The Keto Diet Explained
Conventional wisdom is yet again challenged with a new trendy diet; the Keto Diet. In a nutshell, the Keto Diet is a low-carb diet that favours healthy fats. Benefits of Keto Diet include improvements in insulin sensitivity and the lowering of blood sugar levels as the body shifts towards utilizing fats over carbohydrates for energy.
Most people would follow the Keto Diet to lose weight and they are right to do so. The Keto Diet forces the body to switch to using fats as an energy source. Once the body does this, the body would also become accustomed to accessing stored fat for energy. Ultimately, the Keto Diet results in increased fat burning and fat loss.
Technically, there is no such thing as Keto Diet Foods. As long as you can follow Keto Diet’s macronutrient proportions then you may eat any kind of food. Keto Diet’s macronutrient proportions are as follows:
- 60% to 75% of your calories must come from fat
- 15% to 30% from protein
- 5% to 10% from carbohydrates
However, since this is a low-carb high fat diet, around 50 grams of carbohydrates for a 2000 calorie diet, it would be best if you minimize high carb foods and eat more high-fat foods. Also, whatever diet it may be, whole foods are always the healthier option.
The Science Behind the Keto Diet
The keto diet has been around for almost 100 years. In the 1920s, the keto diet was used for treating epilepsy. It wasn’t until 2013 that it gained popularity as a weight-loss diet.
The term ‘keto’ is derived from the term ‘ketogenic’ which means ketone producing. In other words, the keto diet is a kind of diet that promotes the production of ketones. The best way to force our body to produce more ketones is through the reduction of our carbohydrate intake. In doing so, the body would enter a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’. The reason as to why this happens has to do with our body’s ability to switch its fuel source from carbohydrates to fats. Once carbohydrate intake is low enough, the body would start breaking down fat from our food, and fat stored in our body, as a fuel source. Fat broken down as a fuel source would take the form of ketones.
Some people may worry that the Keto Diet might be too much for a glucose-dependent-organ like the brain. However, studies have shown that ketones are perfectly fine as an alternative fuel source.
Keto Diet Weight Loss – Is it Possible?
The debate on whether the Keto Diet is effective for weight loss or not rages on with several prominent individuals like Jenna Jamesone, Mama June, Halle Berry, and Savannah Gunthrie advocating for its efficacy. Although some studies seemed to debunk the benefits of Keto Diet with regards to weight loss, it is outweighed by the mounting evidence presented by other studies that seem to support the keto diet weight loss movement. One study, in particular, claimed that the keto diet was better than the calorie-restricted low-fat diet when it comes to weight loss. Researchers of this study reported double the amount of weight loss in the keto dieters compared to the calorie-restricted low-fat dieters. Furthermore, another study compared keto diet with the Diabetes-UK diet, a diet for managing diabetes. Researchers in this study reported triple the amount of weight loss in the keto dieters compared to the Diabetes-UK dieters.
The studies that have shown Keto Diet’s positive effects on weight loss have also proposed several reasons as to why this is so:
- Healthy fats and lean proteins advocated in a Keto Diet leads to faster satiety which leads to reduced food consumption.
- The body spends more time and energy in converting fats and protein to energy.
- Keto Dieter’s have less of the ‘fat-storing-hormone’ insulin in their system
- Keto Diet decreases feelings of hunger and improves appetite control
- The ketogenic diet may even be better than the established low-fat diet.
Benefits of Keto Diet
Of course, the benefits of keto diet is not limited to weight loss alone. There are other health benefits that come with the Keto Diet.
1. Reversal of Type 2 Diabetes and Blood Sugar Control
The well-accepted mechanism behind the occurrence of type 2 diabetes is based upon our body’s sensitivity to insulin and its subsequent decline. The prevalent irresponsible intake of carbohydrates is to blame regarding the rising cases of insulin resistance. When the body has consistently high levels of blood sugar, as a compensatory mechanism, insulin levels would follow suit. When the cells are exposed to high amounts of insulin frequently, their receptors for the hormones would start to become sensitized and the cell would develop resistance to the insulin.
In theory, the Keto Diet benefits those who have developed resistance to insulin. Since the diet promotes a very-low-carbohydrate diet, the body would produce less insulin. When the body produces less insulin, our cells receptors for insulin would go back to normal and the sensitivity of the cells to insulin would go back to normal as well.
