If you’re looking for a low carb high-fat diet that offers many health benefits, you may have heard of the ketogenic diet, or keto diet for short. This type of diet has been shown to help you lose weight and improve your health, with potential benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.
In this comprehensive review, we will delve deeper into the ketogenic diet, its different variations, its health benefits, foods to avoid, foods to eat, healthy keto snacks, and how to minimize side effects.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a very low carb high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low carb diets. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver which can supply energy for the brain. Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including the standard ketogenic diet, cyclic ketogenic diet (CKD), targeted ketogenic diet, and high-protein ketogenic diet.
The standard ketogenic diet is a very low carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75 % fat, 20 % protein, and only 5 % carbs.
The cyclic ketogenic diet (CKD) involves periods of higher-carb refeed, such as 5 ketogenic days, followed by two high carb days.
The targeted ketogenic diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
The high-protein ketogenic diet is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60 % fat, 35 % protein, and 5 % carbs.
However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclic, targeted, ketogenic diets are more advanced methods primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes. The information here mostly applies to the standard ketogenic diet, although many of the same principles also apply to the other versions.
Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet can help you lose weight, and research shows that it is far superior to the often-recommended low-fat diet. The diet is so filling that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake. One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost two times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet. Triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels also improved. Another study found that people on the ketogenic diet lost three times more weight than those on the diet recommended by Diabetes UK.
The ketogenic diet can also improve insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for diabetes and prediabetes. It can help you lose excess fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. The ketogenic diet may also have benefits for heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, brain injuries, and acne.
Foods to Avoid on the Keto Diet
Any food that is high in carbs should be limited on the ketogenic diet. Here is a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:
- Sugary foods: soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
- Grains or starches: wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
- Fruit: all fruit except small portions of berries like strawberries
- Beans or legumes: peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Root vegetables and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
- Low-fat or diet products: these are often highly processed and high in carbs.
- Some condiments or sauces: these often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
- Unhealthy fats: limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- Alcohol: due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
- Sugar-free diet foods: these are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels.
Foods to Eat on the Keto Diet
On the keto diet, you should base the majority of your meals around these foods:
- Meat: red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey.
- Fatty fish: such as salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel.
- Eggs: look for pastured or Omega 3 whole eggs.
- Butter and cream: look for grass-fed when possible.
- Cheese: unprocessed cheese, cheddar, goat cream, blue or mozzarella.
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
- Healthy oils: primarily extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
- Avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
- Low-carb veggies: most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
- Condiments: you can use salt, pepper, and various healthy herbs and spices.
Healthy Keto Diet Snacks
In case you get hungry between meals, here are some healthy keto-approved snacks:
- Fatty meat or fish
- A handful of nuts or seeds
- Cheese with olives
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Dark chocolate
- A low-carb milkshake with almond milk, cocoa powder, and nut butter
- Full-fat yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder
- Strawberries and cream
- Celery with salsa and guacamole
- Smaller portions of leftover meals
Minimizing Side Effects
While the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts. This is often referred to as the keto flu and is usually over within a few days. Keto flu includes poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, digestive discomfort, and decreased exercise performance.
To minimize this, you can try a regular low-carb diet for the first few weeks. This may teach your body to burn more fat before you eliminate carbs. A ketogenic diet can also change the water and mineral balance of your body, so adding extra salt to your meals or taking mineral supplements can help. For minerals, try taking 3,000 to 4,000 milligrams of sodium, 1000 milligrams of potassium, and 300 milligrams of magnesium per day to minimize side effects, at least in the beginning.
It is important to eat until you’re full and avoid restricting calories too much. Usually, a ketogenic diet causes weight loss without intentional calorie restriction.
Supplements for the Ketogenic Diet
Although no supplements are required, some can be useful. MCT oil added to drinks or yogurt provides energy and helps increase ketone levels. Minerals added salt and other minerals can be important when starting due to shifts in water and mineral balance. Caffeine can have benefits for energy, fat loss, and performance. Exogenous ketones supplement may help raise the body’s ketone levels. Creatine provides numerous benefits for health and performance. Half a scoop of whey protein in shakes or yogurt can increase your daily protein intake if you are combining a ketogenic diet with exercise.
The ketogenic diet is a low carb, high-fat diet that has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including weight loss and improved metabolic health. It works by putting your body into a state of ketosis, where it burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. While the keto diet may not be suitable for everyone, it can be a useful tool for those looking to lose weight, improve their health, or manage certain health conditions.
To succeed on the keto diet, it’s important to focus on consuming whole, nutrient-dense foods while avoiding highly processed, carb-heavy foods. While the diet can have some initial side effects, such as the keto flu, these can often be minimized by gradually transitioning to the diet and ensuring you get enough electrolytes and hydration.
In conclusion, the ketogenic diet can be a powerful tool for improving your health and managing certain health conditions. By following a healthy, whole-foods-based approach to the diet and ensuring you get enough nutrients and hydration, you can reap the benefits of this low-carb, high-fat diet. And with the addition of supplements like MCT oil, minerals, caffeine, exogenous ketones, and whey protein, you can further optimize your results on the keto diet.