What is a keto diet and its benefits? 

In today's blog post, we break down the basics of a ketogenic diet and all the foods you need to avoid!

If you’re looking for a regimented diet to stick to online, chances are you’ve stumbled across the term ‘keto diet’ a fair few times. Today, we will be taking a look at ketogenic (keto) diets, specifically what the diet entails and what the health benefits are for the individual.

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is one that is designed to send your body into a state called ‘ketosis’ via a strict low-carb diet. ‘Keto Diet’ is actually used to refer to a host of other specialised diets such as the Dukan and Atkins diet. 

In normal day-to-day circumstances, our bodies use glucose from carbohydrate foods for energy generation. When we take away that glucose, ketosis occurs. In ketosis, the body starts to burn fats instead of its usual main source of fuel, carbohydrates. The body is pulling the fat to burn from the liver in order to produce a sufficient amount of energy. The fat pulled from the liver comes in the form of little molecules called ‘ketones’ – hence the name a keto diet.

In a keto diet, you are usually advised to eat less than 50 grams of carbs per day until your body eventually runs out of blood sugar. After about 3 or 4 days, your body will start using the protein and fat in your liver for energy, thus helping you to lose weight.

What foods are allowed and not allowed in a keto diet?

When you are on a keto diet, you are allowed to eat: high-fat meats, fish, oils, nuts (almonds, nuts), high-fat dairy like cheese, seeds, cocoa butter, avocados, tofu, and low-carb veg like leafy greens. 

When you are on a keto diet, you are NOT allowed to eat: bread, pasta, rice, baked items, legumes, sugar, bananas, beer, spaghetti, soda, root vegetables, fruits and starchy vegetables like potatoes. 

Is a keto diet effective?

Ketogenic diets have been proven to cause and encourage weight loss in subjects and have even shown to help insulin sensitivity in recently diagnosed diabetic patients. The big benefit of a keto diet is that it shows greater long-term reductions in weight loss than many other types of diets. However, just like any diet, true long-term success is heavily dependent on you sticking to your diet and maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. 

How to prepare for a keto diet?

One cannot dive in head-first into a keto diet; you need to prepare your body for it. This means you have to do a couple of things. The first is to consult your GP to confirm that doing a keto diet is safe for you and you first.

The second thing you need to do is get your liver ready for the increased workload of a keto diet. This means adding liver-supportive foods to your diet and reducing harmful substances. Add foods like garlic and onions to your diet/recipes and cut out the likes of sugar, caffeine and alcohol. By preparing your liver for the keto diet, you make sure that you will have enough fat to burn and generate energy when you do eventually cut out carbs. 

What are the benefits of a keto diet?

Weight loss: As a keto diet uses your body’s fat as an energy source, there are obvious weight loss benefits. The keto diet has shown better results for weight loss than low-fat and high-carb diets.

Blood sugar control: Keto naturally lowers blood sugar levels because of the foods you’re eating and cutting out. As a result, research has shown that a ketogenic diet can help manage and even prevent diabetes in subjects. 

Mental Focus: This is one of the main reasons people switch to keto. Ketones are a great source of fuel for the brain which can help improve focus and concentration. 

Cholesterol management: A keto diet helps improve cholesterol levels and even shows better improvement in blood pressure over other diets. This is because the diet improves triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels. 

Acne: When you switch to a keto diet you decrease dairy intake and high-carb food items, both are responsible for acne formation. 

What are the side-effects of a keto diet?

There is evidence to suggest that reducing your carb intake will lead to similar symptoms to dehydration. People on keto diets have reported increases in headaches, dry mouths, bad breath, fatigue, nausea and gut health. However, these symptoms are all very mild and if managed and maintained well, then a keto diet is as seamless to do as any other diet out there. 

Other potential side-effects of a keto diet include a nutrient deficiency, liver problems, kidney problems, constipation and mood swings. Again, these only really rear their head if you are not managing your diet properly and not truly in control of your body and its nutrient levels. 

Your next steps

A ketogenic diet can be hard to wrap your head around at the start but it isn’t as complicated as it first appears. Like any diet, it can be difficult to transition from your regular diet to this new and challenging lifestyle but that’s natural. For more diet and nutrition news, guides, how-tos and breakdowns, keep an eye on the Healthier Matters blog!

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