(Originally written for Pure Plates)
The ketogenic diet, also commonly referred to as the “keto” diet, is a relatively recent nutrition trend sweeping the Internet. However, it’s been around for quite some time. And it has been proven to be beneficial for some people, especially those with metabolic-related diseases or neurological disorders.
The keto diet involves drastically restricting your intake of carbohydrates and consuming mostly high-fat foods instead. The concept is similar to the Atkins diet.
By significantly lowering your carb consumption, your body shifts from primarily burning carbs as fuel to efficiently burning fat. This metabolic process is known as ketosis (not to be confused with ketoacidosis).
As a result, blood sugar and insulin levels drop. And the liver begins producing ketones, which have been shown to supply energy to the brain. These are the key changes that make the keto diet beneficial for some.
Keto and Weight Loss
There is plenty of research suggesting calorie restriction is a successful weight loss strategy. There is also a strong body of evidence supporting the use of a keto diet for weight loss as well.
However, eating a high-fat diet is very satiating. This means most people on a keto diet naturally consume fewer calories. And they do so without having to count calories or keep track of points.
Turning the body into a fat burning machine as well as producing ketones and decreasing blood sugar and insulin levels may also be contributing factors.
Keto and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder resulting from chronic high blood sugar and insulin resistance.
By lowering glucose and insulin levels, the keto diet has been shown to drastically improve insulin sensitivity. In some cases, individuals following a keto diet have been able to reduce or eliminate their diabetes medications.
Keto and Heart Disease
In many cases, eating a high-fat diet raises your “good” cholesterol (a.k.a. HDL cholesterol). It can also lower your triglycerides levels. And these two positive consequences are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Keto and Neurological Disorders
Studies have shown the keto diet is effective at reducing symptoms experienced with neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s. Evidence suggests ketones are highly effective at protecting brain cells from damage.
What to Eat and What Not to Eat
The keto diet is based on eating high-fat whole foods, which includes:
- Cold water fatty fish (i.e., salmon, halibut, sardines)
- Eggs (with yolks)
- Grass-fed and pasture-raised red meat and poultry
- Grass-fed dairy
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils (i.e., coconut, olive, avocado)
- Avocados and olives
- Herbs and spices
- Low-carb and non-starchy veggies (i.e., leafy greens, onions, tomatoes, celery)
On the other hand, the foods that must be eliminated on a keto diet include:
- Sugar-laden foods (mostly all processed foods)
- Starchy vegetables (i.e., roots and tubers)
- Beans and lentils
- Artificial sweeteners
Caveats of the Keto Diet
While the keto diet can be beneficial to your health in many ways, it’s not for everyone.
- The diet is very restrictive, which can prove to be challenging and stressful for some. And any change that adds stress to your life is counterproductive.
- It’s extremely important to understand your current health status to ensure you don’t make matters worse. Therefore, if you’re serious about trying the keto diet, we strongly suggest you work with your healthcare provider or a qualified nutrition professional.
- Not everybody will react the same way. While your friend may drop 20 pounds and gain lots of energy, your experience may be completely opposite. We are all unique in many ways, including our genetics, microbiome, and environment. Therefore, it’s important to understand there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to losing weight and improving your health.
- The keto diet may not be best suited for athletes and individuals wishing to gain muscle mass.
To Sum It Up…
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. It creates a metabolic state known as ketosis, which utilizes fat for fuel instead of carbs.
The keto diet has been shown to be an effective weight loss strategy as well as help those suffering from diabetes and neurological disorders. It may also reduce risk factors associated with other conditions, such as heart disease.
However, the keto diet is not for everyone. Therefore, before implementing this diet, please consult with your healthcare provider or a qualified nutrition professional.
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