It is indeed not just a coincidence that the popularity of keto diets is soaring by the day. It has quietly grown to become one of the most popular methods of getting rid of excess weight. Knowledge of the health benefits of a keto diet is increasing by the day as this diet currently attracts more than a million monthly searches on google alone.
A keto (ketogenic) diet is simply a diet with a high-fat, adequate-protein and low-carb content. This eating approach works by getting rid of the body’s store of energy and then forcing it to start breaking down fat and protein for energy. This procedure leads to ketosis, which is where the body relies on stored fats for energy instead of glucose (derived from carbohydrates). Drastically reducing the intake of carbohydrates and calories, coupled with exercising for an extended period can effectively trigger ketosis.
We all often avoid fat for its high-calorie content, but funny enough, research has backed the significant effectiveness of keto diets in promoting weight loss as compared to diets with low-fat content. With keto diets, your calorie intake should roughly be made of 75% fats, 20% proteins and 5% carbs. For a beginner, it will take some few days for your body to adapt and adjust to your new meal plan.
Types of Keto Diets
- Standard Keto Diet: This is the widely used type of keto diet and it’s the most widely studied. It encourages your caloric intake to be high in fat, moderate in proteins and very low in carbs.
- Carb-Cycling: This promotes incorporating short periods of high-carb consumption into a standard keto diet. This type of keto diet seeks to promote muscle growth by replenishing the body’s glycogen stores.
- Targeted Keto Diet: With this type of keto diet, carb consumption is increased around workout times to improve the body’s endurance and athletic performance. The tip here is to make sure your body does not get out of the state of ketosis for longer than necessary.
Carb-cycling and targeted keto diets are normally aimed at athletes and hardcore fitness fanatics.
Thanks to a myriad of research and the internet, the health benefits of a keto diet is becoming common knowledge. For those of us new to the subject of ketogenic dieting, let’s take our time and look at these health benefits:
Promotes Rapid Weight Loss
This is undoubtedly the N0.1 reason why people adopt the keto diet. Cutting down on the intake of carb is an effective way of losing weight. Research shows that people who consume low-carb diets lose more weight and at a faster pace than those on a low-fat diet. Low-carb diets help to get rid of excess fluids from the body, leading to rapid weight loss in the first couple of weeks. It is also worth mentioning that the body works more to turn fat into energy than it does to turn carbs into energy. This helps to speed up weight loss.
Protection Against Type 2 Diabetes
Adopting an eating approach of taking far less carbs can help those diagnosed with diabetes to manage their conditions better. Studies show putting type 2 diabetic patients on a keto diet improves their blood sugar control. Cutting carbs drastically lowers both their blood sugar and insulin levels.
What are triglycerides? They are fat molecules that circulate in the bloodstream. Triglycerides are necessary for health, but excess amounts increase the risk of heart diseases. High-carb consumption is one of the main drivers of triglycerides in inactive people.
May Boost Heart Health
This does raise your eye-brows, doesn’t it? How can a high-fat diet boost your heart health? A meal with high-fat and low-carbs leads to an increase in “good”(HDL) cholesterol as compared to the opposite. The higher your levels of High Density LipoproteIn (HDL) relative to “bad”(LDL = Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol, the lower your risk of heart disease. The level of LDL significantly drops when ketogenic diets are followed in a healthy manner.
Severity Of Acne Is Reduced
One of the contributing factors to acne is diet and blood sugar levels. High sugar levels in the blood can increase your risk of acne. Ketogenic diets does not support the consumption of processed foods and sugar, which are both high in insulin levels. This may help to reduce some cases of acne.
Has The Potential To Reduce Seizures
Even though its effectiveness is still being debated, putting the body in a state of ketosis has the potential to reduce seizures in people with epilepsy. This potential benefit is more effective on children who experience focal seizures, even though an immediate seizure-free result is unlikely. A focal seizure occurs when only a limited area of the brain is affected by the causal abnormal electrical disturbance. Secondary generalisation is where the whole brain is affected. Usually, some doctors recommend the keto diet for children whose seizures have proven unresponsive to several seizure medications.
Improves Brain Function
Some research shows the combination of ketone use and carbohydrate restriction leads to efficient brain cells and less brain inflammation. This combination also gives the brain the opportunity to balance its neurotransmitters called GABA (which stands for: Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) and glutamate. GABA and glutamate are two of the brain’s major neurotransmitters. GABA is an inhibitory (reduces stimulation) neurotransmitter whiles glutamate is an excitatory (promotes stimulation) neurotransmitter. This balance in neurotransmitters leads to an increased sense of calmness, reduction in stress and anxiety, and better mental focus.
Sugar and processed foods have the likelihood of leading to oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress, which causes chronic inflammation, maybe kept at bay by keto diets. The keto diet is anti-inflammatory, and may help reduce pain related to inflammation.
May Help Against Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of diabetes and heart disease. This collection of conditions include high blood pressure, high level of triglycerides, abnormal cholesterol, abdominal obesity, and high fasting blood sugar level. Keto diets, being low in carbs, are effective in treating and or controlling these conditions associated with metabolic syndrome.
May Help With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovarian syndrome is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. It is an endocrine disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts. PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women. Even though there are currently not many clinical studies on the correlation between PCOS and keto diets, keto diets have been shown to reduce glucose and insulin levels in the blood. A high insulin level is a worsening factor in PCOS conditions. Keto diets can positively impact PCOS as it reduces glucose and insulin levels in the blood due to its low-carb content.
