What is a keto diet?
A ketogenic diet is becoming a well-known dieting strategy within the UK and USA, but what is a keto diet and what are the results like?
The keto diet is well known for being a diet containing low carbohydrates, where the body can produce ketones within the liver and used as energy instead of sugars from foods. Celebrities such as Halle Berry and the Kardashians swear by this trending diet, boosting it to rank within the top 10 most Googled diets in 2017. Ketosis is a metabolic process in which the person uses fat for energy instead of the sugar source.
Already accumulating many fans, the low calorie, high fat diet is said to produce more energy, suppress appetite and lose a lot of weight while eating heavy cream, butter and bacon.
When you eat something high in carbohydrates, your body produces glucose and insulin as a result. Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy, so it is a priority when your body finds an energy source. Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by carrying it around the body. Since glucose is used as primary energy, fats are not used and often stored. If the consumer lowers carbohydrate intake, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural process that the body begins to help it survive when sugars are low. During this state, the body produces ketones, which are produced within the breakdown of fats in the liver. The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into ketosis.
The benefits of a ketogenic diet
The primary benefit of the keto diet is to lose weight. As it uses your body fat as an energy source, therefore, there will be obvious and fast weight loss results. Your insulin levels drop greatly, turning your body into a fat burning machine. Scientifically, the keto diet has shown better results compared to low-fat and high carbohydrate diets, but will the effects last?
Some keto diet followers use it to improve mental focus. Ketones are a great source of fuel for the brain and when you lower your carbohydrate intake, you avoid spikes in blood sugar, improving concentration. Studies have shown that an increase in fatty acids can impact the brans function positively.
By giving your body a more reliable and stable energy source, you will feel more energized throughout the day. On top of that, the fats are naturally more filling and satisfying, improving your appetite and reducing excess calories.
What can you eat?
The keto diet is all about preparing and planning. What you eat will depend on how fast you want to get your body into a ketogenic state. Consequently, the more restricted you are in terms of carbohydrates, the faster you will enter ketosis. Refined carbohydrates are banned from the diet and any carbohydrates you do eat should be consumed through vegetables, nuts and dairy.
What you can’t consume:
- Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal
- Sugar – honeys and syrups
- Fruit – Apples, bananas, oranges
- Tubers – Potato, sweet potato, parsnips
What you can consume:
- Leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Above ground grown vegetables
- High fat dairy
- Nuts and Seeds
- Oils – Coconut oil, butter, olive oil
In a typically balanced diet, your carbohydrate consumption is around 20-30g, but the lower you keep your carbohydrate intake and glucose levels, the better overall results will be.
Supplements necessary for the keto diet
Fish Oil – Not only are fatty fish one of the best foods to eat to stay in ketosis, but they are rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, which are one of natures best anti-inflammatories.
Creatine – an amino acid that plays an important role in producing energy and muscle contraction. Our bodies naturally produce creatine, but as we age this production declines.
L-Glutamine – An amino acid that acts as an antioxidant. This supplement is recommended to those thinking about partaking in the keto diet as intense dieting can deplete your natural stores, reducing immunity and muscle recovery time.
Vitamin D – A great supplement for overall health, whether you are dieting or not. From immunity to electrolyte absorption, it is found in some keto foods such as egg yolk, but the best way to get vitamin D is through the sun or supplements in the winter.
The dangers of the keto diet
Keto Flu is a very common experience for those completing the keto diet. As you tend to urinate more, you lose electrolytes and this can lead to a weakened immune system.
Cramps are common when starting the ketogenic diet. It usually occurs during the morning or evening but is a pretty small issue overall.
Constipation is one of the most common side effects, as you can become easily dehydrated.
Reduced physical performance may occur as your energy levels drop and your body adapts to using fat for energy.
Hair Loss is a temporary side effect within the first six months of beginning the keto diet.
Is it worth it?
How did the keto diet blow up on social media? Most of us eat too many carbohydrates to begin with, as the average diet consists of 50% carbohydrates. Contrary to the social media trend, there is not much to prove that this change in lifestyle will increase physical performance. The lack of research for long term outcomes, the hard to follow regimen and potential painful side effects all ring alarm bells in terms of long term weight loss.
Since foods packed with carbohydrates contain the highest amount of water and dietary fibre, it is crucial to consider the immediate side effects such as cramping and nausea, and side effects longer down the line such as higher cholesterol and hair loss. Besides constipation, emotional mood swings and making it almost impossible to eat anywhere, the keto diet may lead to more serious health concerns.
Keto diets rely on an extreme technique to temporarily remove body fat and in turn eliminates all joy associated with eating socially and enjoying life.