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What Is The Keto Diet? | A Peek to Wellness

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The Keto Diet (ketogenic diet) is a low-carb, high-fat diet.

As a diet plan, it shares many of the same foods and drinks as the Atkins diet and other low-carb diets.

What makes a Keto diet different is that it focuses on drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing those carbohydrates with fat.

This drastic reduction in carbohydrates puts your body into a metabolic state that is called ketosis.

Typically, this can mean one of three things:

  • Less than 50g of carbs per day
  • Less than 20g of net carbs per day
  • 5% of your total calorie intake should be carbs

If you don’t want to restrict yourself on numbers, focus on a diet high in fats, medium in protein, and low in carbs.

What is ketosis?

the-keto-diet

Breaking down carbs into glucose to use for energy is the primary way for the human body.

However, during times of starvation or intense exercise, the amount of glucose stored in the body can become low.

The body has a back-up plan for when this occurs.

Fat is taken out of storage and used as energy.

But, your body converts fat into a form that makes it accessible. This form is called a ketone.

When the body is in this state, it has reached ketosis.

The point of going into ketosis is to help your body become efficient at burning fat for energy.

While this is happening, your body turns the fat into ketones in the liver, supplying energy to the brain. 

A cautionary note: ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. So while this can be a good thing for some people, it can cause problems for other people.

Hence it is recommended that you speak to your healthcare provider before going keto.

Why Go Keto?

low-carb-high-fat

There are several reasons why people go on a ketogenic diet. In most cases, it is to lose weight.

In some cases, they are medically supervised and use the ketogenic diet as part of a treatment plan.

Weight Loss

Due to lowered insulin levels and the body’s ability to burn stored fat, those who adhere to the diet find that they lose weight more quickly than with conventional diets.

There is also the fact that many of the foods that we eat today are full of lots and lots of carbohydrates. These foods are typically the ones with just as many calories too.

If you cut out those foods by going on a restrictive diet like the keto diet, then you are also slashing a majority of your daily calorie intake.

When your body burns down more calories than it ingests, then that contributes to weight loss.

There are many studies in which participants lost weight when they took part in the keto diet such as this one, this one, and this one. [1]https://clinmedjournals.org/articles/ijsem/international-journal-of-sports-and-exercise-medicine-ijsem-3-054.php?jid=ijsem, [2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23651522, [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25178568

Lower Blood Sugar

Since the keto diet uses fat as energy instead of glucose, it has the potential to be helpful for those with diabetes. [4]https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes-ketogenic-diet

You don’t have as much glucose running through your blood, so your glucose levels can improve.

It can also improve insulin signaling.

Insulin is a hormone secreted by your pancreas when glucose is present in your bloodstream. Its primary duty is to tell the cells in your body that glucose is around so that they can take it and use it for energy.

In many people with diabetes, too much glucose floats in the blood, leading to a lot of insulin signaling.

The cells can get tired of insulin sen, and they can start to ignore insulin signals. Then glucose remains in the blood and isn’t used.

The keto diet has the potential to return cells to being sensitive to insulin again.

There aren’t enough studies out there about this connection, though.

Check with your healthcare professional if this is a possible choice for you.

Lower Cholesterol

hamster-eating-strawberry
If you’ve made it this far, enjoy this hamster eating a strawberry.

A modified ketogenic diet, what might be called a moderately low-carb diet, is beneficial for healthy adults who are at risk for metabolic syndrome, those struggling with losing weight or controlling levels of blood sugar. 

You would think that a diet that emphasizes high amounts of fat might not be suitable for your heart.

And the debate is still a bit controversial. However, the keto diet might even be an option for those with cardiovascular diseases. [5]https://www.everydayhealth.com/ketogenic-diet/can-keto-help-prevent-manage-heart-disease/

In this 2014 study, it found that the participants who were on the keto diet had better reductions in cardiovascular risks than those who were on a low-fat diet instead. [6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428290/

They found that there was higher HDL cholesterol, aka the “good cholesterol,” levels in those participants. On the other hand, LDL “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides were lower.

Like I said earlier, the keto diet can help decrease inflammation, which may also help with cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. I want to emphasize STRONGLY the importance of consulting your healthcare professional before trying the keto diet.

Improve Cognitive Function

Ketogenic diets are used to help treat Alzheimer’s symptoms. Those on the diet have shown a reduction in those symptoms and improved cognitive function.

Using ketones as an alternate energy source trains your body to use your fat storage whenever it is running low on energy.

So you can go much longer without eating than you might have when glucose was the primary fuel.

You don’t experience much of the highs and lows that running out of glucose causes.

Ketones are also readily used by your brain, and it can go for more extended periods of experiencing clarity and energy.

Because you don’t have to worry so much about when your next meal is, you have more opportunities to complete the actions that you want.

Reduced Seizures in Epileptics

The Epilepsy Foundation endorses the ketogenic diet because it has been shown to help control seizures in some people with epilepsy. Doctors usually recommend the ketogenic diet for children whose seizures have not responded to several different seizure medicines.

Believe it or not, scientists initially formed the ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy, not weight loss.

Back in the early 20th century, scientists discovered that changing the metabolism in the patient’s body to burn fat instead of carbs helped to treat those with seizure disorders.