Foods To Eat….
There are slight differences in opinion when it comes to keto-friendly foods, but in general, your ketogenic food should center around the following:
- Meat – Grass-fed beef, organ meats, bison, pork, wild game, rabbit, lamb, goat, bacon, fresh ham and veal.
- Eggs – Should ideally be cooked in fat. Consider organic whole eggs.
- Poultry – Chicken, turkey and duck.
- Healthy fat and oils – avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil, almond oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil and butter.
- Full-fat dairy – Yoghurt and cream. Quantity should be limited.
- Full-fat cheese – Goat cheese, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, mozzarella, feta cheese, cream cheese, brie, fontina, parmesan, colby, colby-jack and cottage cheese.
- Non-starchy vegetables – Leafy greens like spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, cucumber, celery, lettuce, eggplant, cabbage, olives, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, red and green peppers.
- Condiments – Fresh herbs and spices, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, curcumin and basil.
- Nuts and seeds – Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, coconut, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, pecans, pine nuts, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts.
- Seafood and fatty fish – Salmon, mackerel, shrimp, trout, herring, tuna, cod, haddock, crab, lobster, squid, tilapia, octopus, swordfish, pike, eels, monkfish, catfish, mussels and oysters.
- Dark chocolates – In moderation.
- Flours – These flours should be made of nuts and fiber, and not grains. Examples include, coconut flour, almond flour and coconut powder.
Just like high-carb foods, drinks with high-carb content must be avoided whiles on a ketogenic diet. A lot of drinks have high sugar content, which is a big “NO NO” while on a ketogenic diet. When it comes to beverages, your go-to options are the sugar-free ones. Drinks to take whiles on a keto diet include:
- Water – This is by far the best choice for hydration. The water can be either normal or carbonated.
- Coconut water – With no added sugar.
- Plain tea – In other words, tea without sugar.
- Unsweetened coffee – If you choose this option, it is important that you keen an eye on your caffeine consumption.
- Almond milk.
- Cashew milk.
- Bone broth.
- Sugar-free beverages.
Foods To Avoid…..
Whiles on a ketogenic diet, you are to avoid foods with a high carb content. The foods listed below are not keto-friendly. Consumption of these foods should be restricted:
- Legumes – Beans, peas, chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils.
- Vegetables with high starch content – sweet potatoes and potatoes.
- Grains – Rice, oats, breakfast cereals of any kind, wheat, tortillas, bread, buckwheat and corn products.
- Most fruits – Bananas (especially), grapes, citrus and pineapple. This is due to the high sugar content.
- Sugary foods – Sugar, candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream, maple syrup, fructose, agave and honey, just to mention a few.
- High-carb condiments – Salad dressings, ketchup, barbecue sauce, honey mustard and dipping sauces.
- Condensed milk.
- Vegetable oil.
- Meats cured with sugar.
- Over-processed meats.
- Breaded meats.
- Canned foods.
- Most fast foods.
- Any food with added sugar.
Drinks To Avoid….
- Regular soda pops.
- Diet soda pops.
- Fruit juice.
- Any beverage with a high sugar content.
Are There Any Potential Risks?
In addition to it being tough to stick to a keto diet plan, a there any potential health risks associated with the keto diet? The possible health benefits of sticking to a ketogenic diet are quite eye-opening, but it is important for us to be aware of the potential downsides. Staying on the keto diet for a very long period can negatively impact the body. The possible risks include:
- Immediate side effects may include, low blood sugar, constipation, headaches and fatigue. This normally occurs as the body re-adjusts to your new diet.
- Kidney stones – The elimination of food groups such as many vegetables and fruits may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
- Long term use of the keto diet may result in muscle degeneration and severe weight loss.
- High levels of acid in the blood may also occur.
- Since the keto diet promotes the consumption of high-fat low-carb diets, there is the risk of consuming unhealthy trans and saturated fats. Consumption of unhealthy fats leads to an increase in “bad” cholesterol which results in an increased risk of heart problems.
Who Should Avoid The Keto Diet?
The keto diet maybe risky for people with certain health conditions. If you happen to fall into any of the categories below, please consult your doctor before adopting a ketogenic diet plan:
- People with thyroid disease – The keto diet may suppress levels of thyroid hormones.
- People with multiple sclerosis.
- People with hypoglycemia.
- People with heart disease.
- People with type 1 diabetes – Since keto diets lower blood sugar levels, the diet is not for those with type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent.
- Pregnant women – Prolonged maternal ketosis has been associated with development problems for unborn babies.
- Breast-feeding women.
- People with low to very low BMI.
- People with gallbladder removed – The gallbladder contains bile, that enables the body to break down dietary fats.
- People with gallstones.
What To Take Away….
As mentioned earlier, it can be very tough to stick to the keto diet. The possible health benefits of a keto diet indicates it is worth giving it a go. The growing popularity of the keto diet has made it easier than ever to find keto diet plans or ideas that suit you.
Despite the potential health benefits of a keto diet, drastic changes to your diet can have a negative impact on your overall health. To play it safe, please ensure your seek advice from a medical doctor before taking up this diet.