If you follow diet trends, there is a good chance you’ve heard of keto or the ketogenic diet. So, what is the keto diet? What are the benefits of the ketogenic diet? Is it actually as effective as people claim it to be? Read on for answers to all of your keto questions.
What Exactly is the Ketogenic Diet?
The keto diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to optimize nutritional intake to send your body into a metabolic state known as “ketosis.”
The body enters a state of ketosis when it no longer has stores of glycogen sugar to fuel its energy needs. With sugar out of the way, the body has no choice but to tap its stores of fat to get by. The liver converts fat reserves into ketones to present to the body as an energy source. This is why the keto program is a good way to lose fat.
A typical keto diet recommends an intake of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. It may seem counterintuitive to eat so much fat, but the process of turning fat into ketones is proven to increase weight loss, improve cognitive abilities, and prevent disease.
What Types of Food Can I Eat on a Keto Diet?
The best part of the keto diet is the wide range of foods you can eat. Keto diet menu items often include meat, seafood, dairy products, eggs, vegetables, and nuts. There is an endless number of keto meal combinations.
7 Benefits of the Keto Diet
The keto diet is far more than your typical weight loss diet. In addition to fat loss and a slim belly, keto diet comes with several additional health benefits:
1. Weight Loss
Though the keto diet offers a number of health benefits, weight loss is the primary goal for most people. The process is effective because it forces your body to search its fat reserves to power its metabolism. Here is how the process works:
When your body is deprived of carbs, it enters a state known as “ketosis.” Your blood sugar and insulin levels fall in this state. As your body taps the energy in fat cells, they release considerable quantities of water, ultimately resulting in weight loss. Your fat cells then enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver, where they are turned into “ketones” for energy processing. As long as your diet allows you to stay in a caloric deficit, your body will burn fat and cause you to lose weight. Being in a caloric deficit means that you burn more calories than you intake (eat).
The ketogenic diet is scientifically proven to cause weight loss. According to Healthline:
- Many studies have found that ketogenic diets lead to much greater weight loss than low-fat diets.
- One study reported 2.2 times more weight loss for people on a ketogenic diet, compared to those on a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet.
2. Suppressed Appetite
Have you ever eaten a large plate of spaghetti, then felt hungry 30 minutes later? When your diet isn’t loaded with carbohydrates, you’ll find that you don’t crave as much food as before. In fact, many people on keto are able to fast most of the day, and only eat at set mealtimes. The combination of high-fat/low-carb foods suppresses your appetite.
People tend to feel less hungry and more full on a ketogenic diet, which is attributed to ketosis. Therefore, it’s generally not necessary to count calories on the ketogenic diet.
3. Improved Ability to Focus
Diets requiring moderate to high carb intake causes spikes and dips in your sugar levels. Swings in energy levels make it hard for your brain to focus. The keto diet solves this problem by keeping your energy levels consistent without large spikes or dips. The result is a clear mind and improved cognitive focus. Who doesn’t want to think more clearly?!
The short answer is no.
“Although it’s true that your brain has high energy demands and requires some glucose, when you’re in ketosis, there are plenty of ketones to supply a good portion of its fuel. Fortunately, your liver will always make the small amount of glucose your brain needs, even under conditions of complete starvation. This process, known as gluconeogenesis (literally “making new glucose”), can also provide glucose for other structures that need it, such as the red blood cells and a portion of the kidneys.”
4. Increased Energy
On most diets, your body is always on the verge of running out of energy. You need to constantly eat and refuel. With a keto diet, however, the body taps its fat reserves. Your body is then able to maintain constant energy levels throughout the day. As a result, you feel more energetic and aware over long periods of time.
5. It Helps You Fight Diabetes
If you suffer from Type II diabetes, your body experiences insulin spikes and fluctuations. Since the keto diet reduces sugar from your meals, it helps stabilize HbA1c counts, and reverse Type II diabetes. If you’re diabetic and considering the keto diet, please consult with your physician first.
“Ketosis can have some benefits beyond weight loss. Doctors may put children who have epilepsy on a keto diet because it can help prevent seizures. Adults who have epilepsy sometimes eat modified Atkins diets.
Some research suggests that ketogenic diets might help lower your risk of heart disease. Other studies show that specific diets very low in carbs help people who have diseases such as:
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Insulin Resistance
- Type 2 Diabetes
Researchers are also studying the effects of low-carb diets on conditions including:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Nervous system diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)
6. Improved Levels of Good Cholesterol
HDL cholesterol helps get rid of the body’s bad cholesterol reserves. Bad cholesterol builds up in your arteries and leads to heart disease. When you’re in ketosis, your body’s triglyceride levels fall and your HDL cholesterol levels rise. This “good” cholesterol is key in preventing heart disease.
7. Keto Can Lower Blood Pressure
Being in ketosis often lowers your blood pressure. Many people on the keto diet find that they are able to stop taking blood pressure medicine altogether. This isn’t guaranteed, but it is a likely result for most who stick to the keto meal plan consistently.
Downsides of the Keto Diet
The benefits of keto far outweigh any negatives, but you still need to take them into consideration before deciding whether it’s right for you. Here are a few downsides of the keto diet:
- Limited carbohydrate intake. You’ll need to reduce your intake of carbohydrates such as pastas, desserts, and processed foods.
- Limited fruit intake. Though fruit has health benefits, most contain a lot of sugar. Reduction of sugar is necessary for your body to reach a level of ketosis.
- Meal planning. Since the keto diet recommends a combination of 75% fats, 20% proteins, and 5% carbs, you need to plan your meals accordingly. There are numerous meal planning services available online. I highly recommend the Custom Keto Diet. Learn more about meal plans created specifically for your food preferences here:
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Is Keto Right For Me?
The keto diet has been scientifically proven to cause weight loss, improve brain function, and prevent disease. Only you can decide whether it’s the right diet for you, but it’s worth a shot. I recommend giving it a try for at least a couple months. You have nothing to lose except unwanted fat.