What is the Keto Diet?
A Ketogenic diet, or keto diet is one that is low in carbohydrates which causes your body to produce ketones in the liver which are used as fuel instead of carbohydrates. High carb diets cause your body to produce glucose and insulin. Glucose is the easiest substance for the body to use for energy so if it has sufficient glucose levels it will not burn fat. Insulin helps to circulate the glucose in your bloodstream throughout your entire body.
This is why the keto diet works so well for weight loss. By cutting carbohydrates the diet forces the body into a state of ketosis which is a natural state the body adapts when food intake is low. The important point to know about the keto diet however is that it is not a “starvation diet”, you can eat pretty much all you want as long as you are limiting carbohydrates. You aren’t starving yourself of calories but instead restricting carbs which results in burning stored fat for energy instead of glucose.
The human body is incredibly adaptable to change and will adapt to use whatever you eat for fuel. When we remove carbohydrates and eat protein and fats the body burns ketones for energy which results in using our body fat as fuel as well resulting in weight loss. Other additional benefits from following a keto diet include lowering cholesterol, helping control diabetes and blood sugar levels, and better mental performance.
What are the benefits of a keto diet?
Weight loss is one of the main benefits of following a keto diet and one of the top reasons many people choose to do so. Once you are in a state of ketosis your insulin levels drop significantly which causes your body to dramatically increase fat burning for energy. It’s a pretty simple concept actually, insulin is a fat storing hormone so it makes sense that lowering insulin levels will result in less fat storage.
A ketogenic diet will also result in lower blood sugar levels because you are not eating high carb foods that increase glucose levels in the blood. Research has proven this diet to be better for managing as well as preventing diabetes in comparison to a calorie restrictive diet. Many people may be suffering from insulin resistance which left untreated can lead to diabetes because it causes high blood sugar levels. Some symptoms of insulin resistance include weight gain (specifically around the middle), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lethargy, hunger, and trouble concentrating. A keto diet has been proven to help optimize insulin levels.
Dramatic changes in cholesterol levels have been seen with increases in HDL, which is good, and decreases in LDL levels. This along with the weight loss that accompanies a keto diet also lowers blood pressure.
Burning fat for fuel is a better way to provide the energy our bodies need and to keep us feeling energized throughout the day. Eating this way instead of eating high carbs tends to leave us feeling less hungry and feeling satisfied longer.
Another big benefit is increased mental focus and performance from using ketones to fuel the brain. Lowering carbohydrates helps prevent high blood sugar spikes which also helps to keep us functioning optimally.
Many people also see their complexions clear up after following a ketogenic diet due to reduction in toxins and inflammation.
What can I eat on a keto diet?
For starters you want to have a plan for your diet before you get started to be as successful as possible. As far as exactly what foods you will eat, that is determined by how quickly you want to achieve ketosis. If you want to get into ketosis as fast as possible you want to keep carbs under 20 grams per day and get these from vegetables and nuts.
Here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts
Any Meats – including beef, bison, poultry, fish, lamb, eggs…
Nuts and Seeds – walnuts, pecans, macadamias, sunflower seeds…
High fat dairy – butter, cream, hard cheeses
Above ground vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli,
Leafy green vegetables – kale, spinach, mustard greens, etc.
Avocado and low glycemic berries such as blackberries and raspberries in moderation.
Coconut oil, saturated fats, high fat salad dressing
Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges…
Sugar – agave, honey, maple syrup…
Grains – cereals, rice, corn, wheat, bread…
Tubers or underground vegetables – yams, potatoes, carrots…
While it is okay to drink low carb alcohol, it isn’t recommended because if you are limiting your carbs you really want your daily quota of carbs coming from healthy sources.
A ketogenic diet is high in fat intake, moderate in protein, and very low carbs. 60-70% fats, 25-35% protein and only around 5% carbs. For long term ketogenic dieting it is recommended to keep carbs between twenty and thirty grams per day but if you are really seeking more rapid weight loss you should stay under 20. You also want to keep track of total carbs and net carbs. Net carbs are the total carbs minus total fiber. Total carbs should be under 40 and net carbs under 20-25. You can snack on seeds, nuts or cheese if you get too hungry during the day but bear in mind that if your goal is weight loss snacking is going to slow it down.
Plan your meals around protein and vegetables with a side of some kind of fat like cheese or butter.