The keto diet has consistently emerged among the top 5 popular diet forms for a reason. It works and is easier to start with this diet form. It has many health benefits. However, some learning curve is involved, and it is moderately challenging to switch to this diet form.1
Though its popularity has risen recently, it is not a new diet. The first studies reporting the health benefits of this diet form were published in the 1920s when people used it to manage resistant cases of epilepsy and diabetes.2
Therefore, this diet form is not just good for weight loss. It has many beneficial effects on metabolic health. It is good for countering diabetes and even brain health issues.3,4
What is a Keto Diet?
The Keto diet is primarily about reducing the intake of carbs. Instead, it recommends using fats to meet energy needs. Therefore, the keto diet is about consuming proteins as usual (30%), considerably reducing intake of carbs (limiting carb intake to 5%), and increasing fat intake (65% or more).
When practicing a ketogenic diet for weight loss, limiting daily calories intake may also help.
Of course, this means significant dietary changes. It means giving up bread, rice, potatoes, sugar, honey, and much more. One has to give up many commonly consumed foods due to their high carb content. One would even need to limit the intake of fruits.
However, one can increase the intake of butter, lard, poultry products, meat, chicken, bird meat, avocadoes, olives, nuts, and other foods rich in proteins and fats.
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
The keto diet works by inducing ketosis. The human body primarily depends on carbs for energy needs. It converts carbs people eat to glucose and then uses mainly glucose to fulfill its energy requirements.
However, the body has an alternative energy pathway, which it mostly uses in the case of energy deficiency, like during prolonged fasting. It can also utilize fats to produce ketone bodies and use these ketone bodies to produce energy.
The ketogenic diet is intentionally switching your body to this alternative energy pathway. It means forcing the body to use fats for energy needs. The body does this by converting fats to ketone bodies in the liver, which is why this diet is called Keto.
This switching to fats for energy needs results in a sharp decline in blood glucose levels. It also promotes weight loss and has many other benefits for metabolic health in the long term.
How to Start a Keto Diet?
Getting started with the Keto diet is a bit challenging. Though the concept is pretty straightforward: limiting your carbs intake and boosting your fat intake, this is challenging since carbs are everywhere. It means giving up many commonly consumed foods, significant dietary shifts, and learning.
Do Not Eat
To get started, one must give up carbs-rich foods, as high-carb foods will prevent ketosis induction. Thus, one would need almost to give up grains (bread, rice), oatmeal, quinoa, corn flour, tortillas, potatoes, beans, pasta, sugars, honey, sweets, and most fruits.
Instead, one has to start consuming foods rich in proteins and fats like full-fat dairy products, eggs and poultry, meat, non-starchy vegetables (e.g., Broccoli, cauliflower), coconut and olive oil, avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds.
Though the keto diet is easy to understand, it is challenging to practice. Cutting down carbs gradually over a few weeks is a good idea to avoid fatigue and flu-like symptoms (called keto flu). Therefore, make a plan to reduce 5-10% of carbs a week to reach a target of cutting down carbs to 5% of total calorie intake in about four weeks. This gradual switching will help prevent many issues people face initially.
Prepare for meals ahead
A ketogenic diet has a learning curve involved. Therefore, it is a good idea to plan your meals beforehand. Most people who successfully use the ketogenic diet for weight loss plan their meals a few days ahead. It would be better to have a weekly diet plan prepared beforehand.
The Bottom Line
The Keto diet is an amazing and effective way to achieve weight loss, manage diabetes, and reduce the risk of metabolic health issues. It is also good for brain health. It may help prevent seizures in epilepsy, and researchers are even exploring its role in reducing dementia risk.
Although the concept of the keto diet is pretty simple, giving up carbs is not easy. It means giving up many foods and learning new ways of cooking and eating food. It is not a balanced diet and is low in dietary fiber and some vitamins. All this means that to enjoy its health benefits, one would need to learn a lot and implement this diet form gradually. Ultimately, the benefits of the ketogenic diet are worth it, particularly for those struggling with obesity and metabolic health issues.
- BDA. Top six diet trends of 2022. Accessed September 28, 2023. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/top-six-diet-trends-of-2022.html
- Li Z, Heber D. Ketogenic Diets. JAMA. 2020;323(4):386. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.18408
- Ting R, Dugré N, Allan GM, Lindblad AJ. Ketogenic diet for weight loss. Can Fam Physician. 2018;64(12):906.
- Ułamek-Kozioł M, Czuczwar SJ, Januszewski S, Pluta R. Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2510. doi:10.3390/nu11102510