Eating all the fats you can get, and still losing weight? Delicious, isn’t it? That’s what the keto diet is all about – training your body to burn fat instead of burning glucose. However, it means you need to sacrifice your carbs.
Is it worth it? Is it safe? Is it a friend or foe? Let’s find out.
What Is a Keto Diet?
A keto, or ketogenic, diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that teaches your body to burn fat instead of glucose. It lowers your glucose (blood sugar) and insulin levels while increasing fat and ketones, and making your body use them for energy.
Ketones are molecules that your body produces when it doesn’t have enough insulin that it would turn into glucose for energy. Your body naturally produces ketones in the liver from the fats you eat but in very small amounts.
How Does It Work?
When you’re eating a diet that’s high in carbs, your body produces glucose and insulin. It uses glucose as its primary source of energy, while using insulin to actually process the glucose.
On that kind of diet, your body stores all the fats you eat. On a keto diet, where you cut the carbs, your body needs another source of glucose, so it starts breaking down the fats stored in your liver to produce more ketones. It then uses those molecules as its main energy source.
This is a type of metabolic state known as ketosis, which comes with plenty of health benefits.
What Are the Benefits of a Keto Diet?
If you decide to try a ketogenic diet, you can expect to experience the following great benefits.
By reducing carbs, you reduce the intake of high-calorie foods, and decrease your insulin levels, making your body burn all the stored fat to produce ketones for energy. This leads to improved weight loss.
On a keto diet, you feel more satiated for a longer period of time, because your body constantly burns the stored fat for energy. This prevents you from being constantly hungry, and it stops your carb cravings.
Controlling Blood Sugar
Since this diet lowers your insulin levels, it makes your blood sugar drop. This helps prevent insulin resistance and reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Improving Heart Health
The keto diet improves your good cholesterol levels, preventing bad cholesterol from causing arterial buildup and high blood pressure. As a result, it reduces the risk of heart disease.
This diet also helps balance the hormones and lowers chronic inflammation, which is great for improving skin health. If you have acne problems, the keto diet is an ideal solution.
Improving Mental Health
Since lowering carbs lowers your blood sugar levels, and increases the production of ketones, your focus and concentration improves, making you feel mentally sharper. This is because ketones start fueling the brain 24/7, improving mental performance.
Ketones may also have neuroprotective properties, which might make the keto diet beneficial for reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Improving Athletic Performance
The keto diet may improve physical endurance, which is one of the reasons why many athletes choose it. It is believed that it improves athletic performance precisely because it helps you burn great amounts of stored fat, and because it helps reduce weight.
Alleviating PMS Symptoms
If you’re a woman experiencing PMS symptoms, this diet may be your life-saver. The ketogenic diet alleviates PMS symptoms because it balances hormones and insulin, reduces chronic inflammation, increases magnesium levels, eliminates cravings, and increases nutrient stores.
Preventing Epileptic Seizures
The primary purpose of a keto diet, when it was first introduced, was to prevent epileptic seizures. It is still used for helping patients with epilepsy, especially children.
Potentially Lowering the Risk of Cancer
Studies suggest the keto diet may lower the risk of cancer, and slows down the growth of tumors. More research is definitely needed, but reducing sugar and carbs undoubtedly helps.
5 Types of Keto Diets
There are five different types of keto diets to choose from, depending on your ultimate goals and fitness level. They include:
- Standard ketogenic diet (SKD) – a high-fat (75%), low-carb (5%), moderate-protein (20%) diet
- The targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) – the same as the standard keto diet, but includes eating 25-50 grams (or less) of net carbs before working out
- The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) – this type involves a 1-2 carb days after a period of being on a low-carb diet (usually 5 days)
- The high-protein ketogenic diet (HPKD) – the same as the standard keto diet, but includes eating more protein (60% fat, 5% carbs, 35% protein)
- The plant-based keto – the same diet as an SKD, only involving more low-carb vegetables. This is also a great solution for vegetarians and vegans, as it can include only plant-based foods.
What Do You Eat on a Keto Diet?
Being on a keto diet means eating a lot of healthy fats, moderate proteins, and healthy low-carb foods. You should include all of the following foods in your diet:
- Meats – poultry, red meat, fish
- Eggs – preferably omega-3 whole eggs
- High-fat dairy – cheese, butter, cream
- Low-carb vegetables – tomatoes, onions, leafy greens, peppers, cauliflower, mushrooms
- Healthy oils – olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil
- Avocados and berries
- Nuts and seeds – chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, almonds
What Foods Should You Avoid?
You should avoid (or at least reduce) the following foods:
- Processed meats
- Packaged cheeses
- High-carb fruits
- Low-carb or sugar-free packaged snacks
- Low-fat or diet products
- Beans or legumes
- Unhealthy fats
- Root vegetables
What About Drinks?
You should absolutely avoid soft drinks and alcohol, as they contain a lot of sugar and carbs, although it’s fine to drink a glass of wine every once in a while. If you drink coffee or tea, make sure they’re sugar-free.
Are There Any Side Effects to This Diet?
As much as the keto diet is healthy, it does come with some side effects. However, they’re only temporary, as they occur while your body is transitioning to ketosis. They last just a few days, and that state is known as the keto flu.
The initial side effects of the keto diet may include:
- Muscle cramps
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased hunger
- Sugar cravings
- Digestive discomfort
- Low energy
- Poor mental performance
- Poor physical endurance
- Water and mineral imbalance
To reduce these side effects, drink plenty of water, and increase your sodium, magnesium, and potassium intake.
Is the Keto Diet Safe for You?
Although the keto diet is very healthy, it isn’t a smart choice for everyone. If you’re an athlete looking to increase weight and add muscle, the keto diet won’t help you achieve your goals.
If you’re breastfeeding, or have diabetes or high blood pressure, make sure you consult with your doctor before starting this diet. Only then will it be safe for you, because these three situations require a bit more preparation to ensure your health stays in top condition.
The keto diet is truly an excellent way to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. If that’s what you’re looking for, jump on the ketogenic bandwagon right now, and start greatly improving your overall health.