The Ketogenic, also known as “keto” diet is a very buzzy topic in the nutrition and health community. But what is this keto diet all about? Is it health promoting? Is it harmful? Read this article to find out more about the keto diet, who may benefit from it and who probably won’t.
Keto diets are nutrition plans low in carbohydrates and high in fats. Ultimately, if a balanced diet is typically made up of protein, carbs and fat, a keto diet replaces the majority of carbs with fats. An increase in protein may also be used as a way to feel full and to preserve lean muscle. How much protein do you need daily? Click here to find out.
By cutting carbs and increasing fats, the goal is to put the body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is when the body begins to utilize fats for energy instead of using carbs, which are typically the body’s preferred source of energy. Forcing the body to use fat instead of carbs as its main energy source can result in fat loss.
A typical day on a keto diet may look like the following:
- Breakfast: eggs, cheese, bacon and bulletproof coffee (coffee with butter and/or medium chain triglyceride oil)
- Snack: salami and cheese sticks
- Lunch: turkey burger (no bun), with lettuce, tomato, cheese and side of green vegetables cooked in oil
- Dinner: meatballs with marinara, stir fried veggies with cheese
- Dessert: dark chocolate and coconut
As you can see, there is a heavy focus on meats, fat and low carb veggies. While this typical day can vary dramatically depending on food preferences, these are some common combinations of meals one may consume while following a keto diet.
Several individuals swear by the keto diet for weight loss. As previously mentioned, by starving the body of carbs and thereby forcing the body to use fat for energy, fat loss typically occurs. However, it is important to note that in order for long-term weight loss to occur following the keto diet, carbs need to be kept very low (sometimes as low as 20-50 grams per day). The second carbs are reintroduced, the body will begin to utilize the glucose (sugar) from carbs and knock the body right out of ketosis. Thus, it can be easy to fall into a yo-yo trap of fat loss and fat gain.
Another reason people will choose to follow a keto diet is to get blood sugar under control, typically in the case of those with type II diabetes. Type II diabetes occurs when the body becomes insulin resistant, usually following long periods of high blood sugar. Those with type II diabetes can also typically benefit from the cut in sugar, as their bodies have become desensitized by the high amounts of sugars consumed. Because there are less carbs coming in, blood sugar will decrease over time, thus helping individuals with type II diabetes reclaim control over their health.
It can be helpful to be educated on the basics of a keto diet in order to best decide if this type of diet plan would promote or hinder your health goals. Because the keto diet is a “hot topic” in the wellness community, it is important to gather information from credible sources in order to make the soundest decisions for you and your goals.
The keto diet may be for you if you are in need of drastically reducing the carbohydrates in your diet or if you need to get your blood sugar under control. Otherwise, there are some potential significant downsides to consider when thinking about following a keto diet.
Often times, keto diets tend to be much higher in saturated fats, due to the emphasis on animal products (red meat, cheese, etc.). Because animal products are typically higher in protein and fat and fairly low in carbohydrates, they are often a central component to a keto diet. While a diet high in saturated, animal-based foods doesn’t necessarily have to be the case in order to achieve ketosis, people often resort to these types of food as they are low in carbs and high in fat and protein. This increase in animal-based foods is important to monitor because increasing saturated fats can also have repercussions for cholesterol and overall heart health. For this reason it is important not to consume saturated fats in excess. Saturated fats can raise the bad cholesterol in the body, low density lipoprotein (LDL), while decreasing the good cholesterol in the body, high density lipoprotein (HDL). If you are choosing to start a keto diet, have your cholesterol levels regularly checked by your local healthcare professional.
Following a ketogenic diet that is lower in saturated fats is definitely possible and would typically incorporate lean meats, fish and plant-based sources of fat such as avocado, nuts/seeds and oils. These sources of fat are heart healthy options that are also lower in carbs and high in the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (the types of fat that benefit you). These fats are important for the brain, are anti-inflammatory and do not contribute to raising the “bad” cholesterol.
Overall, keto diets can aid in weight loss and can be helpful for blood sugar regulation. However, they may be difficult to adhere to long-term due to the limited amount of carbohydrates allowed in order to accomplish ketosis. If you are considering following a keto diet, we highly recommend consulting your local healthcare professional to ensure that you do so in a beneficial, healthful manner.
- Keto diets are low in carbohydrates and high in fats
- Keto diets can be helpful for those looking to lose weight/burn fat or for those looking to manage their blood sugar levels, but is not for everyone
- Animal products are often a central component to a keto diet, as they are typically higher in protein and fat and fairly low in carbohydrates
- In order for long-term weight loss to occur following the keto diet, carbs will need to be kept very low
- Experiment with a keto diet with the help of a healthcare professional to ensure safety and efficacy