No doubt about it… The Keto Diet is trending. Your friends make Facebook posts about their successful weight-loss. Creative recipes catch your eye on grocery store magazines. Everyone from celebrities to your next door neighbors are boasting of its fat-melting miracles.
What is the Keto Diet?
The Keto Diet is more than 100 years old. It consists of eating foods low in carbs and high in fat. Originally it was used to to treat diabetes before insulin was discovered, and it was also used to manage seizure disorders in children.
“Keto” is short for “ketogenic.” It works by triggering your body to produce ketones, a type of fuel produced when your body doesn’t have enough sugar from carbs. Once your body is forced to use ketones for energy instead of carbs, you transition into a state called ketosis. Your liver will produce ketones from your stored fat to move your muscles.
Most Keto dieters eat less than 20 – 50 grams of carbs per day. Those not on the Keto Diet typically eat 225 – 325 grams per day. When Keto Dieters are able to stay in ketosis, they lose weight by burning more fat than anything else.
Other proclaimed benefits include more energy, reduced appetite, reduced blood sugar, clearer skin, better concentration, reduced risk of cancer and some others.
Keto Do’s and Don’ts
A Keto eating plan consists of a lot of fat and very little carbs. You can’t overdo it on protein either, because too much protein prevents you from entering ketosis. Here is a basic nutritional breakdown of a keto eating plan compared to other diets:
When it comes to preparing dishes on the Keto Diet, there are a lot of guidelines.
- Unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, avocados and fatty fish
- Saturated fats like meats, lard, cheese and butter
- Low-carb veggies like broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower and bell peppers
- Simple carbs like breads, cookies, cereals, pasta and sweets
- Complex carbs like whole grains, beans, legumes and most fruit
- Starchy root veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash and carrots
A Closer Look at Keto
Melting off a lot of fat and losing weight sounds perfect. Or is it too good to be true? For starters, it takes a while to reach ketosis. This is because your body is naturally great at and used to storing glucose. During the first few days after starting the Keto Diet, you may experience what is commonly referred to as the “keto flu.” Symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Trouble focusing
These unpleasant symptoms will usually pass once ketosis starts. But to stay in ketosis, you have to eat a very small amount of carbs (less than 20 – 50 grams per day). Any more than this, and your body may switch back to using carbs for energy. You will have to start all over.
This means that if you’re on a strict Keto Diet, you can’t have cheat days. You can’t drink alcohol. You can’t splurge on that little bowl of ice cream or whip-up a healthy pasta dish one Friday night. The extra carbs will prevent the onset of ketosis which makes you so effective at burning fat.
Side Effects to be Mindful of
The Keto Diet is by no means perfect or super easy. Nutrition and medical experts have different opinions based on different research. More long-term studies need to be conducted to learn more about the Keto Diet’s safety and effectiveness.
Common Keto Diet Concerns:
- High intake of saturated fat: The recommended daily intake is 7% of your total calories. Too much is thought to be associated with heart disease and high cholesterol.
- Risks to your liver: Consuming a lot of fat puts your liver to work to digest it.
- Extreme restriction: Eliminating too many foods can put you at risk for missing key vitamins and minerals. You also risk digestive problems if you don’t get enough fiber.
Is Keto the Key for You?
If you’re interested in the Keto Diet, talk to your healthcare provider and/or dietitian first. Many people favor keto and swear by its results, but there is still a lot of research to be done. You have to work hard at eating balanced meals and staying in ketosis to lose weight.
For what it’s worth, a low-fat diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables has been shown to be just as effective and possibly easier than the Keto Diet. But no matter what, weight-loss will always be a long and challenging process. One thing we can all agree on, however, is that nothing will work in the long-term without regular physical activity and healthy eating.