The ketogenic diet has been gaining more and more popularity nowadays. Some celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Megan Fox and NBA superstars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are some who’s even getting in on the diet. 

What is Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet (keto) is a low-carb, high-fat diet. It lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, and shifts the body’s metabolism away from carbs and towards fat and ketones.

Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used as fuel throughout the body, including the brain. The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose… or ketones.

On a ketogenic diet your entire body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. Insulin levels become very low and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is obviously great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, like for example less hunger and a steady supply of energy.

There are several versions of the ketogenic diet. The standard ketogenic diet (SKD) is the most researched and most recommended. This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carb.

A ketogenic diet is safe for most people, but in the following situations you may need extra support:

  • If you take medication for diabetes, e.g. insulin.
  • If you have medication for high blood pressure.
  • If you are breastfeeding.

Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases, such as epilepsy.

Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:

  • Weight Loss: It can help you lose much more weight than a low-fat diet. This often happens without hunger.
  • Diabetes: It can boost insulin sensitivity and cause fat loss, leading to drastic improvement for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
  • Heart disease: The ketogenic diet can improve risk factors like body fat, HDL levels, blood pressure and blood sugar.
  • Cancer: The diet is currently being used to treat several types of cancer and slow tumor growth
  • Alzheimer’s disease: The diet may reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s and slow down the disease’s progression.
  • Epilepsy: Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause massive reductions in seizures in epileptic children.
  • Parkinson’s disease: One study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome: The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which may play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Brain injuries: One animal study found that the diet can reduce concussions and aid recovery after brain injury.
  • Acne: Lower insulin levels and eating less sugar or processed foods may help improve acne.

However, keep in mind that research into many of these areas is far from conclusive.

What are the Foods to Avoid?

Avoid carb-based foods like grains, sugars, legumes, rice, potatoes, candy, juice and even most fruits. Here is 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, cereals, 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: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
  • Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
  • Unhealthy fat: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
  • Alcohol: Due to its carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
  • Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.

What are the Foods to Eat?

Base the majority of your diet on foods such as meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, healthy oils, avocados and plenty of low-carb veggies.

  • Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
  • Fatty fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
  • Eggs: Look for pastured or omega-3 whole eggs.
  • Butter and cream: Look for grass-fed when possible.
  • Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella).
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
  • Healthy oils: Primarily extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
  • Avocados: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
  • Low-carb veggies: Most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Condiments: You can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices.

Side Effects of Keto Diet and How to Minimize them

Although the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts. This usually over within a few days.

By far the most common side effect is called the keto flu, or induction flu. It’s what makes some people feel really bad 2-3 days after starting keto. Some of the common symptoms are headache, fatigue, dizziness, light nausaea and irritability. These side effects rapidly subside as your body adapts and your fat burning increases. Within a week, they are usually gone.

You can minimize the keto flu by drinking more fluids and by temporarily increasing your salt intake. A good option is to drink a cup of bouillon/broth 1-2 times a day. This will usually keep the keto flu minor or even non-existent. Alternatively, drink a few extra glasses of water and put more salt on your food.

Beyond the induction flu, there are five more relatively common side effects such as leg cramps, constipation, bad breath, heart palpitations and reduced physical performance. Many of them can also be mostly avoided by getting enough fluid and salt. 

Less commonly noticed issues that generally only affect a minority of people include gout, gallstone problem, temporary hair loss, elevated cholesterol, reduced tolerance to alcohol, and Keto rash.

 

About The Author

Charlotte has tried every buffet restaurant in the Metro and is on the quest to try the ones in the provinces soon. She's an active blogger and you can find her in her think tank in Marco Polo on weekdays. She used to think Oleia Topical Oil can help her loose weight since it's good for inflammation only to realize it's better for after work massages. 

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