The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is a low-carbon high-fat diet that provides multiple health benefits. In fact, many studies have shown that this form of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health. Ketogenic diets can also benefit from diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here is a comprehensive review of the keto diet.
What is the Keto Diet
The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a low-carbon, fat-rich diet that has been used for decades to treat specific medical conditions. You may have heard about the high-protein low-carbon Atkins diet. The keto diet keeps carbohydrate levels down rather than increasing the amount of protein in your diet. The keto diet increases the fat content. A typical keto diet has foods with 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrate.
Keto’s diet menu items often contain fish, meat, dairy products, eggs, vegetables, and nuts. With the increased popularity of keto diets, keto recipes are widely available.
How the Keto Diet Works
It might sound counterintuitive that adding more fat to your diet will lead to weight loss. Normally, the diet is high in carbohydrates, which are weakened by glucose or blood glucose, to be used as energy.
As glucose reaches the bloodstream, the body releases insulin to store extra glucose as fat. The more carbohydrate, the more glucose. The more glucose, the more insulin, and therefore the more insulin, the more fat.
The keto diet takes advantage of the very fact that while your diets are high-fat and low-carbohydrate, there is no insulin spike, and you should not boost your fat reserves. Instead, fat from the diet and stored fat are weakened to ketones (“keto” is brief for “ketogenic” producing ketones). Like glucose, ketones are also used for nutrition, keeping the body running without increasing blood glucose, or adding extra fat. The benefits of the keto diet are often huge.
Are there Different Types of Keto Diets?
There are a variety of versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): Very low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat diet. It usually contains 70% fat, 20% protein, and just 10% carbohydrate.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet includes periods of higher carbohydrate intake, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carbohydrate days.
- High protein ketogenic diet: It is similar to the traditional ketogenic diet but requires more protein. The ratio is often 60 percent fat, 35 percent protein, and 5 percent starch.
Benefits of a Ketogenic diet
Many benefits come with being on keto. Below you can find a shortlist of the advantages that you can gain from a ketogenic diet.
- Lose weight: Essentially, the ketogenic diet uses body fat as an energy source – so there are obvious weight-loss advantages. Your insulin (a fat-storing hormone) decreases significantly on keto, which turns your body into a fat-burning machine.
- Control Blood Sugar: Keto naturally lowers blood sugar levels due to the type of food you consume. Studies also suggest that a ketogenic diet is a more efficient way to treat and prevent diabetes than low-calorie diets.
- Heart disease. The ketogenic diet can help to improve risk factors such as body fat, HDL (good cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
- Cancer. The diet is currently being explored as an additional therapy for cancer, as it may help to delay tumor growth.
- Alzheimer’s disease. The keto diet can help to minimize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its development.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome. Ketogenic diets may help lower insulin levels and could play a key role in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Brain injuries. Some research suggests that diet can enhance the outcomes of traumatic brain injury.
Side-effects of Keto Diet
Some people complain about Keto Flu while on a diet that includes:
- Brain fog
- And nausea
Some individuals have suffered from constipation and bad breath while on the Keto diet.
Risks of the keto diet
Staying on the keto diet in the long term may have some negative effects, including the following risks:
- Low protein in the blood
- Extra fat in the liver
- Kidney stones
- Micronutrient deficiencies
A type of pill called sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors for type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that increases the acidity of the blood. Anyone taking this drug should avoid a keto diet.
What can you eat?
You should eat:
- Seafood and fish as well as lean meat and poultry,
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, cream,
- Coconut and olive oil, almonds, beans, fruit,
- Low starch vegetables such as zucchini, Olives, broccoli, cauliflower, shirataki
- Noodles, dark chocolate, and cocoa powders.
You may also drink tea and coffee or make a soup with low carbohydrate vegetables.
Sample Meal Plan
You may have something like bacon and avocado eggs for breakfast and some grilled chicken with salad or low carbohydrate vegetables for lunch. And you may have zoodles (zucchini noodles) with bolognese sauce for dinner. You may have a few squares of dark chocolate or sugar-free cheesecake for dessert.
Cauliflower recipes are also popular in the Keto diet, as vegetables can be used as a rice swap or as a pizza base using cooked cauliflower in a food processor and blended with oil and shaped into a base and baked in an oven.
Sample of snacks
You should snack on foods such as seeds, almonds, cheese, olives, and avocado dips.
What Can’t You Eat?
You can’t eat the following food while on the Keto diet.
- Fruits other than berries, grains, and starches, root vegetables,
- Grain goods such as pizza, spaghetti, muesli, rice cakes, legumes,
- Sweeteners other than stevia and sucralose, lollies,
- Some oil other than coconut and olive,
- Alcohol other than champagne, strong spirits, and dry wine,
- Sweetened beverages, low-fat milk, and sweetened sauces and dips
Is it safe?
While proved to be safe, a number of experts warn against its long-term effects. When your body enters ketosis, you also tend to lose muscle, become incredibly tired, and eventually go into starvation mode. In reality, it becomes much more difficult to lose weight.
Keto diets can only be used under professional supervision and for brief times. The diet can also affect the heart and is not recommended for cosmetic purposes.
The bottom line
A ketogenic diet can be perfect for those who:
- Are overweight
- Have diabetes
- Have the aim to boost their metabolic health
It may be less suitable for elite athletes or those who want to gain large amounts of muscle or weight. It could also be unsustainable for some people’s lifestyles and preferences. Speak to the doctor about your diet schedule and the goals of deciding if a keto eating plan is right for you.