A ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits. In fact, many studies indicate that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health. Ketogenic diets may be beneficial against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.
What is a ketogenic diet?
Ketogenic diets are very low-carb, high-fat diets that share many similarities with Atkins and low-carb diets.
It involves significantly reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction of carbs puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body works best to burn fat for energy. It also converts fats into liver ketones, which can provide brain energy.
Ketogenic diets can cause significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has some health benefits.
Different types of ketogenic diets
There are several versions of ketogenic diets, including:
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, balanced protein, and high-fat diet. It contains 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbs.
Cyclone ketogenic diets (CKD): These diets include periods of high carb release, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carb days.
Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around to work.
A diet high in ketogenic protein: This is similar to a typical ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is usually 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
However, only the most common and high ketogenic protein diet has been widely studied. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are the most advanced and widely used methods by bodybuilders or athletes.
The information in this article is particularly applicable to the general ketogenic diet (SKD), although many of the same principles apply to other types.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic condition in which your body uses fats as fuel instead of carbs. It occurs when you significantly reduce your carbohydrate intake, reducing the body’s supply of glucose (sugar), which is a major source of energy for cells.
Following a ketogenic diet is the most effective way to induce ketosis. Typically, this involves reducing carbohydrate intake by about 20 to 50 grams per day and supplementing fats, such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy fats.
It is also important to balance your protein consumption. This is because proteins can be converted to glucose if consumed in high amounts, which can reduce your conversion to ketosis.
Regular fasting can also help you to get ketosis faster. There are many types of abnormal fasting, but the most common method includes a diet of up to 8 hours a day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours.
Blood, urine, and respiratory tests are available, which can help determine if you have ketosis by measuring the number of ketones your body produces.
Some symptoms may also indicate ketosis, including increased thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination, and decreased appetite or appetite.
Ketogenic diets can help you lose weight
A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight with low-risk factors. In fact, research shows that a ketogenic diet can be as effective in weight loss as a low-fat diet.
In addition, the diet is so filling that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking the food you eat.
One review of 13 studies found that following a very low-carb, ketogenic diet was more effective at reducing long-term weight loss than a low-fat diet. People who follow the keto diet have lost an average of 2 kg (0.9 kg) over the group that followed the low-fat diet.
In addition, it also led to a decrease in diastolic blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Another study in 34 adults found that those who followed a ketogenic diet for 8 weeks lost about five times as much body fat as those who followed a low-fat diet.
Increased ketones, low blood sugar levels, and improved insulin sensitivity can also play a major role.
Ketogenic diets for diabetes and prediabetes
Diabetes is characterized by changes in the body, high blood sugar, and insulin efficiency.
A ketogenic diet can help you lose a lot of fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
One old study found that a ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by 75%.
A small study in women with type 2 diabetes also found that following a ketogenic diet for 90 days significantly reduced hemoglobin A1C levels, which is a measure of long-term sugar management.
Another study of 349 people with type 2 diabetes found that those who followed a ketogenic diet lost an average of 26.2 pounds (11.9 kg) over a two-year period. This is an important benefit when considering the link between weight and type 2 diabetes.
In addition, they also found low blood sugar management, and the use of certain blood sugar levels decreased among participants throughout the study.
Other health benefits of keto
Ketogenic diets actually emerged as a tool to treat neurological disorders such as epilepsy.
Studies have now shown that food can be beneficial for a variety of health conditions:
A ketogenic diet can help improve risk factors such as body fat, HDL (good) cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Diet is currently being evaluated as an additional treatment for cancer, as it may contribute to slow plant growth.
A keto diet can help reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and reduce its progression.
Studies have shown that a ketogenic diet can cause a significant reduction in fainting in children with epilepsy.
Although more research is needed, one study found that diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
A ketogenic diet can help lower insulin levels, which can play a major role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
Some research suggests that diet can improve the effects of traumatic brain injury. Keep in mind, though, that research into many of these areas is irrefutable.
Foods to avoid
Any food that’s high in carbs should be limited.
Here’s 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: low-fat mayonnaise, salad dressings, and condiments
some condiments or sauces: barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc.
unhealthy fats: processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
alcohol: beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks
sugar-free diet foods: sugar-free candies, syrups, puddings, sweeteners, desserts, etc.
