Dieting is the act of restricting oneself to small amounts of food or special kinds of food in order to lose weight or to prevent/treat diseases such as diabetes. There are some diets which are characterised by highly restrictive food choices. Over the decades, several fad diets, such as the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet, have become popular in the market. These diets promise weight loss over a relatively short period of time. Some such diets lose their popularity once people realize that the weight loss is not long term. However, there are some diets which have long-lasting effects.
Diets such as the Mediterranean diet and the Keto diet have been endorsed by doctors as diets with scientific backing and have long-lasting effects. Mediterranean diet has been added by UNESCO into the ‘Representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ of many European countries.
Here we will discuss the Keto diet aka the Ketogenic diet – its advantages and risks, and the facts associated with it.
What is a Keto Diet and How Does it Work:
The Keto diet or ketogenic diet is a diet which is very rich in fat, but low in carbohydrates and moderate in protein.
Usually, when a person follows a low-carbohydrate diet, the body burns the fat stores and this leads to weight loss. However, a high-fat, low-carb diet forces the liver to convert fats to fatty acids, which in turn are converted to ketone bodies. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood leads to natural ‘ketosis’. These ketone bodies replace glucose as the main energy source and fuel for brain function. Maintaining optimal levels of ketone bodies is the key to a good keto diet. This diet was originally recommended for treatment of epilepsy in the pediatric population. Now it has become popular in the general population too.
Eating on a Keto Diet:
The keto diet recommends consuming just enough proteins for growth and maintenance of the body, only 20 to 30 calories from carbohydrates, and rest of energy from fats.
What to eat
- Very low-carb vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, zucchini, cauliflower, celery and broccoli.
- Meats such as fish, poultry, beef and lamb.
- Seeds and nuts.
- Low-sugar fruits such as berries, avocado, etc.
- Fats such as saturated fats, coconut oil, salad dressings, butter, olive oil, sour cream, cheese, ghee, etc.
What not to eat
- Eliminate all starchy foods such as wheat, rice, and corn.
- Fruits containing a high amount of sugar such as bananas, apples, and oranges.
- Tuberous vegetables.
- Sugar-containing products such as agave, honey, maple syrup, etc.
There is obvious weight loss since carbs are greatly restricted and body fats are used as a source of energy.
Better blood sugar control
Since the diet is basically low-carb, the amount of glucose consumed will be less, leading to better blood sugar control in diabetics.
Decreases insulin resistance
Low-carb consumption also decreases insulin production. This leads to a drop in circulating insulin levels, thereby decreasing the risk of developing prediabetes.
Improved mental focus
Since ketone bodies become the main fuel for the brain, the brain becomes sharper and mental focus improves.
Improved energy levels
Since fats are the best source of fuel for the body, once the body gets acclimatized to the keto diet, people claim to have increased energy levels and normalized hunger.
Benefits for epileptic patients
The keto diet has been most beneficial for children affected with epilepsy. Since ketone bodies are used as an alternative to glucose to fuel brain function, how the brain functions are significantly changed. Seizure frequency is reduced by more than 50% in half of the patients and more than 90% in one-third of patients. The effects were found to last even after weaning from the diet.
Ketosis has a diuretic effect on the body-flushing out electrolytes. So it is very important to drink more water and increase sodium intake.
One of the common side effects in leg cramps. It is highly encouraged to take vitamin and mineral supplements while following the keto diet.
Constipation is another common problem. Drinking water close to a gallon per day is recommended. Eating fibre-rich, non-starchy vegetables and taking probiotics is recommended.
Until the body becomes keto-adapted, people may experience some loss of strength and endurance, headaches, lethargy, and mental fogginess.
Keto flu is a temporary groggy feeling in new ketoers. It goes away in a few days. Symptoms include fatigue, headaches, nausea and cramps.
Some people experience keto rash and bad breath due to excretion of acetones (a type of ketone) in sweat and breath.
Expectations and Outcome:
Transitioning from a regular diet to a high-fat, low-carb diet can be difficult to fathom in the beginning, but it is really not as hard as it seems. A lot of low-carb food options are available. Usually, people take 2 weeks to get adjusted to the new diet. The results are amazing for most people–lowering of body weight and sugar, improved mental focus and energy levels. So readers, if you are really looking into various diet options, the keto diet can come out as a winner for you!