On top of the keto diet’s direct effect on insulin resistance, this diet also aids with weight management. Unhealthy weight is one major contributing factor to the development of type 2 diabetes. As discussed previously, the keto diet can help a person achieve and maintain their ideal weight.
2. Improvements in Mental and Physical Energy Levels
We’ve all learned in school that glucose is the main energy source in our body. It’s only logical to assume that a low-glycemic diet such as the Keto Diet would lead to poor energy levels. However, this may not be the case. People may experience weakness and may feel unwell during the first two weeks; a state Keto Dieters would call ‘Keto Flu’. Nevertheless, most keto dieters reported improvements in their mental and physical energy levels after going through with the Keto Flu.
The well-accepted theory as to why mental focus is improved through the keto diet has to do with the rate of ketone production. The body may still produce glucose while in the state of ketosis but the brain’s main energy source would now be ketones. Since the production of ketones may take a while, the release of this compound occurs in a steadier rate. Since the release of the brains energy source, in this case, ketones occurs at a steady rate, the brain is free from the side effects of abrupt energy swings. Ultimately, this will lead to better mental clarity.
The same thing can be said with the benefit of Keto Diet on a dieter’s physical energy levels. Since the energy source is supplied at a steady rate, the body wouldn’t have to deal with abrupt changes in energy levels.
On top of this, fats contain more stored energy compared to glucose. Since keto diet trains your body to access fat stores for energy. You’re essentially given access to a better energy pool. Ultimately, the keto diet results in improved physical energy levels.
3. Overall improvements in the indicators of Health
There have been reports from those who follow a ketogenic diet that they experienced improvements in their cholesterol profile which includes high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, and triglycerides. These reports have been vindicated by some promising studies. One study compared the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet, like the keto diet, with the effects of a low-fat diet when it came to obesity and the cholesterol profile of the participants. Researchers of this study reported that low-carbohydrate diets were as effective, and potentially even more effective than low-fat diets.
4. Cancer prevention
There is emerging evidence that the ketogenic diet may be used for cancer prevention. In a 2017 study published in the Federal Practitioner, researchers claimed that the ketogenic diet may improve a patient’s response to chemotherapy. However, the researchers also noted that the emerging evidence that they put forward in the paper needs further investigations.
5. Non-pharmaceutical treatment for Epilepsy
A list of the benefits of keto diet wouldn’t be complete without mentioning its original purpose; the treatment of epilepsy. A systematic review involving published studies, from the 1920s to the present, about the effects of keto diet on epilepsy, revealed that the diet is a viable non-pharmaceutical alternative to the conventional drug treatments for epilepsy.
6. Reduction of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms
A systematic review about keto diet’s ability to prevent nerve-damaging conditions revealed that the mechanisms responsible for making the keto diet a viable alternative treatment for epilepsy may make this diet suitable for combating Alzheimer’s as well. However, the researchers mentioned that although there is evidence for this, controlled clinical trials must still be conducted before a definitive claim could be made.
Keto Diet for Beginners – How do I get started on keto?
The greatest hurdle when it comes to the keto diet is coming up with a way to transition from a regular diet to a low-carbohydrate one. So here are tips that could help your transition to the Keto Diet
1. Practice the 16:8 intermittent fasting.
The best way to introduce ketosis to your body is through the intermittent fasting. When caloric intake is restricted for 12 hours, the body would begin to undergo ketosis in the succeeding hours. There are other variants of the intermittent fasting but the 16:8 is the most popular because it is easier to follow. Most people follow the 12 noon to 8 pm eating window for convenience sake. Get accustomed to intermittent fasting before you start restricting your carbohydrate intake as you don’t want to shock your body with sudden ketosis.
2. Reduce your carbohydrate consumption gradually.
Most of us are following the standard 2000-calorie diet. This translates to 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day. Immediately going down to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day is a huge leap. The sudden dietary change may lead to unhealthy eating habits and cause you to crave sweets. Thus, it would be best to start with 150 grams of carbohydrates per day in the first week. Since the change is not too big, your body may adapt easily. In the second week, go down to 100 grams. The leap from 100 grams to the desired 50 grams could be difficult, so give yourself another week. In the fourth week, you’ll be ready to start restricting your carbohydrate intake to 50 grams per day. After two weeks of following the keto diet, you may or may not end your intermittent fasting.
