The Keto Diet is one of several extreme low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets popular today. Although most people know the Keto Diet as a means to drop weight, it started in the early 1900s as a therapeutic approach to managing seizures. The goal is to use certain food choices to stimulate the body to burn more fat.
What is the Keto Diet?
Keto–short for ketogenic–is a diet that drastically restricts carbohydrate intake while increasing that of high-fat foods. Done correctly, the diet puts your body into a state of ketosis. During ketosis, your body draws energy from stored fat by producing ketones.
Back in 1921, endocrinologist Rollin Woodyatt discovered three compounds called ketones produced by the liver when starved. The body decides a person eating the right mix of high-fat and low-carbs is starving, and it burns stored fat to make these ketones to use for energy.
Are There Health Benefits to the Keto Diet?
A ketone diet may play a role in lowering blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity. The diet focuses on consuming fats and, to a lesser extent, proteins. Since both protein and fat are calorically dense, they tend to help stave off hunger, having you feel full for an extended time.
When you say “Keto Diet,” most people think weight loss. By design, however, the Keto Diet forces the use of stored fat for energy. By pushing the production of ketones and the burning of stored fat, the diet plan can lead to weight loss. The downside of the Keto Diet is maintenance. It can be tough to consistently eat foods high in fat and low in carbs. Furthermore, for some, being in a perpetual state of ketosis may not be suitable or even safe.
Foods to Eat
The Keto Diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet…but what does that mean? The Keto Diet is built around the things many people spend their life thinking they should avoid like butter, cream, and cheese.
It also includes lots of proteins that are low in carbs, such as:
- Red meat
- Fatty fish such as salmon or tuna
- Nuts and seeds
How much protein one should eat in a day is disputed. Unless doing extensive weight training or lifting heavy weight for work, the recommendation is to eat less than 1g per one pound of body weight daily. A woman who weighs 150 pounds would want to eat fewer than 150 grams of protein each day.
In many ways, Keto is similar to most diets when it comes to veggies as long as they are low-carb such as:
Unlike other diets that encourage unlimited veggies, though, with Keto you have to watch the number of vegetables you eat because they do contain carbohydrates.
Foods to Avoid
Any food high in carbohydrates is a “no-no” on the Keto Diet.
Carbs can be simple sugars like candy or cake. They can also be complex sugars such as grains or starches. You’ll want to stay away from:
- Any root vegetables – sweat potatoes, carrots, parsnips
- Sugar-free drinks and food
- Unhealthy fats like vegetable oil
If you are not sure, look up the nutritional information of the food and see how many carbohydrates it carries. Many food tracker apps will have this information. To be ketogenic, carbs must be under 20 grams per day.
Things to Watch for on the Keto Diet
As we mentioned earlier, the Keto Diet is not for everyone. Some people on it develop what is called the “keto flu.” Indications of keto flu are:
- Dry mouth
It is usually a short-term problem, though. Dehydration can occur with this plan, as well, along with difficulty passing stool or loose stools. Ketogenesis can trigger bad breath, too, also known as “keto breath.”
Anyone who has trouble managing their blood sugar should talk to their doctor before starting any new diet. Keto is not right for:
- Those with liver problems
- Anyone who pancreas problems
- Someone with certain deficiencies like porphyrias
- A person with kidney problems
Being on the Keto Diet can also produce a false positive on a breath alcohol test.
The fact is some people do well on the Keto Diet. They feel better, they enjoy some health benefits, and it can come with rapid weight loss. Others find Keto is hard to sustain and simply may not be the right choice for them.