Keto Dieting Tips: What You Need to Know About the Ketogenic Diet
The keto diet, also known as the ketogenic diet, is a type of diet with very low levels of carbohydrates, but with high levels of fat. If followed, it can convert one’s body into a fat-burning machine. Like many other low-carb diets, such as Atkins diet, the keto diet has numerous benefits.
It’s a proven diet for weight loss, lowering insulin levels, and fighting the symptoms of conditions, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, and epilepsy (in children). ( 1 )
- Weight Loss
- Health Benefits of the Keto Diet
- Potential Risks of the Ketogenic Diet
- Before Trying the Diet
Types of the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet exists in several different versions, including standard ketogenic diet (contains very low carbs, high fat, and moderate proteins), targeted ketogenic diet (allows you to take a little extra carbs during workouts), and high-protein ketogenic diet (similar to the standard version but contains slightly more proteins).
Although these diets contain the same nutrients in varying ratios, the fact remains that their carbohydrate and fat levels are very low and high respectively, and each of them is tailored to a specific purpose. ( 2 )
What to Include on Your Keto Diet
While on the keto diet, your meals should revolve around the following foods:
- Seeds and nuts: Including pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and almond.
- Fatty fish: Such as trout, mackerel, tuna, and salmon.
- Unprocessed cheese: Goat, mozzarella, cream, cheddar, blue etc.
- Healthy oils: Such as avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil.
- Meat: Steak, red meat, bacon, turkey, ham, chicken, sausage, etc.
- Butter and cream: If possible, for grass-fed.
- Low-carb vegetables: Including pepper, onions, green veggies, and tomatoes.
- Eggs: Like omega-3 whole eggs and pastured eggs. ( 3 )
What not to Eat
Any food with a high carb content should be avoided or limited at all cost. They include:
- Sugary foods: E.g. cake, candy, soda, ice cream, fruit juice, and smoothies.
- Legumes or beans: Lentils, peas, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc.
- Low-fat products: These processed foods have high levels of carbohydrates.
- Root tubers and veggies: Carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, among others.
- Certain sauces or condiments: They are usually sugary and rich in unhealthy fat.
- Starches or grains: E.g. pasta, rice, cereal, and wheat-based products.
- All fruits: You can eat berries but in small amounts.
- Unhealthy fats: Mayonnaise, processed veggies, etc. (4)
Alcohol: It contains a lot of carbs, which could easily throw the user out of ketosis.
How the Keto Diet Works
The ketogenic diet works by causing the body to produce energy molecules known as ketones, which are an alternative source of your body energy when the blood glucose supply declines. Glucose is the main source of body energy.
While on the keto diet, your body turns to fat as the main source of energy, since you’ll be eating fewer carbohydrates than what your body requires. As a result, the levels of insulin in your blood decline. Insulin is an enzyme that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood, by facilitating the absorption of the blood glucose into your body cells. Reduced insulin supply causes your body to burn more fat into ketones.
The presence of ketones in your blood causes your body to enter ketosis, which is a normal metabolic state. It is good, especially if you want to lose weight. The fastest way to get into ketosis is to avoid eating any food (fasting). However, since you cannot fast forever, the keto diet is definitely the best way to get there, as it helps to lose weight without avoiding food. (5)
Ketosis and Ketoacidosis; Do They Mean the Same Thing?
Despite sounding similar, these two are completely different. Ketosis refers to the presence of ketones in your blood or urine, and it is typically harmless. It occurs when you’re fasting, or on the keto diet, Atkins diet, or any other low-carb diet.
You can also experience ketosis after taking too much alcohol. Yes, the level of ketones during ketosis rises above normal, but not high enough to be dangerous to your health.
Ketoacidosis, on the other hand, is a life-threatening condition that commonly affects people with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetics don’t produce insulin in their body. When the ketones in their blood rise to abnormal levels, the acidic level of their blood rises too, wreaking havoc on their body organs, such as the kidneys and liver.
Since the condition could occur very fast, it is important to seek treatment promptly. Ketoacidosis may be caused by several different factors, including improper diet, illness, and inadequate insulin dose. (6)
Should Everyone Go Keto?
For many years, the ketogenic diet has been famed for its ability to reduce weight, improve brain alertness, and prevent obesity, among other health benefits. However, no single diet is good for everyone, and there are good reasons why some people should avoid this diet.
Don’t try to force your body into ketosis if you have any of the following conditions:
Blood Sugar Issues
If you’re on the keto diet, chances are that you will experience bouts of low blood sugar, at least during the first few days. These bouts can be very dangerous to your health if you have blood sugar issues, such as diabetes and pre-diabetes. If you must follow the diet, be sure to seek your doctor’s advice first. (6)
Despite having a very high-fat content, the keto diet causes weight loss, which may occur so fast, in some cases. So, the diet may not work for you if you’re underweight. A moderate diet, rich in proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates could be a better option. (7)
Although there is lack of a solid evidence to show that pregnant mothers should not follow the keto diet, it is a fact that the diet can cause weight loss, constipation, hormonal changes, nutrient deficiency, dehydration, or anemia.
