What is the Keto Diet?
It’s a question that’s been asked by so many people, so many times now, over the past couple of years since it became the latest nutrition craze. And it’s still being asked now!
So I thought, why not talk about it today? But let’s simplify the information to make it easily digestible to beginners. Makes sense?
Right! Let’s begin.
The Keto Diet (short for ketogenic diet) is a low-carb, high-fat diet. The whole idea of keto is for you to get more of your calories from fat and protein and less from carbohydrates. This means drastically cutting back on most of the carbs that your body can easily absorb and digest, such as sugar, pastries, white bread, and soda. The reduction in carbs places your body into a metabolic state (ketosis).
How does it work?
When you consume less than 50 grams of carbohydrates a day, your body gradually runs out of blood sugar—your main source of energy. The process normally takes about 3 to 4 days; after which your body will start to break down fat and protein to get energy, resulting in weight loss. This metabolic state is called ketosis.
Before we proceed further, I need to emphasize that the keto diet is a short-term diet plan focused primarily on weight loss, and not specifically for any guaranteed long-term health objectives.
Who typically uses it?
The keto diet is mainly used by people who want to lose weight. It has, however, been known to assist with managing specific health conditions, such as epilepsy, heart diseases, certain brain diseases, and even acne. But this is a discussion that needs to take place between you and your doctor.
For the purposes of this blog, we will talk about the keto diet in terms of losing weight.
Keto for weight loss
The keto diet may more effectively help you lose more weight loss during the first 3 to 6 months than other diets. This can be attributed to the fact that more calories are needed to convert fat into energy than it does to convert carbs into energy.
Depending on your preferences, it’s also highly likely that a high-protein, high-fat diet can satisfy your hunger better, ergo you end up eating less. That’s just a theory, though.
What foods should you avoid to if you’re going on a keto diet?
As a general rule, limit consumption of any high-carb food. Let’s check out this list of specific foods that you can either eliminate or reduce from your diet. [Warning: It’s going to hurt. LOL]
- 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: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
- Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
- Unhealthy fats: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- Alcohol: Due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
- Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
- Cold cuts with added sugar (read the label!)
- Meat that has been marinated in sugary sauces
- Fish or chicken nuggets
- Artificial trans fats
- Trail mixes with dried fruit
- Sweetened nut or seed butter
- Chocolate-covered nuts
- Sweetened nonfat yogurt
- Ice cream
- Maple syrup
- White and brown sugars
- Barbecue sauce
- Honey mustard
- Fruit juice
What to eat on a keto diet
Now that we know what NOT to eat. What then, do we eat on a keto diet? Let’s go check this fairly comprehensive list from Everyday Health!
- Grass-fed beef (in moderation)
- Fish, especially fatty fish, like salmon (in moderation)
- Dark meat chicken (in moderation)
- Bacon (occasionally)
- Low-fat proteins, like skinless chicken breast and shrimp. These are great to include in your keto diet, but add a sauce on top for some fat rather than eating plain. (occasionally)
Eggs: look for pastured or omega-3 whole eggs
Oil and Fat
- Avocado oil (liberally)
- Olive oil (liberally)
- Coconut oil (liberally)
- Butter (liberally)
- Heavy cream (liberally)
- Sunflower oil (occasionally)
- Safflower oil (occasionally)
- Corn oil (occasionally)
Fruits and Veggies
- Avocado (liberally)
- Leafy greens, like spinach and arugula (liberally)
- Celery (liberally)
- Asparagus (liberally)
- Leeks (occasionally)
- Spaghetti squash (occasionally)
- Eggplant (occasionally)
Nuts and Seeds
- Walnuts (liberally)
- Almonds (liberally)
- Flaxseed and chia seeds (liberally)
- Unsweetened nut butter (almond or peanut butter) (occasionally)
- Cashews (occasionally)
- Pistachios (occasionally)
- Cheddar cheese (liberally)
- Blue cheese (liberally)
- Feta cheese (liberally)
- Full-fat cottage cheese (occasionally)
- Full-fat plain Greek yogurt (occasionally)
- Full-fat ricotta cheese (occasionally)
Condiments and Sauces
- Guacamole (liberally)
- Lemon butter sauce (liberally)
- Mayonnaise (ensure there’s no sugar added) (liberally)
- Raw garlic (occasionally)
- Tomato sauce (look for those with no added sugar) (occasionally)
- Balsamic vinegar (occasionally)
- Water (liberally)
- Almond milk (liberally)
- Bone broth (liberally)
- Plain tea (liberally)
- Black coffee (watch caffeine consumption) (occasionally)
- Unsweetened carbonated water (limit only if bubbles make you bloated) (occasionally)
- Diet soda (occasionally)
- Zero-calorie drinks (occasionally)
Herbs and Spices
As a general rule, all herbs and spices used in small amounts fit well in a keto diet, but you may want to count the carbs if you’re consuming large amounts of these.
- Salt (salt foods to taste) (liberally)
- Pepper (liberally)
- Thyme, oregano, paprika, and cayenne (liberally)
- Ground ginger (occasionally)
- Garlic powder (occasionally)
- Onion powder (occasionally)
What are the side effects of a keto diet?
Common side effects include constipation, mild low blood sugar, or indigestion. Other side effects may include headache, weakness, irritability, bad breath, and fatigue.
Occasionally, low-carb diets (which keto is) may also lead to the development of kidney stones or acidosis (occurrence of high levels of acid in your body).
A word of caution
The process of your body burning stores of fat can be tough on your kidneys. Once you’ve started on your keto diet, it can be physically hard to go back to a normal diet. If you have certain pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, a heart condition, or high blood pressure, make sure you make diet changes slowly—with your doctor’s expert advice.
Disclaimer: This blog offers general information and discussions about health-related subjects. The content in this blog is not intended and should not be taken as medical advice or substitute for professional medical treatment or expertise.