The Keto diet has been in the limelight as the end all be all diet for quick weight loss. However, the Keto diet has been around a very long time, being used for valid medical reasons. The ketogenic or keto diet was first introduced in 1921 to help control seizures in children. Most know that the keto diet is a very low carbohydrate, high fat diet that aims to burn fat for energy. But, that bit of information is just the tip of the iceberg.
What is the keto diet and how does it work?
- For most individuals, carbohydrate intake averages between 50 and 60% of calorie intake. The body uses this readily available carbohydrates for energy, in the form of glucose or blood sugar.
- On a keto diet, carbohydrate intake is slashed, and calories are supplied primarily from fat and protein. This essentially put the body in a fasting state. As such, people following a strict keto diet are often not hungry and report fewer cravings.
- “Keto” refers to a metabolic process called ketogenesis. Ketogenesis occurs when carbohydrate is extremely limited, and the body begins to break down fat for energy. Fatty acids are broken down in the liver, resulting in the formation of ketones. Ketones serve as an alternative fuel when there is not enough glucose or blood sugar to be used for energy.
- On a true ketogenic diet, carbohydrate intake is limited to about 20 net carbohydrates a day to deliberately shift the body into ketosis.
- Net carbs are the carbohydrates in food that your body can digest and use for fuel. To calculate net carbs, take a food’s total carb amount and subtract fiber and sugar alcohols.
- Just for a frame of reference, a medium banana has about 27 grams of carbohydrates. When subtracting 3 grams of fiber, that same banana has 24 grams of net carbohydrates.
- On a ketogenic diet, carbohydrates provide just 5-10% of caloric intake, fat provides 55-60% of calories and protein about 30-35%.
- When initially beginning the keto diet, some experience muscle aches, headache, mental fog, and hunger. However, once adjusted to the food plan, these symptoms typically diminish, and low carb high fat eating becomes more natural.
- A true keto diet is very restrictive. But just like other low carbohydrates programs, there are different variations of the keto diet.
Foods that are to be avoided on the keto diet include:
- While these foods are healthy sources of calories and protein, they are too high in carbohydrates to be included on a keto diet.
- Legumes, beans and lentils.
- Grains, including rice, pasta, breads, and oatmeal.
- Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and peas.
- Low-fat dairy products. The fat content of full-fat dairy makes it useful for keto dieters, but low-fat or skim products don’t contain enough fat to balance out the milk sugars they contain.
- Added sugars and sweeteners and sugary drinks such as juice and soda.
- Snack foods, such as chips, pretzels, and potato chips.
- Alcohol. Beer, wine, and hard liquor all contain alcohol, which is derived from sugar.
The Keto diet is clearly not for everyone and anyone with medical issues should discuss their plans with their physician before embarking on the keto journey.
While research suggests that the keto diet can be effective for short-term weight loss, in the long run, it may not be all that effective. Any diet that discourages certain food groups, such as carbohydrates, is not good for long-term weight loss and may lead to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.
Of note, even if a strict keto diet is not being pursued, there are many healthy keto friendly foods and recipes that are reduced in calories and carbohydrate content that can easily be incorporated into a healthy diet plan. For example, this easy-to-prepare Garlic Lime Tuna Steak recipe fits nicely into a keto plan. Instead of traditional mashed potatoes, pair with this light and fluffy Creamed Cauliflower dish. It’s a win all the way around!