healthy way. In addition to changing your diet, it is also recommended that you exercise regularly to lose weight effectively and sustainably.
Other Health Benefits of the Keto Diet
While the ketogenic diet is often associated with weight loss, it offers numerous other health benefits, including:
- Controlled blood sugar levels: A ketogenic diet naturally lowers blood sugar levels through the types of foods consumed. In fact, studies suggest that the ketogenic diet may be a more effective way to treat and prevent diabetes than low-calorie diets.
- Improved mental clarity: Many people on a ketogenic diet report improved concentration and alertness. By reducing carbohydrate intake, you avoid severe blood sugar spikes, which can lead to improved concentration.
- Improved Energy Levels: Once your body becomes accustomed to ketosis, it is able to effectively burn fat for energy. This results in higher energy levels throughout the day.
- Lower blood pressure: High blood pressure significantly increases the risk of several health problems. A low-carbohydrate diet such as the Keto Diet has been shown to be an effective way lower blood pressure, potentially reducing these risks.
- Helps with certain neurological disorders: While more research is needed, several studies suggest that the ketogenic diet may help with neurological disorders such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
The bottom line
The ketogenic diet, a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, puts the body into a state of ketosis, which allows it to burn fat efficiently, contributing to weight loss. But it’s not just about losing weight. This diet can also provide other health benefits, such as improved brain function, better heart health, and regulation of blood sugar levels. The diet does come with some challenges, especially dietary restrictions, but with careful planning and medical advice, it can be a valuable tool in your journey to wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you eat on keto?
On the Keto Diet, you can eat mostly high-fat foods like avocados, fish, meat, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils. Some low-carbohydrate vegetables are also allowed.
What exactly is the keto diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, extremely low-carb diet that puts your body into a state of ketosis, where it uses fat instead of glucose as its main source of energy.
What not to eat on keto?
On a keto diet, you should avoid high-carbohydrate foods, which include bread, pasta, rice, sugar, and most fruits. Starchy vegetables and legumes are also often off limits.
How much can I eat on keto?
On the keto diet, you don’t count calories, you count macronutrients. There is no set limit, but generally the focus is on high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrate consumption.
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Leonard Eberding is a pharmacist, an executive, and a board-certified specialist in medication therapy management. Mr. Eberding holds a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from SUNY Binghamton University and a doctorate in pharmacy and philosophy from the University of Florida. He is also a contributor to numerous health magazines, where he uses his knowledge of pharmacogenomics to help patients get on the right medications the first time, rather than relying on trial and error.