3. Eat high-fibre-low-carb plant-based foods – Keto Diet Vegetables.
Dietary fibres are technically carbohydrates. However, the required enzymes needed to break down the dietary fibre into absorbable carbohydrates is absent in humans. Thus, food such as the cucumber, cauliflower, and mushrooms, are your best friend. They are considered as keto diet vegetables. There are more high-fibre-low-carb foods out there, just do a quick internet search. The dietary fibres in these kinds of food would simply take up space in the stomach which makes you feel full. However, they don’t contribute much when it comes to carbs and calories. Basically, these foods act like fillers. The only difference is that they are packed with vitamins and minerals.
4. Eat a lot of healthy fats.
Not all fats are good, and not all fats are bad. The polyunsaturated and monounsaturated kind of fat, those found in fatty fish, avocado, nuts, etc. are the good kind of fats, so you should eat a lot of these kinds of fat. Saturated fat is kind of in the grey area, so you should minimize your consumption of this kind of fat. They are mostly present in butter, red meat, etc. Trans-fat is just unhealthy, you should eliminate the consumption of trans fat. Milk and meat products may contain trans-fat but their amounts are small. To be on the safe side, eat red meat and dairy in moderation. You should never consume artificial trans-fat like hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Fats are important for you because this is your body’s main energy source. They also help you feel satisfied which prevents you from overeating.
5. If possible do not snack
The longer your body goes without food, the longer it stays in ketosis. If you’re still having a hard time adjusting. You may eat snacks but choose keto-friendly snacks like nuts; we will be discussing more on this as we go.
Exercise increases our body’s metabolism and may increase ketone production. You don’t need to go to the gym and do heavy exercises. 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity spread out over the course of a week can encourage ketosis. But if you want to engage in vigorous-intensity activities then even 75 minutes of it per week is would also get you into ketosis.
7. Get enough sleep and manage stress
If you’re a mindless stress eater. Like a zombie that keeps on saying ‘snacks’ instead of ‘brains’. Then you have to address your sleep problems and stress first before you could begin with the diet. It is very difficult to follow this diet if you’re stressed out or sleep deprived as it requires a bit of mental discipline. It’s hard to muster the will to resist temptations and follow through with the diet when we don’t have the right mental state.
Aside from this, sleep deprivation and stress has been linked to weight gain. You may not lose weight even with the keto diet if you’re constantly sleep-deprived and stressed out.
Ketogenic Diet Variants
The main focus of the keto diet is to encourage ketosis and to switch your body’s main energy source from glucose to fats. Due to this, it is quite possible to change certain aspects of the diet to better suit some specific needs.
1. Standard keto diet
Since we’re going to talk about some keto diet variants, let’s talk about the standard one first. The standard ketogenic diet is described as a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet. The typical diet has the following acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges or AMDR: 20% – 35% fats, 10% – 35% proteins, and 45% – 65% carbohydrates. The standard ketogenic diet, on the other hand, has the following AMRD: 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. That’s all there is to it. If you follow this AMRD then you’re technically following a standard keto diet.
2. High-protein keto diet
There are those who want to experience the benefits of keto diet and the benefits of a high protein diet simultaneously. Most often, those who want to lose weight and build up muscle would want to follow a diet such as the high-protein keto diet. I guess we could tell from the name that this is a diet similar to the Standard Keto Diet but with more protein. Please refer to the table below:
Table 1. The difference in the acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges between the typical diet, the standard keto diet, and the high-protein keto diet
|Typical Diet||Standard Keto Diet||High-protein Keto|
|Carbohydrates||45% – 65%||5%||5%|
|Proteins||10% – 35%||20%||35%|
|Fats||20% – 35%||75%||60%|
For a 2000-calorie high-protein keto diet, you’re expected to eat 120 grams of protein, 130 grams of fat, and 50 grams of carbohydrates each day. This diet may not be as effective at achieving ketosis compared to the standard keto diet, for protein can be converted to glucose. Nevertheless, this diet may still lead to significant weight loss and muscle gains when paired with an effective muscle-building exercise routine.
3. Cyclic keto diet
Basically, the Cyclic Keto Diet is the same as the standard keto diet. The only difference is the inclusion of a 2-day cheat day. Dieters who would follow the Cyclic keto diet will limit themselves to 50 grams of carbohydrate for 5 days. In the remaining 2 days of the week, they are allowed to eat 140 to 160 grams of carbohydrates.
