The keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet that offers various health benefits. In fact, different studies show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health. Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. Ketogenic diets can cause significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels.
It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.
Different types of ketogenic diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet. It typically contains 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbs.
Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carb days.
Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
High protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbs.
It occurs when you significantly reduce your consumption of carbohydrates, limiting your body’s supply of glucose (sugar), which is the main source of energy for the cells.
Following a ketogenic diet is the most effective way to enter ketosis. Generally, this involves limiting carb consumption to around 20 to 50 grams per day and filling up on fats, such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils.
It’s also important to moderate your protein consumption. This is because protein can be converted into glucose if consumed in high amounts, which may slow your transition into ketosis.
Practicing intermittent fasting could also help you enter ketosis faster. There are many different forms of intermittent fasting, but the most common method involves limiting food intake to around 8 hours per day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours.
Blood, urine, and breath tests are available, which can help determine whether you’ve entered ketosis by measuring the amount of ketones produced by your body.
Certain symptoms may also indicate that you’ve entered ketosis, including increased thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination, and decreased hunger or appetite.
Ketogenic diets for diabetes and prediabetes
Diabetes is characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar, and impaired insulin function.
The ketogenic diet can help you lose excess fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
One older study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by a whopping 75%.
A small study in women with type 2 diabetes also found that following a ketogenic diet for 90 days significantly reduced levels of hemoglobin, which a measure of long-term blood sugar management is.
Another study in 349 people with type 2 diabetes found that those who followed a ketogenic diet lost an average of 26.2 pounds (11.9 kg) over a 2-year period. This is an important benefit when considering the link between weight and type 2 diabetes.
What’s more, they also experienced improved blood sugar management, and the use of certain blood sugar medications decreased among participants throughout the course of the study
Other health benefits of keto
The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases such as epilepsy.
Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:
Heart disease. The ketogenic diet can help improve risk factors like body fat, HDL (good) cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Cancer. The diet is currently being explored as an additional treatment for cancer, because it may help slow tumor growth.
Alzheimer’s disease. The keto diet may help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression.
Epilepsy. Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause significant reductions in seizures in epileptic children.
Parkinson’s disease. Although more research is needed, one study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which may play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
Brain injuries. Some research suggests that the diet could improve outcomes of traumatic brain injuries
Keto tips and tricks
Although getting started on the ketogenic diet can be challenging, there are several tips and tricks that you can use to make it easier.
Start by familiarizing yourself with food labels and checking the grams of fat, carbs, and fiber to determine how your favorite foods can fit into your diet.
Planning out your meals in advance may also be beneficial and can help you save extra time throughout the week.
Many websites, food blogs, apps, and cookbooks also offer keto-friendly recipes and meal ideas that you can use to build your own custom menu.
Alternatively, some meal delivery services even offer keto-friendly options for a quick and convenient way to enjoy keto meals at home.
Look into healthy frozen keto meals when you’re short on time
When going to social gatherings or visiting family and friends, you may also want to consider bringing your own food, which can make it much easier to curb cravings and stick to your meal plan.
Foods to avoid
Any food that’s high in carbs should be limited.
Here’s a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:
sugary foods: soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
grains or starches: wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
fruit: all fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries
beans or legumes: peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
root vegetables and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
low fat or diet products: low fat mayonnaise, salad dressings, and condiments
some condiments or sauces: barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc.
unhealthy fats: processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
alcohol: beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks
sugar-free diet foods: sugar-free candies, syrups, puddings, sweeteners, desserts, etc.
A sample keto meal plan for 1 week
To help get you started, here’s a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:
breakfast: veggie and egg muffins with tomatoes
lunch: chicken salad with olive oil, feta cheese, olives, and a side salad
dinner: salmon with asparagus cooked in butter
breakfast: egg, tomato, basil, and spinach omelet
lunch: almond milk, peanut butter, spinach, cocoa powder, and stevia milkshake with a side of sliced strawberries
dinner: cheese-shell tacos with salsa
breakfast: nut milk chia pudding topped with coconut and blackberries
lunch: avocado shrimp salad
dinner: pork chops with Parmesan cheese, broccoli, and salad
breakfast: omelet with avocado, salsa, peppers, onion, and spices
lunch: a handful of nuts and celery sticks with guacamole and salsa
dinner: chicken stuffed with pesto and cream cheese, and a side of grilled zucchini
breakfast: sugar-free Greek, whole milk yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder, and berries
lunch: ground beef lettuce wrap tacos with sliced bell peppers
dinner: loaded cauliflower and mixed veggies
breakfast: cream cheese pancakes with blueberries and a side of grilled mushrooms
lunch: Zucchini and beet “noodle” salad
dinner: white fish cooked in coconut oil with kale and toasted pine nuts
breakfast: fried eggs with and mushrooms
lunch: low carb sesame chicken and broccoli
dinner: spaghetti squash Bolognese
Always try to rotate the vegetables and meat over the long term, as each type provides different nutrients and health benefits.
