What is the Ketogenic Diet? Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet

Posted on Updated on 30 June, 2017

Ketogenic diet or keto diet is a form of low-carbohydrate diet which boosts the production of ketones in the liver and increases the energy of the body. The specialty of this diet lies in the fact that the entire body runs on fat as the insulin levels drop down and fat burning is increased significantly. Furthermore, you get a boost of energy and aren’t bothered by hunger pangs. The ketogenic diet is also called as a low carb and high-fat diet. When you eat high carb foods, they break down into glucose and insulin inside the body.

While glucose is easily absorbed and converted to energy, insulin processes the glucose in the bloodstream. Glucose is the primary source of energy, and so while it is in use, the fat takes a backseat and remains stored in different parts of the body until needed in future. In a high-carb diet, the body uses up all the available glucose and so, as you lower your carb intake the body goes into ketosis.

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is the body’s natural process which it initiates to help sustain itself when there is a low intake of food. The body breaks down the stored fats in the liver and begins to use it. The goal of a well-maintained ketogenic diet is to bring the body to a stage of active metabolism. However, to achieve this, you do not have to starve. You simply have to adopt a low carbohydrate diet without compromising the calorie intake.

This diet encourages the consumption of fats unlike the usual weight-loss diets and moderate amounts of protein while limiting the intake of carbs. This prompts the body to burn the ketones as these are the body’s primary source of energy. In other words, a Ketogenic diet boosts the body’s fat burning mechanism which helps you lose weight. The optimization of ketone levels in the body causes various health improvements like weight loss and mental and physical performance boosts.

Are You in Ketosis Yet?

Whether or not your diet has triggered the process of ketosis in your body is not always very easy to detect in the beginning. However, there are other ways of knowing if you are in ketosis yet or not. While the popular methods are using the urine strips and blood strips, they are often inaccurate. Instead, learn to recognize your symptoms. The body signals you with various signs like increased urination, dry mouth and bad breath for example.

Keto being a natural diuretic causes you to pee more often. A ketone molecule called acetoacetate is attributed with triggering frequent bathroom visits. This in turn, can cause you to feel thirstier and give you a dry mouth. To combat this, hydrate your system with plenty of water and don’t forget to replenish your electrolytes now and then.

The ketone body, acetone, can cause bad breath with an odor often described as an overly ripened fruit or a nail polish remover. However, it is only temporary, and it goes away as this new way of dieting sets deeply into your daily routine. Then, once you get past the “Keto flu,” you will also experience a subdued appetite with an increased mental clarity.

Macronutrients or often called as “macros” in short include the everyday intake of the three primary nutrients – fat, carbohydrates and protein. In this diet, keeping in the account of your macros is more important to help to get ketosis easily.

Types of the Ketogenic Diets

The popular Ketogenic diet comes in different avatars or variations as follows –

  • Standard ketogenic diet, abbreviated SKD, stresses on a very low-carb diet with moderate protein and high fat intake maintaining 75 percent of fat, 20 percent of protein and only 5 percent of carbs.
  • High-protein ketogenic diet is much like the standard ketogenic diet excepting that it encourages more protein intake, which is about 60 percent of fat, 35 percent of protein and 5 percent of carbs.
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet or CKD is a diet of cyclic pattern that involves higher carb. For example, five days of the ketogenic diet is followed by two days of the high-carb
  • Targeted Ketogenic diet or TKD is yet another version of the diet which allows carbs around workouts.

While the first two diets are for the greater population, the last two diets are mainly targeted to athletes and bodybuilders.

What to Eat and What not to on a Keto Diet?

Keep a diet plan ready in hand before beginning this special diet. The main concept is that the more you can limit carbohydrate intake, the faster you can slip into the ketogenic state and start experiencing the results. Keto emphasizes on a high fat diet with a moderate intake of protein and very low consumption of carbs.

Your nutrient consumption should ideally be around 70 percent of fats, 25 percent of protein and 5 percent of carbohydrates. This means your protein consumption should only be as per the body’s needs which mean, the remainder of your caloric intake is to be filled up with fats. Ideally, you will need to restrict yourself to 15 gram of carbohydrate intake.

It is important to keep your source of carbohydrates limited only to nuts, vegetables, and dairy. Let go of refined carbs like bread, cereals or pasta that contain wheat or starchy foods like rice, legumes, beans, and potatoes. Tubers too are not recommended. Even fruits are not much recommended as they contain carbohydrates. However, some fruits with the exception that can be eaten in moderation on a Ketogenic diet include berries, star fruit, and avocado. Give up on all forms of sugar including honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar.

Meat intake is much recommended for this diet. Go for fresh fishes, eggs, poultry, lamb, beef and other meats as you like. Indulge more in leafy greens like kale and spinach. Vegetables that are grown above the ground like cauliflower and broccoli are also recommended. The sweeter tasting veggies like peas, corn, yams, yucca, carrots, beans, parsnips, squash and onions too are high carbs and off your limits. A high fat diet through high fat cream, butter, hard cheeses and the likes are also a part of the Ketogenic diet.

