What is the Ketogenic Diet?
Ketogenic Dieting is a popular and effective low-carb, high-protein option used to achieve quick weight loss along with a host of chronic conditions such as inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy, and dementia. This diet has been shown to improve or even reverse these health conditions and is quickly becoming one of the most popular diet and lifestyle options.
Keto diets work via a metabolic process referred to as ketosis. As a dieter dramatically reduces his or her carbohydrate and sugar intake, ketosis begins to occur when the body no longer has enough glucose stored to be used as an energy source. When the body’s preferred fuel source (carbohydrates) are no longer present in the body, this results in a build-up of acids called ketones. The liver begins to produce these ketones which triggers the body to become a fat burning machine. Fat is now being burned at an accelerated rate as its own energy source rather than consumed carbohydrates. As a result, quick, visible weight loss for most dieters who stick with it, making it one of the best options for obese patients.
What are Keto Diet Foods?
Keto diet plans may vary, but the basis for each is the restriction of high-glycemic foods. The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking that determines how quickly the body breaks down carbs into glucose and is often used as a staple in diabetic diets. High glycemic foods quickly break down into glucose, spiking blood sugar levels. Consistently high blood sugar levels ultimately result in weight gain, insulin resistance, and inflammation. Low glycemic foods on the other hand, take longer to break down and have little to no impact on blood sugar levels, making them suitable for weight stabilization.
The lower number, the better. Keto dieters consume foods in the low-to-medium glycemic range:
- 55 or less = Low (good)
- 56- 69 = Medium
- 70 or higher = High (bad)
Here are a few examples high glycemic foods to avoid on the keto diet:
- Flour-based pastas
- White Bread
- Fried foods
- Starches (Russet potatoes, French fries)
- Hamburger buns
- Pastries & desserts (donuts, bagels)
- Added Sugars/Sweeteners/Corn Syrups
- Sports drinks
- Some Fruits
- White Rice
- Certain cereals
- Snack foods (popcorn, chips)
Low-to-medium glycemic foods include:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat bread
- Sweet potatoes, yams
- Beans, lentils legumes, nuts, seeds
- All vegetables (carrots, spinach, broccoli, onions, etc.)
- Lean meats
What does a Healthy Keto Diet Plan Look Like?
Keto dieters often replace carbohydrates with higher portions of fat. The popularity of the Atkins or South Beach Diet led many dieters to maintain low-carb, high-fat diets by ordering burgers without buns for example. While weight loss was still common, keto diets should remain balanced with plenty of vegetables and lean protein in sensible amounts to avoid kidney issues or nutritional deficiencies. The average keto diet reduces carb intake to 20-50 grams per day, and limits sugars to under 20 grams for two to four weeks. Afterward, carbs can be gradually increased, but a low-carb lifestyle should be maintained to keep the weight off.
Protein intake is also important on keto, as it provides satiety and protects muscle mass. Many people drastically increase their protein intake on keto, but sticking close to the RDA suggestion of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (or you can use this USDA calculator) is the safest way to proceed. Overconsumption of protein can have negative impacts on your kidneys, which is why seeking the advice of a physician is best before embarking on a keto diet.
Are All Carbohydrates Bad?
There is a difference between refined carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Refined or processed carbohydrates are generally considered high glycemic foods such as snack foods, breads, desserts, pastries, white rice and pastas to name a few. You’ll want to minimize consumption of refined carbohydrates in order to see results on a keto diet.
Complex carbs are needed for energy as well as muscle growth. Consuming complex carbs won’t raise your blood sugar levels and can actually aid in weight loss by supplying the body with much-needed fiber, b-vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. Complex carbs can be found in brown rice, quinoa, rye bread, vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils.
How Can the Keto Diet Treat Obesity?
The keto diet has been shown to be very effective in reducing weight for obese patients. Studies show that body mass (BMI) tends to decrease significantly while other health markers such as improved good cholesterol levels, decreased triglycerides, and normalized blood glucose are common. Not only does keto aid in weight loss due to the triggering of ketosis which leads to accelerated fat burning, it can also have a positive effect on overeating behaviors. Lowering one’s refined carbohydrate intake and replacing it with more protein and vegetables makes one feel fuller and more satisfied for longer periods of time. This reduces instances of overeating, snacking, and emotional eating. Sugary, carb-laden foods tend to make one hungrier and prone to addictive eating behavior by triggering a dopamine reaction in the brain, which cuts off the body’s natural mechanism that stops us from eating when we’re already full. Though keto referred to as a diet, a long-term, balanced low-carb lifestyle is often recommended for obese patients and is not linked to any significant side effects.
Going keto can also reduce levels of inflammation in the body, which is a contributor to obesity. Furthermore, reducing inflammation can decrease common pain symptoms associated with obesity and lead to increased physical activity once pain is reduced which helps burn fat faster.
Additionally, many obese patients are suffering from metabolic syndrome, which occurs when too many carbohydrate foods are consumed over time but are not burned off due to lack of physical activity. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of symptoms ranging from high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high LDL cholesterol levels among others. Adopting a keto diet can significantly improve the efficiency of the metabolism and improve overall health markers.
Are There Any Keto Diet Warnings?
A doctor-supervised keto diet program is the best way to ensure that you are embarking on a safe and healthy journey. Reducing one’s intake of carbs can initially result in fatigue, exhaustion and lower energy levels overall as the body adjusts to ketosis. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘keto flu.’ This adjustment can take from one to three weeks depending on individual metabolism. Therefore, it’s important to have a weight loss physician outline a customized and comprehensive keto program to promote nutritional balance.
An elimination of all carbs can actually do more harm than good if not properly monitored, this is especially true for obese patients. Carbs are important for muscle preservation and fueling physical activity. Those who lift weights as part of their exercise routine, need carbs to maintain physical activity and protect their muscles as well. Muscle tissue is also key in weight loss as muscle accelerates fat burning, so for active dieters, carb cycling (eating carbs on workout days only) might be the best option.
Those with diabetes may struggle with low-carb diets since their glucose levels can dip to dangerously low levels. It is important for diabetic patients to incorporate measurable amounts of carbs into their diets to keep their blood sugar regulated. Additionally, those who suffer from hypoglycemia may be at risk for anxiety, heart palpitations, fatigue, and other symptoms when removing carbs from the diet.