If you’re tuned in to what’s going on in the world, even just a little, you’ve likely heard about a keto or ketogenic diet. But, while you may be hearing things about how good it is for you, it’s hard to know if something is right for you if you don’t really know what it is.
In this article, we’re going to go over what a keto diet involves. We’ll touch on some of the benefits you can get from eating this way, go over different kinds of ketogenic diets, and include some good information about what you should and shouldn’t eat with this type of diet.
The Basics of a Keto Diet
Let’s start by talking just about what a keto diet is. It’s a method of eating foods that are high in fat content but low in carbs. Some of the guidelines for this diet might remind you of the Atkins diet that became popular some decades ago.
The idea is to decrease the number of carbs you eat but put something else in their place. So, you will increase the amount of protein and higher calorie foods you eat to give your body a different type of energy.
You might be asking yourself why you would want to eat more fat. Well, here’s how this works. When you eat a lot of carbohydrates, like sugary foods, white bread, or pastries, you’re taking in carbs that are very easy for your body to digest.1) That means your body will start with those because it’s the easiest place to find energy.
If you don’t give your body what’s easiest for it to break down into fuel, then it has to start fueling itself with something else. So your system ends up working harder to break down the fats and the proteins that you’re eating instead. This process is called ketosis, hence the keto diet.
The Benefits of a Keto Diet
The keto diet is used a lot by people who are trying to lose weight. That’s definitely one of the big benefits of the diet. There are some others too though. Ketosis has been known to help with some medical conditions, and there is ongoing research to find out more about what else it can be used for.
Here are some of the benefits that are either known, or that are currently being researched further:
People do tend to lose weight on a ketogenic diet because the body is working harder at converting the food they are eating into fuel. You’ll burn more calories because it’s harder to turn fat and protein into energy than it is to change carbs.
Heart Disease Prevention
There’s a connection between ketosis and the lowering of the bad cholesterol (LDL) and the raising of the good cholesterol (HDL). It’s thought that this has to do with the decrease in insulin in the body.2) There is certainly more that needs to be learned about this benefit of keto diets, but many people have successfully decreased their risk of heart failure and other conditions through ketosis.
For most people living with diabetes, eating fewer carbs is something they’ve already been told to do. The keto diet promotes this same type of eating, so it helps to keep blood sugar levels down.
Carbohydrates can cause outbreaks of acne on the skin.3) Greatly reducing or eliminating them from your diet can help stop outbreaks. The exact reason for this is still unknown.
Cancer Risk Decrease
A keto diet causes the body to produce less insulin. Insulin is responsible for telling the body to store away sugar.4) If you have less stored sugar to use as easily accessible energy, then your body has to tap into other sources of energy. The decreased levels of insulin are thought to help keep cancer away or keep any cancer cells from growing very much.
Increased Exercise Performance
In the case of people who exercise through endurance methods, ketosis may help with their training. Because the keto diet cuts down on carbs, the body can use more oxygen during exercise to burn fats. This helps the athlete develop better endurance.
Various Keto Diets
There are some different kinds of ketogenic diets. Which one is right for you really is just based on what your needs and goals are. You can just choose the one that best fits with your lifestyle.
Standard ketogenic diet: In this version, you’ll only be eating about 5% of your diet in carbs. The rest will mostly be fats at 75%, and then about 20% in proteins.
High-protein ketogenic diet: You will still only eat 5% in carbs, but you’ll cut down on your fats and increase your protein intake. Fats will drop to 60% and proteins will raise up to 35%.5)
Targeted ketogenic diet: This type allows you to eat more carbs but there’s an emphasis put on the timing of when you eat them. You can eat your carbs around the times you work out.
Cyclical ketogenic diet: This version allows for some days when you will take in more carbs. You’ll have a series of days where you’re eating very low-carb foods. Then, you’ll have a couple of days where you eat more high-carb meals.6)
Foods of a Keto Diet
There are some foods you want add to your diet that support ketosis, as well as some that you want to avoid.
Add these: meat, nuts and seeds, unprocessed cheese, eggs, avocados, butter, green vegetables.7)
Avoid these: starchy foods, sugary foods, alcohol, fruit, diet foods, mayonnaise, beans, legumes, potatoes, vegetable oils.8)
The Wrap Up
Keto diets can really be great tools for people who want to lose weight, or for those living with certain medical conditions. This method of diet can provide a lot of benefits for the overall health of the body. You just need to choose the version that is right for what you’re trying to accomplish, and make sure to avoid certain foods that work against ketosis.