f you’re looking for a new diet, you’ve probably heard of the ketogenic diet, or keto diet. This is a low carb, high fat diet that’s engineered to help your body burn fat, as well as offering other health benefits.
Here’s a quick overview of how the keto diet works.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a diet that’s very low in carbs, generally limiting them to less than one percent of total daily calories. It relies on fat to make up the balance, much like the Atkins diet and similar low-carb diets.
The main difference is the level of carb restriction. The Atkins diet, for example, still allows you to eat carbs. It just limits the level of carbs you’re able to eat. The ketogenic diet, on the other hand, limits carbohydrate intake to nearly zero.
When done correctly, this will put the body into a state of ketosis, where it relies on fat as a source of energy. This makes it easy to burn fat, and also helps treat some diseases.
Not only that, but ketogenic foods tend to be very filling, so you can lower your calorie intake without feeling hungry.
Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
So, why would you want to go on the ketogenic diet in the first place? There are several good reasons. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of going into a state of ketosis.
- Weight loss. This is the most common reason people go on the ketogenic diet. By encouraging your body to burn fat, you make it easy to shed those unwanted extra pounds. First you go into ketosis, then you lower your calorie intake, and your own metabolism will do the rest.
- Diabetes. In some cases, a ketogenic diet can help treat cases of diabetes and prediabetes. It does this both by improving natural insulin sensitivity and by helping you lose weight. In some cases, diabetes patients are able to discontinue treatment altogether after sticking with the keto diet for awhile.
- Epilepsy. The ketogenic diet is frequently used to treat epilepsy. It significantly reduces the frequency of seizures, especially in children.
- Cancer. Certain types of cancer rely entirely on glucose for energy. As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, a ketogenic diet can be used to “starve” these cancers.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies have shown that the ketogenic diet slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This research is by no means conclusive, but it’s certainly promising.
- Parkinson’s disease. One study found that the keto diet relieves Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Again, this is early research that is not conclusive.
- Brain injuries, heart disease, and more. Research on the ketogenic diet is still a new field. With each year that passes, scientists are discovering more diseases that can be treated or cured by eliminating carbohydrates.
Foods to Avoid
On the ketogenic diet, the rules are simple: avoid any foods with carbs. At least, the rules seem simple until you start checking the nutrition labels on all your favorite foods. It seems like just about everything has at least a few grams of carbs.
Here’s a short list of foods and beverages to steer clear of on the ketogenic diet:
- Grains. Throw out all that bread, pasta, rice, and quinoa.
- Starches. Get rid of your potatoes, carrots, beans, and chick peas.
- Fruit. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but the fruit sugars will knock you out of ketosis.
- Commercially-made sweets. Any pastries, candies, or cookies must be made with stevia or other keto-friendly sweetener.
- Juice, milk, soda, and other sugary drinks. This also includes fancy, sugary coffees and cocktails.
- Most artificially sweetened foods. Most will put you out of ketosis, even if they have zero carbs.
- Most condiments and sauces. Lettuce is ketogenic, but most dressings are full of carbs. Even if you’re just using a dab, check the nutrition facts. You’ll be surprised what you find.
- Most alcoholic beverages. Most alcoholic beverages are high in carbohydrates, and should be avoided.
- Unhealthy fats. Canola oil and other cheap vegetable oils are ketogenic, but they’re unhealthy. Stick to healthy fats.
Foods to Enjoy
We’ve talked about the foods you shouldn’t be eating. Here’s what you should be on your menu when you’re on the ketogenic diet.
- Meat, meat, and more meat. This is a high-fat diet, but you still need protein, and meat is a great source.
- Fatty fish. When it comes to fish, more fat almost always means more vitamins. Salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish are rich in nutrients and keto-friendly.
- Butter, cheese, and cream. These high fat dairy products are also rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- Eggs. Free range is best if you can find it, but any eggs will do.
- Seeds and nuts. Not only are nuts rich in nutrients, they’re also full of healthy fats.
- Healthy fats. Load up on olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, and avocado oil.
- Most vegetables. You don’t want to eat any starchy vegetables, but anything that grows above the ground is fair game. Avocadoes are an excellent choice because of their high fat content.
- Water, coffee, or tea. Use cream instead of milk and stevia instead of sugar.
Clear liquors and dry white wines. These alcoholic beverages are very low in carbs and are safe to drink in moderation.