If you’ve heard about friends and celebrities following the keto diet or noticed recipes that are “keto-friendly” but never really knew what that meant, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about a keto diet so you can decide if it’s right for you!
Why is it called “Keto”?
What we call the “keto diet” is short for: ketogenic – this term is used to describe the diet because of its relationship with a metabolic process called ketogenesis (when the body breaks down and produces fatty acids) ketones† The keto diet essentially tries to limit carbohydrates and increase fats so that your body is in ketosis more often, so burn through stored fat.
What does the basic diet look like?
There are several keto diets, but the standard formula includes 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates daily. Many people increase the protein percentage to 30% (and the fat percentage to 60%) for a little more weight in their diet. Those familiar with the standard keto plan sometimes add extra carbs around workout times and/or cycle through periods where they increase the carbs for a day or two at a time. When you hear about the keto diet, you can generally assume that carbohydrate consumption is generally very limited (between 20-50 grams per day).
How does it work to lose weight?
The science behind the keto diet is based on the process of: ketogenesis† Usually, your body uses glucose from carbohydrates to produce most of its energy, and only small amounts of energy come from breaking down fatty acids (ketogenesis† However, when your body has very little glucose (such as when you are on a ketogenic diet), it goes into a state of ketosis and begins to switch its energy source to fatty acids. The ketones produced during this process can be used to send energy to organs and the brain. Because a body in ketosis breaks down the fat stock, a ketogenic diet often leads to weight loss.
Are There Other Health Benefits?
In addition to weight loss, many people have discovered other health benefits. Originally developed to help children with seizure disorders, the keto diet is often used as part of epilepsy treatment. For people who do not have epilepsy, those at risk for diabetes or those who suffer from diabetes may have improved blood sugar levels as a result of the lower levels of glucose consumed over time. In addition, because of its typically rapid weight loss, the keto diet may be able to help with other health conditions that benefit from lower body weight. Of course, it is critical to discuss any health concerns and diet plans with your doctor, as these results vary from person to person.
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What are the possible drawbacks or concerns?
As with any diet plan, rapid weight loss can be difficult to sustain in the long term and often leads to future weight gain beyond what you lost. It is the best way to avoid this problem. The keto diet is very strict, so any deviation can take your body out of it ketosis and thus get you off course for your diet goals. With the keto diet, there are potential drawbacks to being ketosis for a long time – constipation, dizziness, kidney stones, nutrient deficiencies and low blood sugar are all possible side effects of the ketogenic diet. Finally, because the diet requires high fat intake, the risk of heart disease may increase if dieters are not careful to choose only heart-healthy fats.
What should I eat/avoid?
Carbohydrates are in many broad categories of foods: fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, candy, beans and legumes, and alcohol, just to name a few. Eliminating most foods from these categories is critical to following the keto diet. Instead, choose foods such as lean meats, heart-healthy oils and fats, cheese, eggs, fatty fish, nuts/seeds, and low-carb vegetables. There are some great keto recipe collections here broken down by meal, ingredient, etc.
How do I know if Keto is right for me?
If you’re looking for quick weight loss and don’t mind changing your diet to focus primarily on whole ingredients that exclude carbs, keto may be for you! Discussing with your doctor is always the first step in choosing a diet plan, so go to an appointment armed with this knowledge!