If you’re only here for the fat loss, then this diet is not for you. This diet is specifically designed for athletes so that their performance wouldn’t be affected. Athletes need the 2-day carbohydrate re-feed because they need to replenish the glycogen in their muscles. This glycogen is important to the athletes because they dictate the performance of the athletes. If they train or compete when their muscles are glycogen-depleted, then they may lose the needed muscle power to attain peak performance.
If you’re not an athlete and not as active as an athlete then you should stay away from this diet. The 2-day carbohydrate refeed may stop your ketosis. Athletes, on the other hand, would almost immediately use up the 140 to 160 grams of carbs so their ketosis is not affected.
4. Targeted Keto Diet
This type of diet is the same as the Standard Keto Diet so you would still reap all of the benefits of keto diet. However, the Targeted Keto Diet allows dieters to consume carbohydrates 30 minutes to an hour before working out. The carbohydrate load’s purpose is to provide a quick strength boost to the dieter’s muscles.
The established carbohydrate load is between 25 to 50 grams. Once you’ve eaten the carbohydrate load, you need to make sure that you burn all of the calories generated by the carbs. This is one drawback for this diet.
5. Keto Diet Vegan and Keto Diet Vegetarian
Let’s get things straight first. Vegans are not the same as vegetarians. Vegans would not consume any animal or animal-derived products such as meats, eggs, and dairy. Vegetarians, on one hand, may eat animal-derived products like egg and dairy.
For a restrictive diet such as vegan and vegetarian diets. Following a ketogenic diet might be extra challenging as the Keto Diet is heavily reliant on animal-based and animal-derived food products. However, this does not mean that combining vegan and keto, or vegetarian and keto, is not possible.
Avocado and nuts are both vegan and vegetarian, and they both pack a lot of healthy fats. Tofu and mushrooms, these two contain a lot of protein and are plant-based. So it is still possible but may require a lot of planning.
Keto Diet – What to Eat?
One of the challenges that come with switching to a keto diet is knowing what foods to eat and in what portions. With that said, we compiled a keto diet food list to aid you the next time you would go to the grocery.
- Cheddar Cheese
- Heavy Cream
- Plain Greek Yogurt
Keto Diet Foods for Protein
- Chicken thigh
- Ground Beef
Keto Diet Vegetables
- Green Peppers
- Bok Choy
Acceptable Fruits for Keto
Keto-Healthy Nuts and Seeds
Keto Diet Meal Plan
The Keto Diet is a challenging diet. It’s quite easy to mess up which results in you giving up on the diet. For this reason, we recommend that you prepare a meal plan.
If you’re following the 16:8 intermittent fasting then you may skip breakfast. It is highly likely that you would be compelled to eat only 2 meals a day. Most keto dieters report increased satiety which discourages food consumption; this may happen to you once your body starts to undergo ketosis.
Always check the labels, avoid foods that have added sugars in them. It may not be obvious at times for the manufacturers would use technical names. Familiarize yourself with these names: Dextrose, Fructose, Galactose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose, and Sucrose. There are about 50 of these ‘hidden’ added sugars. We suggest that you keep a list in your smartphone.
We discourage snacking, and you may not want to eat snacks but just to be sure we added some keto diet snacks to the meal plan.
A 7-day Keto Diet meal planwould look like this:
|Keto Diet Breakfast||Keto Diet Snacks||Keto Diet Lunch||Keto Diet Snacks||Keto Diet Dinner|
|Day 1||Keto English Breakfast||Sunflower seeds||Spinach Salad||Celery sticks w/ guacamole dip||Grilled Chicken with sauteed cauliflower|
|Day 2||Eggplant cheese omelette||Seaweed strips||Grilled tuna with avocado||Beef Jerky||Sauteed bok choy and oyster mushroom|
|Day 3||Bulletproof coffee||Almonds and Walnuts||Tuna ceviche with coconut milk and tomatoes||Dairy-free keto vanilla ice cream||Keto cheeseburger|
|Day 4||Keto Mushroom Omelet||Plain Greek Yogurt||Buttered shrimp with buttered veggies on the side||Almond milk-Berry smoothie||Roasted chicken with butter and sauteed mushroom|
|Day 5||Keto Kohlslaw with keto mayo||Berries (strawberry, blueberry, or raspberry)||Beef burger with lettuce top and avocado||Almond milk-chia seeds pudding||Baked tofu with sauteed mushrooms and vegetables|
|Day 6||Unsweetened avocado and chocolate paste with cherry toppings||Two hard-boiled eggs||Chicken caesar salad with keto mayo||Low-carb sliced bell pepper and cheese wraps||Low-carb vegan kebab wraps|
|Day 7||Keto Egg muffins with tomatoes||Baked Kale Chips||Keto Sushi (Avocado replaces rice)||Beef Kebab with green pepper and mushroom|
Usually, you don’t need to count your calories when it comes to the keto diet. It’s not easy to exceed your daily caloric needs when following a keto diet because you’ll feel satiated before you could. However, this does not mean that exceeding your daily caloric need is no longer possible. Pay close to attention to your portions. Aside from this, cease food consumption when you feel full.
