Looking for the ultimate low-carb diet? Well, the Ketogenic Diet is your answer.
This ultra-popular eating plan turns conventional wisdom on its head. No more carbs, a moderate amount of protein, and lots and lots of healthy fats.
Really, it’s that simple.
Keto requires you to reduce your carbs to a minimum, just about 35 grams per day. Healthy fats, in turn, make up about 70-80 percent of the calories you eat. The rest of your food intake: 5-10 percent carbs and 15-20 percent proteins.
So are there really benefits to eating most fat?
The research suggests yes, indeed, there are many. The ketogenic diet is associated with weight loss, reduced appetite, and increased mental clarity. Heck, researchers have also found evidence that the diet even fights diseases like epilepsy, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Now, you might be wondering: How can you eat mostly fats and still lose weight? Or maybe, does a high-fat diet really fight disease?
It can and here’s why: Keto takes away carbs as an energy source for the body. (In fact, you’ll only be eating about 35 grams of carbs per day. That’s equal to about a single apple’s worth of carbohydrate.)
As a result, the body needs to find a new energy source. And that source is fat.
Therefore, on a ketogenic diet, the liver starts to convert fat into fatty acids and ketones, which then become the body’s primary energy source. In other words, the body burns fat (rather than carbs) to fuel itself – it’s the ultimate fat-burning diet.
Does that sounds like an eating plan you might be interested in? If so, you probably have a lot of questions like:
- How does the Ketogenic diet work?
- What are the benefits of keto?
- Does keto help you lose weight and fight disease?
- What can I eat on the ketogenic diet?
This beginner’s guide to the ketogenic diet offers you an in-depth look at how keto works, the science behind it, and how you can get started on a ketogenic eating plan today.
The Ketogenic Diet For Beginners: A Brief Overview
In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb diet. The majority of your calories come from fats – about 70-80 percent.
Some of the staple foods of the diet include fish, eggs, cheese, oils, nuts, heavy cream, and avocados. Carbs, on the other hand, are nearly all eliminated. No rice, grain, sweets or fruits.
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So what’s the point of reducing carbohydrates so drastically?
Basically, by cutting carbs to nearly nothing, we force the body to enter into a state of “ketosis.”
When we’re in ketosis, the body has used up all its glucose (carbohydrates) as energy. As a result, the body begins to convert fats into fatty acids and ketones, which it then uses as fuel. We’re in ketosis when we start burning fat for fuel, and ketosis is the primary goal of the diet.
Signs Your Body Is Using Fat as Fuel
How can you tell the diet is working? Well, there are some common “symptoms” the body displays when in a state of ketosis.
When you experience these signs, you can assume that ketosis has set in, and the body is using fat as its primary fuel source. A few of the most common signs include:
- Bad Breath – Yes, it’s true. The ketogenic diet can cause bad breath. But this is primarily due to the increased ketone levels in the body, which are excreted in our breath.
- Increased Urination: Keto has diuretic properties, and therefore, you might find yourself making more frequent bathroom trips. This can contribute to dry mouth and dehydration – so drink lots of water.
- Reduced Hunger: Keto is a powerful appetite suppressant, and when in ketosis, we tend to have reduced hunger pangs. If you’re not hungry at lunchtime, that’s OK; it’s probably working.
Keto Diet 101: What Foods Can You Eat?
The ketogenic diet focuses almost entirely on macronutrients, i.e. carbs, fats and proteins. Micronutrients (things like zinc, or Vitamin C) aren’t considered – which most nutritionists consider the diet’s one downfall.
To replace many of the micronutrients that they don’t receive, many keto dieters use high-quality multi-vitamins and supplements.
But besides a multivitamin, you can eat almost whatever you want, as long as it comes close to achieving about a ratio of about 75% fats, 20% protein and 5% carbs. In fact, even if you were to eat 4,000 calories at this ratio, your body would remain in a state of ketosis.
What You Can’t Eat
- Grains – Rice, quinoa, wheat, corn
- Tubers – Potatoes, yams
- Fruit – Apples, bananas, mangos, kiwis
- Sugar – Raw sugar, agave, maple syrup, honey
What You Can Eat
- Meats – Fish, poultry, eggs, beef, pork
- Low Glycemic Veggies – Raw spinach, kale, and broccoli
- Diary – Cheese, yogurt, butter, heavy cream
- Nuts and Seeds – Walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds
- Other Fats – Olive oil, coconut oil, saturated fats
Ultimately, the key is keeping the fat-to-carb ratio in check. And you can eat many of your favorite foods, while you do it.
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Aid Weight Loss?
If your body is burning fat as fuel, you’re probably losing weight right?
Well, the short answer is yes. But really it depends on how you follow the diet. (Simply stated, you can’t eat 4,000 calories of heavy cream every day and still lose weight.) But if you maintain a healthy caloric intake, the diet does actually aid in weight loss in a few specific ways:
- Appetite Suppression
Because you’re eating a diet rich in denser calorie sources, the ketogenic diet has been shown to keep people feeling fuller, longer. One reason is dense foods undergo a longer metabolic process, i.e. the body takes longer to convert them to fuel, and as a result, you stay full.
Here’s one way to look at it: If you were to drink 500 calories of Coke, or eat 500 calories of chicken breast, which would you burn faster? Obviously, you’d burn through the sugar from the soda (hence, the fast sugar crash). Calorie-dense foods keep you fuller longer.
- Hormone Regulation
The keto diet (and other low-carb diets) has also been shown to reduce CCK production. CCK is a hormone that’s released when you eat. The hormone signals to the brain that you’re full. As you lose weight, you eat fewer calories, and the body releases less CCK, i.e. you don’t feel full as quickly. This is one reason so many diets are hard to keep; hormones are telling you it’s time to eat all the time.
