Diet trends change over time, but one of the most popular diets, particularly in recent years, is the ketogenic, or keto, diet. Keto has been getting a lot of buzz lately, but it’s becoming tough to really understand what it is, what its goals are and if it is the right diet choice for you.
The basics of keto
The basic premise of the keto diet is that you eat low-carb and high-fat foods. By altering your food choices, you should significantly reduce the amount of carbohydrates you eat each day, replacing it with fat. Doing this helps your body enter a metabolic state called ketosis.
Ketosis helps the body burn fat for energy instead of glucose, or sugar. This helps it reduce fat storage throughout the body, which typically helps dieters lose weight. The liver processes stored fat and creates byproducts called ketones, which the body uses for fuel. Excess ketones are usually flushed out through urine.
How to eat on the keto diet
Keto diets typically consist of approximately 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and 5 percent carbs. This is quite different from traditional macronutrient proportions.
There are also other types of keto diets, such as the high-protein keto diet, that increases the protein supply in lieu of fats, resulting in around 65 percent fat, 35 percent protein and 5 percent carbs.
Foods to avoid
Because of the tight restrictions on carbohydrates, people on the keto diet have to be very careful to minimize their carb intake. This means avoiding most carb-heavy foods, such as rice, pastas, breads and sugary foods and drinks. Additionally, foods like potatoes, fruits and beans contain high amounts of carbs and should be eliminated from the diet.
Unhealthy fats are also important to avoid on the keto diet because of their harmful effects on human health. Steer clear of heavily processed or hydrogenated oils.
Additionally, alcohol also contains a sneaky amount of carbs and should be avoided so you do not fall out of ketosis.
Foods to eat
While the keto diet seems restrictive, there are still many foods available for you to eat. Most meals should be focused around fatty foods, including meats and fatty fish, cheese, eggs, nuts and seeds, avocados, tomatoes, onions, peppers and most green veggies, which are usually low-carb.
Make sure that you’re eating a variety of the approved foods instead of sticking to one type of meat and vegetable. It’s still important to get your full spectrum of vitamins and nutrients from each meal.
Benefits of the keto diet
One of the major benefits of keto is that it triggers rapid fat burning, which helps you lose weight quickly without needing to reduce calorie intake.
Additionally, reducing carb intake helps reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which can have many benefits for overall health including reducing your risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease. In fact, the keto diet is sometimes recommended for individuals with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes.
Research has also suggested that the keto diet may have a positive effect on reducing the risk or symptoms of other health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and even acne.
Drawbacks of the keto diet
Although the keto diet can offer some benefits, it can also have some negative side effects, just like other diets.
One of the main drawbacks of the diet is called the “keto flu,” which is a short period of side effects that occurs as you start the diet and enter ketosis. Typically, the keto flu lasts just a few days.
Keto flu symptoms may include low energy, decreased mental function, irritability, sleep issues, increased feelings of hunger and digestive upset. To avoid these side effects, you may want to ease yourself into keto through a low-carb diet at first, slowly transitioning to eating fewer carbs and more fats to get your body used to the process.
Another drawback is that the diet encourages the consumption of lots of saturated fats, which aren’t healthy for the body. Saturated fats have been linked to heart disease.
You may also be at risk for nutrient deficiencies if you aren’t varying your foods well enough each day.
Is it right for you?
If you are interested in losing weight without restricting calories significantly, keto may be a good choice for you.
However, as with all diets, it’s very important to discuss the keto diet with your primary care physician to decide whether the keto diet is a safe and sensible option for you. Some people may not be suited for the keto diet and could become ill or underweight.
With careful consideration and guidance from a medical professional, the keto diet may have numerous benefits to your health and wellbeing.