These side effects are risky during pregnancy. Additionally, pregnant moms need to include more protein and fiber in their diet, as they are important for the growth and development of the fetus. As such, the keto diet may not be suitable for them. (8)
A diet that is moderately low in carbohydrates may be good for you if you have a thyroid disorder, but very low-carb diets, such as the keto and Atkins diets, may not be appropriate for you, as they may exacerbate the symptoms of the condition.
Enzyme Deficiency or Defect
People with enzyme disorders, such as porphyria and pyruvate carboxylase deficiency, have a problem with lipid metabolism and heme production. Heme is a hemoglobin component that transports oxygen from the lungs to other body parts.
If you’re suffering from any of these disorders, it means you don’t have enough of certain enzymes, and this makes it difficult for your body to metabolize free fatty acids and absorb them into your body cells for energy creation.
Since the ketogenic diet contains high levels of fat, following this diet when you have enzyme deficiencies could cause free fatty acids to build up in your body, leading to complications, such as irregular heartbeats, mental problems, and deterioration of the nervous system. (10)
Health Benefits of the Keto Diet
This diet is praised for many benefits, ranging from weight loss to disease control to appetite control. Let’s take a detailed view of the diet’s positive side.
This is an obvious benefit of the keto diet. Once your body becomes a machine for fat-burning, the levels of insulin, the hormone that helps with fat storing, drop significantly, creating ideal conditions for your body to lose fat (of course, without feeling hungry).
As a matter of fact, numerous scientific studies have indicated that low-carb diets, especially keto and Atkins diets, are effective ways of losing weight.
Improved Physical Endurance
Do you want to exercise longer without getting tired fast? The keto diet could be your fit. It increases your ability to endure stressful or energy-sapping workouts, enabling your body to gain full access to its fat stores. Your body uses a lot of energy during an intense workout.
Unfortunately, the energy supplied by carbohydrates lasts only shortly. As a result, your body turns to its fat storage for energy, which usually lasts longer. If you’re an athlete who is going into a tournament that lasts for several days or weeks, then this diet could be of help.
As proven by several studies, a low-carb diet like the keto diet or Atkins diet lowers the levels of blood glucose, which helps in reversing type 2 diabetes. It negates the negative effect of high levels of insulin in the blood.
As a type 2 diabetes patient, your condition could even be reversed if you correctly follow the diet, in accordance with your doctor’s instructions.
This is one of the immediate results of a low-carb diet. Once you get started with the diet, you may experience a calmer stomach, free of cramps, pain, or gas, just one or two days into the plan.
While following the keto diet, you will be able to control your appetite like a puppet. How? Here is the explanation: When you’re burning your body fat 24/7, it means you have consistent access to stored energy, which reduces appetite for food. As a result, you will eat less food, making intermittent fasting a breeze.
This speeds up weight loss and could also reverse type 2 diabetes. Since you won’t be snacking every time, you will be able to save tons of dollars; you may only need to eat two meals a day.
Lack of hunger feelings can also help with problems related to food and sugar addictions. Things like bulimia and other eating disorders may never be your portion at all.
Constant Mental Alertness
Ketosis causes a steady flow of ketones or fuel to your brain, which leads to improved concentration and focus. Episodes of brain fog will be a thing of the past if you are on keto. Many people in need of improved mental performance go keto, mainly for this purpose.
While on this diet, your brain will not need carbs for energy, since you will have ketones as the main fuel supplier.
Therapy for Epilepsy
The keto diet, as medical therapy, has stood the test of time; it has been in use since the 1920s. Initially, it was used to cure epileptic children, but later on, adults began to benefit from it. If you’re suffering from epilepsy, the diet can be a great substitute for anti-epileptic medications, and you may not experience any seizure episodes at all. (11)
Potential Risks of the Ketogenic Diet
Like any good thing, a low-carb diet, whether it is Atkins or the ketogenic diet, has its own downside. Focusing on the latter, it is a potential trigger of increased LDL cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol that can worsen the symptoms of conditions, such as heart disease.
The diet contains very high amounts of saturated fat. As a general rule, you should not consume too much of these fats.
Going keto means avoiding lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains. These foods are the sources of nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B, selenium, and vitamin C. Hence, you will be at risk of micronutrient deficiencies while on the diet.
Another potential side effect of going keto is constipation. The diet is significantly low in foods like legumes and grains, which are rich sources of fiber. Fiber is important for your body because it prevents constipation. (12)
Before Trying the Diet
The keto diet is great; this is indisputable. However, you don’t have to do something because other people are doing it. If you’re not ready to drastically limit your carbohydrate intake, or you fear high-fat foods, then the keto diet may be tough to start and follow.
Now, to prepare yourself for the drastic change, you may need to do the following: (13)
- Understand how your body reacts to high-fat foods
- Know what foods to eat and avoid on the diet
- Understand the side effects of the diet
- Consult your doctor or dietitian about your plans
- Know your goals