Nuts and seeds are very healthy, and so, you can snack on sunflower seeds, walnuts, macadamias and others. For fruits, go for those with a low glycemic index like avocado, raspberries, and blackberries. The diet allows the use of low-carb sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia, and erythritol. Coconut oil, foods rich in saturated fats and high fat salad dressing can be eaten on this diet.

If you are hungry in-between meals, snack on cheeses, peanut butter, nuts and seeds to help you calm your appetite. To your delight and surprise, you will also find that there are plenty of fast food options too when you are in a rush, or you are on the go and just have to grab something from the road. This holds true even when you are gathering up with friends for a café or getting together with a family for a sit-down dinner at a restaurant. Only just remember that you have to avoid the carbs. Stick to cheese platters, vegetable delicacies or meat dishes, and you will be okay.

If you are in a burger outlet, avoid the bun and instead only opt for the meat. And of course, go on for the other sides like bacon, sugarless but fatty sauces like mustard, salad dressings like Caesar, blue cheese and ranch and avocado. When picking salads, go for the simpler ones without any high-carb fruits and without croutons too, please! And, if something’s breaded like mozzarella sticks or chicken legs, that’s certainly off limits!

Ketogenic Meals

Ideally, a ketogenic meal is composed of protein, vegetables with a side of fat. You can eat olive oil basted chicken breast with butter sautéed/steamed broccoli and cheese. Another option could be steak with a butter topping with olive oil sautéed spinach. Try varying your daily meals with other low-carb vegetables. Most of these are from the cruciferous family and can include zucchini, lettuce, cauliflower and cucumbers. Salads are a great way of making a quick dish of greens. Try an Asian style broccoli salad or a simple mixed spring salad with greens. You could also eat a crispy Bok Choy salad with tofu or hey, how about a Thai style BBQ pork salad?

Some fantastic vegetable sides include creamed spinach, Brussels sprouts au gratin, mashed parmesan cauliflower or lemon roasted broccoli. However, once in a while you can perhaps get some sweetness to your fatty diet with bell peppers and onions like in chicken red bell pepper soup, or a cheesy cauliflower and onion dip. If your heart longs for a dessert, a rare indulgence could be a Keto Pumpkin pudding, pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies or perhaps a homemade pumpkin pecan pie ice cream.

Ketogenic Diet for Beginners

Just as you begin with the ketogenic diet, you could be faced with certain symptoms. However, these only last about a week and are only the body’s way of signaling the changes that are taking place in the body. Many beginners report headaches, dizziness, and mental fogginess. Some even experience nausea. Those who have magnesium deficiency may also experience leg cramps. A physical weakness also sets in, and this only common as the body is in a transitory phase. This is usually caused as the electrolytes are released out of the body owing to the diuretic effect of ketosis. To combat these symptoms, hydrate your body drinking plenty of water. Also, keep up your sodium intake. Sodium will facilitate water retention and replenish the loss of the electrolytes. This temporary feeling is termed as ‘Keto flu.’

Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

The Ketogenic diet comes with a host of great positives. From a gradual loss of weight to boosted levels of energy and mental clarity, you experience some benefits. But that’s not all. The ketogenic diet has also been studied to have therapeutic medical applications as well.

On this diet, your body will exhaust the stored fat in the body to give you energy. So, you will automatically experience weight loss. If someone is suffering from high levels of blood sugar, this diet sure is one healthy way to bring it in control. Keto naturally lowers the high levels of blood sugar, and this is caused by the foods that you start eating on this diet.

This is considered by many nutritionists to be one of the safer and efficient ways of managing as well as preventing as compared to low-calorie diets. Ketones also fuel up the brain. Thanks to the low carb intake which diminishes the blood sugar fluctuations and this naturally boosts mental clarity and concentration.

The healthy consumption of certain food items proves to be a steady source of energy to the body to make one feel more active and fresh throughout the day. This is attributed to the fact that fats are much more efficient in burning as fuel and providing energy to the body. The ketogenic diet is also very useful in treating epilepsy and has been in successful use since the 1900s. One of the prime positive is that when an epileptic child is on a keto diet, he can be given lesser medications without causing any negative impact on their health.

The Ketogenic diet also helps in checking blood pressure and cholesterol. This is done by improving the levels of cholesterol and triglyceride in the body whose imbalance can cause arterial buildup. Some blood pressure issues can cause weight gain, and the Keto diet also treats this symptom by helping one to lose excess weight. The diet is also every effective in preventing insulin resistance by keeping its levels of the healthy range. Insulin build-up can otherwise cause type-2 diabetes.

Fascinatingly, the ketogenic diet brings in some more benefits too. Like, it can also yield you a flawlessly healthy skin free from acne. Studies have shown that the healthy eating style in this diet directly impacts on the dermal health to the extent that it can lessen skin inflammation and lesions.