The keto diet is still recommended today for both children and adults, who suffer from seizures and aren’t responding to available drugs and other treatments. [7]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6361831/

Talk with your healthcare professional before starting the diet to see if it is a good option for you.

 Takeaways

As you can see, the ketogenic diet is more than just a low-carb/high-fat diet to lose weight. It is being studied and used now as a part of the treatment of many different diseases. 

Note: We are not health professionals. This article should not be considered medical advice. Please discuss the information in this article with your healthcare professional.

Sides Effects of Keto

keto flu symptoms

Just as there are benefits to the keto diet, there are also side effects and things to consider.

Please take the information in this section with as much care as all the other sections in this article.

The Keto Flu

This is basically what happens when your body goes through carbohydrate withdrawal or the keto flu.

Your body has kept you alive so far by using carbs as fuel, but now you want it to change course and use ketones instead suddenly.

Your body needs time to make this adjustment, and unfortunately, that might not feel so good.

Depending on the quality of your carb intake before starting the diet, you might experience different keto flu than others.

The higher your consumption of processed, high-calorie, and high-carb foods you had, the worse your keto flu might be.

For many people, this is the reason why they quit the keto diet.

How do I know I have keto flu?

cranium in question mark

You have the keto flu if you have:

  • brain fog
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • muscle cramping
  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • irritability

As horrible as the symptoms above might look, there is a way to avoid or treat the keto flu and continue with the diet.

  • Replace your water loss. Keep yourself hydrated to counter many of the symptoms. You can do this through bone broth, which also replenishes electrolytes, or having plain old water. The minimum amount of water you need in ounces is about half your body weight. [8]https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
  • Replace your electrolytes. There are electrolyte supplements that you can add to water, such as Mio. To increase your sodium, you can also add more salt to your food. To increase potassium and magnesium, increase your leafy green vegetables, avocado, and nut intake. [9]https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
  • Increase your fat intake. The keto flu is your body trying to adjust to change. More fat can help your body adapt to the change quicker. The liver converts MCT oil to ketones faster than other fats, so placing this on foods is a big help. [10]https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
  • Rest. A good night’s rest helps your body to recharge and get through this period. This can also help control the cortisol levels that we talked about above. [11]https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
  • Ketone supplements. Like increasing your fat intake, your body adapts quicker through ketone supplements. This is a more direct route to increasing ketone levels since they are already in ketone form. It is important to remember that you cannot just take ketone supplements without doing the diet. [12]https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
  • Increase your carb intake. Some people try the things above and still have the keto flu after more than a few days, even if they increased fats. In that case, you might have to increase your carb intake by a bit to get rid of the symptoms. [13]https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7

How to eat Keto

woman eating on cooking pan

As I’ve explained multiple times, your diet should consist of many fats (about 75%), ultra-low carbs (about 5%), and enough protein(about 20%).

These are the things that should be on your radar. [14]Thanks to Steve for coming up with this list at https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/the-beginners-guide-to-the-keto-diet-or-ketogenic-diet/#fasting_keto

  • Meats and poultry: Think chicken, sausage, bacon, turkey, beef, etc. Watch out for the pieces with the most fat as these are the ones you want. Also, focus on grass-fed and wild meats.
  • Vegetables: Leafy, green vegetables are your best bet. Think spinach, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc. Check out this list of keto-friendly vegetables. 
  • Fish: Finally, it’s okay to eat those fatty fish. Think salmon, shellfish, tuna, etc.
  • Eggs and dairy: These are a large part of your diet because of their high-fat content. For eggs, you’ll want to find the cage-free eggs. For dairy, most of your focus is on cheese that went through little processing. Think cheddar or mozzarella or vegan soft cheese.
  • Healthy oils and fats: Healthy means saturated and monounsaturated fats. If butter is your friend, your friendship will grow. You can also consider things such as avocados, lard, ghee, or bacon fat. For oils, think avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters: almonds, walnuts, coconut, hazelnuts, and their nut butter.
  • Beverages: coffee (we’ll come back to this later), herbal teas, bone broth, mineral water, nut-based drinks like almond milk.
  • Meatless Proteins: If you are trying to avoid meat while on keto, there are some options. Think tofu, tempeh, seitan.

This is not everything you can eat on the keto diet, but it is a good starting point.

For more information check out our food list here.

When people see the foods that they can eat on keto, they feel good.

Summary

I hope you gained a lot of information from this article.

Here’s a summary of the things we talked about:

  • The keto diet, aka ketogenic diet, is where you significantly reduce the number of carbohydrates (carbs) eaten, while you increase the number of fats and proteins.
  • Ketosis is when your body breaks down fats into ketones to use as fuel.
  • Some benefits of the keto diet include weight loss, increased energy, and reduced inflammation.
  • Some side effects include the keto flu, keto rash, and insomnia.
  • Knowing what foods you can eat on keto gives you a lot of preparation.

Next Steps

man sitting down with checklist

Know that you learned about the keto diet, take some time to reflect and see if you want to try it.

Make sure to talk to your healthcare professional before making a decision.

If you are interested in giving the keto diet a try, move onto the following article to help you figure things out clearly:

13 Steps to Consider Before Trying the Keto Diet

Don’t forget to come back to this article for future reference!

Not Sure How to Start the Keto Diet?

Changing to a new diet is never easy. Avoid much of the confusion with this 13 Keto Diet Steps checklist.
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