Healthy keto snacks
In case you get hungry between meals, here are some healthy, keto-approved snacks:
- fatty meat or fish
- a handful of nuts or seeds
- keto sushi bites
- one or two hard-boiled or deviled eggs
- keto-friendly snack bars
- 90% dark chocolate
- full-fat Greek yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder
- bell peppers and guacamole
- strawberries and plain cottage cheese
- celery with salsa and guacamole
- beef jerky
- smaller portions of leftover meals
- fat bombs
Risks of the keto diet
Staying on the keto diet in the long term may have some negative effects, including risks of the following:
- low protein in the blood
- extra fat in the liver
- kidney stones
- micronutrient deficiencies
A type of medication called sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors for type 2 diabetes can increase the risk for diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that increases blood acidity. Anyone taking this medication should avoid the keto diet.
Side effects and how to minimize them
Although the ketogenic diet is usually safe for most healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts.
There’s some anecdotal evidence of these effects often referred to as the keto flu. Based on reports from some on the eating plan, it’s usually over within a few days.
Reported keto flu symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. Other less common symptoms include:
- poor energy and mental function
- increased hunger
- sleep issues
- digestive discomfort
- decreased exercise performance
To minimize this, you can try a regular low carb diet for the first few weeks. This may teach your body to burn more fat before you completely eliminate carbs.
A ketogenic diet can also change the water and mineral balance of your body, so adding extra salt to your meals or taking mineral supplements may help. Talk to your doctor about your nutritional needs.
At least in the beginning, it’s important to eat until you’re full and avoid restricting calories too much. Usually, a ketogenic diet causes weight loss without intentional calorie restriction.
Supplements for a ketogenic diet
Although no supplements are required, some can be useful.
MCT oil. Added to drinks or yogurt, MCT oil provides energy and helps increase ketone levels.
Minerals. Added salt and other minerals can be important when starting out due to shifts in water and mineral balance.
Caffeine can have benefits for energy, fat loss, and performance.
Exogenous ketones. This supplement may help raise the body’s ketone levels.
Creatine provides numerous benefits for health and performance. This can help if you are combining a ketogenic diet with exercise.
Whey. Use half a scoop of whey protein in shakes or yogurt to increase your daily protein intake.
Frequently asked questions
1- Why keto diet is bad?
The keto diet could cause low blood pressure, kidney stones, constipation, nutrient deficiencies and an increased risk of heart disease. Strict diets like keto could also cause social isolation or disordered eating. Keto is not safe for those with any conditions involving their pancreas, liver, thyroid or gallbladder.
2- Can you lose belly fat on keto?
A ketogenic diet can help you lose belly fat, which is closely linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and reduced life expectancy.
3- What are the basic rules of keto diet?
A healthy ketogenic diet should consist of about 75% fat, 10-30% protein and no more than 5% or 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day. Focus on high-fat, low-carb foods like eggs, meats, dairy and low-carb vegetables, as well as sugar-free beverages. Be sure to restrict highly processed items and unhealthy fats.
4- Which fruit is Keto?
Avocado, raspberries, and lemons are keto-friendly fruits when eaten in moderation. Fruit is known to be high in carbs, so you might think nature’s candy is off-limits on the trendy high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet.
5- How long should I do Keto?
Registered dietitians warn that nutrient deficiencies may be possible if you’re on it for too long. Stick to the keto diet for three to six months max, says Mancinelli, noting that some people opt to cycle in and out of the diet throughout the year.
6- Who shouldnt do Keto?
Considering these risks, people who have kidney damage, individuals at risk for heart disease, pregnant or nursing women, people with type 1 diabetes, pre-existing liver or pancreatic condition and anyone who has undergone gallbladder removal shouldn’t attempt the Keto diet.
7- How many eggs a day on a keto diet?
You must eat at least six whole eggs per day. Eggs should be local, pastured eggs whenever possible. You should stop eating three hours before bedtime. You can drink up to three cans of diet soda per day but aim for one or less.
8- How do I lose belly fat on keto diet?
- Avoid sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks. Foods with added sugars are bad for your health.
- Eat more protein. Protein may be the most important macronutrient for weight loss.
- Eat fewer carbohydrates. Eating fewer carbs is a very effective way to lose fat.
- Eat fiber-rich foods.
- Exercise regularly.
- Track your food intake.
9- How much weight can I lose in a month on keto?
The average monthly weight loss on keto is about four to ten pounds (one to two lbs a week which is considered safe).
10- Is peanut butter Keto?
All natural peanut butter is indeed a low carb food. It is high in healthy fats, has moderates amount of protein and has a relatively high amount of fiber. A two-tablespoon serving sees it providing a mere 3.5 grams of net carbs! Not only is peanut butter low carb, it is also suitable for a ketogenic diet.
A ketogenic diet can be great for people who are overweight, have diabetes
And are looking to improve their metabolic health.