What is the Keto diet? Here’s everything you need to know

keto diet food

The ketogenic diet, popularly referred to as the Keto diet, is an eating regimen that is high in healthy fats, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. The diet is based on the idea that when the intake of simple carbohydrates and/or sugar is reduced to less than 30-50 grams per day for more than a few days, the body will start to convert fat to ketones, which are then used by the body for energy. 

There are two sources of fuel for the human body: glucose and fatty acids. Fat is an energy that can be stored in excess in the body, leading to weight gain. Learning to efficiently access this fat for energy — instead of accessing glucose — is key for weight loss. This idea is the basis for the ketogenic diet, which has grown in popularity over the past few years. 

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.

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.

Personally, I recommend a lot of green leafy vegetables while practicing keto. Since they are low in calories, they can comprise up to a quarter of your food intake, while only accounting for five percent of your calories. For example, two servings of spinach contain only 20 calories. 

What foods are allowed on a ketogenic diet?

Foods that are generally allowed include high-fat meats, fish, oils, nuts, high-fat dairy such as cheese, and low-carb vegetables such as leafy greens.

Unsurprisingly, reducing carb levels means cutting out bread, pasta, rice, and most conventional baked goods. However, achieving such low levels of carbs also means skipping legumes, root vegetables, most fruits and starchy veggies, such as potatoes.


Who May Benefit From The Keto Diet?

I personally have seen patients with the following conditions benefit from a ketogenic diet. There are scientific studies to support my observations. 

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes, both type 1 and type 2
  • Elevated inflammation (elevated CRP)
  • High cholesterol, high triglycerides, and low HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Seizure disorder
  • Migraine headaches
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

Is the ketogenic diet safe? What are the risks?

It is important to know that there are some risks involved with putting your body into ketosis.

Common side effects include bad breath, constipation, indigestion, and low blood sugar. In the first few days of the diet, you may also experience nausea, insomnia, and a general feeling of being unwell.

Some people may turn to processed food as their main source of diet and end up consuming too much protein and unhealthy fats. The high level of unhealthy unsaturated fat combined with limits on nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables and grains is a concern for long term heart health.

We do not know much about its long term effects due to lack of long term study, probably because it’s hard to follow this diet for a long time.


So, should you give the keto diet a try?

While there may be health benefits to the keto diet, it is best to speak to your doctor or dietitian before embarking on any extreme changes to your food intake and lifestyle.

You can also give the diet a try if your doctor has prescribed this to control seizures that have not responded to several different seizure medications. But it requires close monitoring by the doctor and dietitian.

People with underlying health concerns, particularly with the liver or kidneys, should also be cautious about putting themselves on a diet that will put additional strain on these organs. In addition, patients with kidney disease need to be cautious because high protein keto diet could worsen their condition.

Keto diets should only be used with clinical supervision and only for short periods. Although the keto diet promises significant weight loss for overweight and obese patients in some studies, other clinical reviews show that patients on low carbohydrate diets regain some of their lost weight within a year.

There is no magic bullet for long-term weight loss. Ultimately, it is usually healthier for most people to follow a well-balanced diet, which includes carbohydrates, to maintain energy levels and wellness.

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