This meal plan is not set in stone, you may rearrange it to keep it interesting. For example, you may do day 5’s plan for day 1.
Keto Diet Recipes
We picked some of our favourites in the Keto Diet Meal Plan and prepared the recipes just for you! How cool is that?
Some keto dieters, especially the beginners, may miss some of their old comfort foods. So here are some keto diet recipes for beginners:
1. Creamy dairy-free keto vanilla ice cream
Who says you can’t eat ice cream when you’re on a keto diet? Aside from keto dieters, this dairy-free keto vanilla ice cream is perfect for those who are lactose intolerant and for vegetarians as well.
- 6 large eggs yolks
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 1¼ cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1⁄3 cup xylitol
- 1⁄3 cup mild-flavoured oil avocado oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1⁄8 tsp Himalayan salt (optional)
- Prepare a saucepan and place it over low heat. Add the coconut and almond milk. Stir this mixture then and add the egg yolks. Continue with the stirring until the mixture thickens.
- You may or may not add ⅓ cup of xylitol as sweetener, or you could use cinnamon. Continue to whisk this mixture for 10 minutes.
- When the mixture would begin to coat the back of the spoon, remove the saucepan from the fire. DO NOT OVERCOOK this mixture as you want to avoid cooking the eggs.
- Add the oil and vanilla. You may add salt or not, it’s up to you. Mix everything with a blender then place this mixture inside a refrigerator to cool.
- Use an ice cream maker to create ice cream out of the cooled mixture.
2. Keto cheeseburger
Another comfort food that beginners may miss eating, is the cheeseburger. This recipe proves that burgers are not off-limits for keto dieters.
1 tbsp olive oil
fresh cilantro, to taste
1½ lbs ground beef
7 oz. shredded cheese, divided
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp paprika powder
2 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 oz. butter
Salt & pepper, to taste
5 oz. lettuce
¾ cup vegan mayo
4 tbsp pickled jalapeños, chopped
2½ oz. sliced dill pickles
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Chop the tomatoes, scallions, avocado, and cilantro. Mix them in a small bowl and drizzle some olive oil. Sprinkle some Himalayan salt and mix thoroughly.
- Mix the seasoning, cheese, and ground beef in a bowl
- Shape up the burger patty by hand
- Grill the burger patty and season with salt and pepper
- Once the burgers are cooked, serve it with lettuce toppings, vegan mayo, chopped jalapeños, dill pickles, and dijon mustard
How long should I do Keto?
The body may require an adjustment phase before it can put on the ketosis to high gear. It may take around 2 weeks of carb restriction before your body would adapt to the keto diet. Aside from this, it may take around 3 months to get the full-blown benefits of the keto diet.
Keto Diet Side effects
It’s not all sunshine for the keto diet. There are possible side effects that you would experience as you go along with this diet.
The switch from glucose to ketones is kind of a rough transition for the body. You may experience headaches, fatigue, malaise, palpitations, dizziness, brain fog, irritability, lack of motivation, and cramping. However, these side effects don’t last long. This is what most keto dieters would call the Keto Flu
You may also experience increased thirst as water retention would lessen. On top of this, the ketones may add an unpleasant smell to your breath.
Although the keto diet is still surrounded by controversy, there is a lot of evidence that makes this diet worth trying. This diet is effective for weight loss and comes with a lot of benefits but it is difficult to follow. However, we could make the diet more manageable if we were going to plan our meals ahead. Although this diet might emphasize the consumption of animal-based products, it is still accessible for vegans and vegetarians. You may have to face side-effects that may make it difficult for you to continue with the diet but these side-effects are usually short-term.