What Is Keto Diet: What to Eat, Benefits & How it Works?
Following a keto diet is one of the effective ways to shed extra pounds off one’s body. The weight loss rate is different for each person and mostly depends on one’s health condition, lifestyle, fat adaptation period, and body composition. Hence, individuals should learn about the basic things before embarking on a keto diet.
Following is a discussion on what the keto diet is, its effectiveness, benefits, and other aspects.
What Is Keto Diet?
A ketogenic or keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, fat-rich diet plan that aims to get more calories from fat and protein instead of carbohydrates.
This eating plan shares a lot of similarities with Atkins and other low carb diets. However, a keto diet involves excessively low carbohydrate intake and replaces it with fat. Through this dietary plan, one’s body enters into a metabolic state called ketosis.
Now, what is ketosis?
Usually, the body cells rely on glucose as their primary source of energy. When on a keto diet, the supply of glucose or carbohydrate gets reduced, which forces the body to rely on alternative sources of energy, i.e., fat. In ketosis, the fat turns into ketones, by-products of metabolism, in the liver that can efficiently supply energy to the brain.
Is a Keto Diet Effective?
Keto diets help individuals with weight loss, preserve muscle mass, and enhance many disease markers. Further, this dietary plan works more efficiently than a low-fat diet, even if the total calorie intake remains the same.
Another study shows that individuals on a keto diet reduced 2.2 times more weight than those on a low-fat diet. Here, the Triglyceride and good cholesterol levels (HDL) also improved. Therefore, the group practising increased calorie intake experienced greater weight loss.
What Are the Benefits of a Keto Diet?
Apart from knowing what a keto diet is, individuals must learn about its benefits. Read along!
One of the prime benefits of the keto diet is quick weight loss. This dietary plan boosts metabolism and reduces appetite. The food items included in the ketogenic diet reduce hunger-stimulating hormones, thus supporting weight loss.
According to a 2013 meta-analysis, among 13 different randomised controlled trials (RCT), individuals on the keto diet lost almost 1 kg more than those on a low-fat diet for over a year.
Eating refined carbohydrates can balance gut bacteria levels and lead to blood sugar fluctuation. These can affect skin health adversely. However, opting for a low-carbohydrate and high-fat keto diet can help individuals reduce acne-related symptoms.
Reduces Risk of Cancers
Apart from reducing weight, a ketogenic diet helps prevent and treat certain types of cancers. Research shows that cancer patients can go on a keto diet as a complementary treatment besides chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This dietary plan causes oxidative stress in cancer cells, causing them to die.
Improves Heart Health
A ketogenic diet is beneficial in improving heart health. Individuals who went on the keto diet had been able to reduce cholesterol levels significantly, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol levels. As the keto diet helps to reduce cholesterol, it can help to prevent risks associated with heart health.
Treats PCOS Symptoms
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) refers to a medical condition that leads to ovulatory dysfunction, polycystic ovary, and excessive production of male hormones.
Protects Brain Function
According to PubMed Central, ketones generated as a result of the keto diet can provide the body with neuroprotective benefits that help strengthen and protect brain and nerve cells. Therefore, the keto diet can help individuals combat conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a study by the Epilepsy Foundation, ketones generated during ketosis help reduce seizures, particularly in persons with epilepsy. Another research by the NCBI stresses a hypothesis that a ketogenic diet can help reduce the symptoms of epilepsy.
Increased Levels of HDL Cholesterol
One of the effective ways to increase HDL or “good” cholesterol is to eat fat-rich foods. Since the keto diet includes low carbohydrate and fat-rich food items, it can lead to high blood HDL levels.
Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension can result in severe diseases such as heart diseases, kidney failure, and stroke. Diets comprising low-carbohydrate food items lessen the risk of having these diseases.
It is clear from the above discourse what a keto diet is and its benefits. Now let us focus on how the keto diet works.
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
The primary goal of a ketogenic diet is to deprive the body of its primary source of energy, i.e., glucose, which can be obtained from carbohydrate-rich food items. However, the human brain needs a constant supply of glucose, at least 120 grams daily, because it cannot store it. Therefore, keto diets use alternative sources, such as foods with high-fat levels.
As the supply of glucose is reduced during the keto diet, the body utilises stored glucose from the liver and breaks down muscles to free up glucose. When the body functions like this for 3-4 days, it starts to use fat as its main source of energy. In this dietary plan, the liver produces ketone, which helps continue bodily functions even in the absence of glucose.
What to Eat on a Keto Diet?
There can be different types of keto diets. Individuals need to select one as per their suitability and follow the diet. The list of food items that the keto diet includes is mentioned below –
Meat - [Grass-fed beef, Dark meat chicken, Ham, Sausage, Turkey, Steak] Fish - [Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Trout]
Fruits and Vegetables
Avocado, Celery, Leafy greens such as arugula and spinach, Leeks, Eggplant, Asparagus, Spaghetti squash
Blue cheese, Feta cheese Full-fat cottage cheese, Cheddar cheese, Full-fat plain, Greek yoghurt, Full-fat ricotta cheese
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, Walnuts, Unsweetened nut butter (peanut or almond butter), Flaxseed and chia seed, Pistachios, Cashews
Condiments and Sauces
Lemon butter sauce, Mayonnaise (no added sugar), Guacamole, Tomato sauce (no added sugar), Balsamic vinegar, Raw garlic
Stevia, Xylitol, Erythritol
Herbs and Spices
All herbs, Salt, Thyme, Oregano, Cayenne Pepper, Onion powder, Garlic powder, Ground ginger
Supplements (Consider taking)
Multivitamin, Fibre, Exogenous ketones, MCT oils
Browsing the internet to know how to do a keto diet?
The food list mentioned above will help you to prepare a diet chart and follow the same.
Who Should and Should Not Opt for Keto Diet?
A keto diet can be suitable for individuals having –
- Body mass index over 40
- Insulin resistance without type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Brain cancer
However, you must avoid such a diet if you have any of the following health conditions –
- Kidney damage
- Heart diseases
- Type 1 diabetes
- Underwent gallbladder removal
- Pre-existing liver or pancreatic conditions
- Pyruvate kinase deficiency
- Pregnant or nursing women
- Carnitine deficiency
What Are the Side Effects and Risk Factors of Following a Keto Diet?
A keto diet can have short-term and long-term side effects, along with other risk factors.
The short-term side effects of a keto diet include –
- Low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia
- Smelly breath
- Disturbed sleep
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Sweating and chills
- Muscle cramps
A keto diet, if continued for a long period, can impact the human body adversely. Further, the side effects vary across age groups. Read on to know the long-term side effects of this diet plan.
Long-term side effects of the keto diet in children –
- Kidney stones or nephrolithiasis.
- Increased risk of bone fracture
Long-term side effects of the keto diet in adults –
- Increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
- Disruption in the menstrual cycle
Now that individuals know what a keto diet is, its effectiveness, benefits, and side effects, they can plan their diet accordingly to get desired results.