Foods to eat
You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:
meat: red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey
fatty fish: salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel
eggs: pastured or omega-3 whole eggs
butter and cream: grass-fed butter and heavy cream
cheese: unprocessed cheeses like cheddar, goat, cream, blue, or mozzarella
nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
healthy oils: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
low carb veggies: green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
condiments: salt, pepper, herbs, and spices
A sample keto meal plan for 1 week
To help get you started, here’s a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:
breakfast: veggie and egg muffins with tomatoes
lunch: chicken salad with olive oil, feta cheese, olives, and a side salad
dinner: Salmon with asparagus cooked in butter
breakfast: egg, tomato, basil, and spinach omelet
lunch: almond milk, peanut butter, spinach, cocoa powder, and stevia milkshake (more keto smoothies here) with a side of sliced strawberries
dinner: cheese-shell tacos with salsa
breakfast: nut milk chia pudding topped with coconut and blackberries
lunch: avocado shrimp salad
dinner: pork chops with Parmesan cheese, broccoli, and salad
breakfast: omelet with avocado, salsa, peppers, onion, and spices
lunch: a handful of nuts and celery sticks with guacamole and salsa
dinner: chicken stuffed with pesto and cream cheese, and a side of grilled zucchini
breakfast: sugar-free Greek, whole milk yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder, and berries
lunch: ground beef lettuce wrap tacos with sliced bell peppers
dinner: loaded cauliflower and mixed veggies
breakfast: cream cheese pancakes with blueberries and a side of grilled mushrooms
lunch: Zucchini and beet “noodle” salad
dinner: white fish cooked in coconut oil with kale and toasted pine nuts
breakfast: fried eggs with and mushrooms
lunch: low carb sesame chicken and broccoli
dinner: spaghetti squash Bolognese
Healthy keto 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
- keto sushi bites
- one or two hard-boiled or deviled eggs
- keto-friendly snack bars
- 90% dark chocolate
- full-fat Greek yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder
- bell peppers and guacamole
- strawberries and plain cottage cheese
- celery with salsa and guacamole
- beef jerky
- smaller portions of leftover meals
- fat bombs
Keto tips and tricks
Although getting started on the ketogenic diet can be challenging, there are several tips and tricks that you can use to make it easier.
Start by familiarizing yourself with food labels and checking the grams of fat, carbs, and fiber to determine how your favorite foods can fit into your diet.
Planning out your meals in advance may also be beneficial and can help you save extra time throughout the week.
Many websites, food blogs, apps, and cookbooks also offer keto-friendly recipes and meal ideas that you can use to build your own custom menu.
Alternatively, some meal delivery services even offer keto-friendly options for a quick and convenient way to enjoy keto meals at home. Look into healthy frozen keto meals when you’re short on time. When going to social gatherings or visiting family and friends, you may also want to consider bringing your own food, which can make it much easier to curb cravings and stick to your meal plan.
Tips for eating out on a ketogenic diet
Many restaurant meals can be made keto-friendly.
Most restaurants offer some kind of meat or fish-based dish. Order this and replace any high carb food with extra vegetables.
Egg-based meals are also a great option, such as an omelet or eggs and bacon.
Another favorite is bun-less burgers. You could also swap the fries for vegetables instead. Add extra avocado, cheese, bacon, or eggs.
Side effects and how to minimize them
Although the ketogenic diet is usually safe for most healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts.
There’s some anecdotal evidence of these effects often referred to as the keto flu. Based on reports from some on the eating plan, it’s usually over within a few days.
Reported keto flu symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting.
Other less common symptoms include:
- poor energy and mental function
- increased hunger
- sleep issues
- digestive discomfort
- 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 completely 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 may help. Talk to your doctor about your nutritional needs.
At least, in the beginning, it’s important to eat until you’re full and avoid restricting calories too much. Usually, a ketogenic diet causes weight loss without intentional calorie restriction.
Risks of the keto diet
Staying on the keto diet in the long term may have some negative effects, including risks of the following:
- low protein in the blood
- extra fat in the liver
- kidney stones
- micronutrient deficiencies
A type of medication called sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors for type 2 diabetes can increase the risk for diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that increases blood acidity. Anyone taking this medication should avoid the keto diet.
More research is being done to determine the safety of the keto diet in the long term. Keep your doctor informed of your eating plan to guide your choices.
Why keto diet is bad?
The keto diet could cause low blood pressure, kidney stones, constipation, nutrient deficiencies, and an increased risk of heart disease. Strict diets like keto could also cause social isolation or disordered eating. Keto is not safe for those with any conditions involving their pancreas, liver, thyroid, or gallbladder.
What are the main rules of Keto?
A healthy ketogenic diet should consist of about 75% fat, 10-30% protein, and no more than 5% or 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day. Focus on high-fat, low-carb foods like eggs, meats, dairy and low-carb vegetables, as well as sugar-free beverages. Be sure to restrict highly processed items and unhealthy fats.
Can you lose belly fat on keto?
A ketogenic diet can help you lose belly fat, which is closely linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and reduced life expectancy.
Can you drink coffee on keto?
Coffee is another near calorie- and carb-free favorite that's safe for the keto diet. Like tea, it can be consumed hot or iced. Coffee contains caffeine, which may give your metabolism a slight boost.
What is the truth about Keto?
Instead of carbs for energy, the body burns fat, entering a state called ketosis. The upsides: While the precise mechanisms are unclear, ketosis is thought to have brain-protecting benefits: As many as half of the young people with epilepsy had fewer seizures after following the diet.
Can you eat rice on keto?
You may have already sworn off white rice, but add brown rice to that list, too. It's a whole grain, which disqualifies it from a keto eating plan. Add a ½-cup serving to a roasted veggie bowl and you're looking at 24 g of net carbs.
Is peanut butter Keto?
All natural peanut butter is indeed a low carb food. It is high in healthy fats, has moderates amount of protein and has a relatively high amount of fiber. A two-tablespoon serving sees it providing a mere 3.5 grams of net carbs! Not only is peanut butter low carb, it is also suitable for a ketogenic diet.
Are bananas Keto?
Bananas are not keto friendly and not recommended to enjoy even in small amounts. While a healthy fruit with plenty of vitamins and nutrients, they are primarily carbs and contain smaller amounts of fiber. Furthermore, the carbs in bananas are primarily sugar.