A difference about the ketogenic diet, research has shown that CCK levels are sustainable; the hormone doesn’t drop in production when in ketosis. This maximizes your ability to eat less, without always feeling hungry.
- Increased Fat Burning
Ketosis is a lot like fasting. When you fast, your body doesn’t have its normal fuel supplies from food. Therefore, the body starts to burn fat stores for energy, and it burns it more quickly than it would during normal dieting.
In other words, you can lose fat more quickly on the ketogenic diet. That’s why it’s popular for people who have reached weight loss plateaus, or those who want to get rid of stubborn fat.
- Regulation of Blood Sugar
Dramatic spikes in blood sugar levels – which can be amplified by refined sugars and simple carbohydrates – leave you feeling hungry. The ketogenic diet includes many healthy fats and proteins, as well as low-glycemic veggies and berries (i.e. they’re lower in sugar.)
In other words, the diet helps stabilize your blood sugar, which prevents the spikes that can encourage you to load up on sugars and carbs.
Other Benefits of the Keto Diet
Appetite suppression and weight loss are certainly key benefits for many. But beyond dropping a couple pounds, dieters on the keto plan can also expect a few additional benefits. The most common include:
When you follow the keto diet, your hormone levels stabilize. One benefit of this is that your skin tends to clear up. High-carb eating has also been associated with acne and other skin conditions, which suggests cutting carbs may help.
Drops in Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Research has shown that a high-fat diet can help to improve triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Additionally, keto may increase levels of good cholesterol (HDL), compared to low-fat diets.
Energy can become sustainable when on a keto diet, for the simple fact that the body takes longer to consume fuel. High-carb diets are often associated with large swings in energy.
Reversing Insulin Resistance
A lot of research has been published that shows eating keto can help people lower insulin levels. That’s why the diet may help conditions like diabetes and PCOS.
Ketogenic and Disease: How High-Fat Helps Repair the Body
Our health is directly related to what we eat, and the Western diet is making us sick. Obesity-related diseases cause nearly 3 million deaths per year in the U.S. And nearly 50 million are affected by a metabolic disorder.
The truth is: Many of diseases can be reversed by making healthier eating choices.
But the keto diet may take it a step further. This ultra-low-carb diet has been shown to help or reverse a range of other conditions, including:
The Ancient Greeks were the first to discover fasting as a cure for epilepsy. And since keto produces a similar effect to fasting on the body, it makes sense that this diet may help people who suffer from epileptic seizures.
In fact, research suggests that a low-carb diet might help improve seizures in up to 50 percent of sufferers, and even help about 15% become seizure-free. One reason: A ketogenic diet may change brain patterns that cause seizures.
Metabolic syndrome is highly common in the U.S., and dietary changes are one of the most commonly prescribed methods for overcoming the disease. Typically there are five tell-tale signs, and people who experience at least three are commonly diagnosed with the disorder. Signs include:
- High triglycerides
- High blood sugar when fasting
- Low levels of good cholesterol (HDL)
- High blood pressure
Research has shown a ketogenic diet may help with all of these symptoms. For example, one study found that following the keto diet for 12 weeks resulted in a 14-percent reduction in weight, and cut triglycerides in half, among other health benefits.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that causes a number of symptoms, including infertility, period irregularity, and difficulty losing weight.
A main reason for the difficulty losing weight: Insulin resistance.
The keto diet, which helps stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels, may help reverse the condition, and several studies have found evidence low-carb can help. One study, for example, found that after a 6-month trial, participants experienced a 12-percent weight loss, lower fasting insulin levels, and increases in reproductive hormones.
People with both Type I and Type II diabetes may benefit from low-carb diets, due to the diet’s ability to stabilize blood sugar levels. Numerous studies have shown that a low-carb diet can help.
In fact, one study showed that nearly all participants were able to stop taking diabetes medication, following a 16-week study. Participants also experienced weight loss, a drop in blood pressure, and reduced triglycerides.
Getting Started with Keto Eating: Diet Plans to Follow
Alright, you want to give it a shot. But where do you start?
In reality, there are several variations of the ketogenic diet. The most well-known (which is been talked about most in this guide) is the classic keto diet, which features a 75/25/5 fat-to-protein-to-carb ratio. Other common keto plans include:
Targeted Ketogenic Diet
This diet follows a similar approach as the classic keto diet, but the key difference is that TKD adds carbs. In particular, the targeted diet allows carbs to be eaten about 30-60 minutes before exercise. This provides energy for exercise, and most of the added carbs are burned during your workout.
Cyclic Ketogenic Diet
The cyclic approach merges two diets: Ketogenic and a high-carb diet. Essentially, you switch between ketogenic eating and carbo-loading every other day. There are many variations, as well, including a 5-day keto / 2-day high-carb cycle.
High-Protein Ketogenic Diet
This approach is similar to the standard diet, which its ratio of 75% fat / 20% protein / 5% carbs. The big difference: More protein is added. The ratio changes to about 60% fat / 35% protein / 5% carbs.
Each of these keto eating plans offer benefits, and but with all of them, you receive the benefit of being in ketosis for long periods of time.
Experience Weight Loss and Health Benefits on the Ketogenic Diet
Eating keto isn’t for everyone, but for many, it’s a reliable diet plan for losing (or sustaining) weight loss and feeling good. The key: Be sure you consult with a healthcare professional, to make sure the diet is right for you.
Bottom line, now you know: You can lose weight and feel good eating high-fat foods.