The ketogenic diet, also called "keto", is a diet that is characterized by a low intake of carbohydrates counterbalanced by the introduction of a high amount of fat. Several studies have shown that a diet of this type can not only aid in weight loss, but also bring various health benefits.
In particular, the ketogenic diet has proved to be an excellent adjuvant both in the prevention and in the fight against some diseases. It is therefore not only useful for maintaining good health, but also in the case of pathologies such as diabetes, epilepsy, Alzheimer's and cancer.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
In this article we will deal with the ketogenic diet: what exactly it consists of, which foods are allowed and which are not recommended, what benefits it actually brings.
The Fundamentals of Keto
As we have said, the ketogenic diet is characterized by a low carbohydrate intake and a high fat content. In this it is similar to other low-carb diets such as the Atkins diet.
The replacement of carbohydrates as fats creates a particular metabolic condition which is called ketosis. This condition causes the body to acquire a particular ability to burn fat by transforming it into energy and ketones. Useful, the latter, as a source of energy for the brain.
Furthermore, ketosis and low-carb diets in general produce a significant reduction in blood sugar and, consequently, in insulin levels. An effect that in itself brings benefits to the body.
There are different types of ketogenic diets
Due to its great success, several variations of the ketogenic diet have been introduced over time. Let's find out together what they are:
- Standard ketogenic diet: it is the version with the lowest carbohydrate intake. It typically involves the introduction of 70% from fat, 20% from protein, and only 10% from carbohydrates.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet: involves alternating between 5 days of a standard ketogenic diet and 2 days of high carbohydrate intake.
- Targeted ketogenic diet: admits a certain amount of carbohydrates when exercising.
- High protein ketogenic diet: It is similar to the standard version, but contains 60% of fat, 35% of protein and 5% of carbohydrates.
It should be noted, however, that among these regimens only the standard ketogenic diet has been the subject of extensive studies, and therefore the information contained in this article mainly refers to this. Also, the cycling regimen and the target regimen are mostly used by bodybuilders and other athletes.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body does not burn sugars and carbohydrates but fats to produce energy. This state occurs when the consumption of carbohydrates is significantly reduced in the diet, because this consequently also reduces the supply of glucose, which is the main source of energy for the body.
To induce the metabolism to reach a state of ketosis, therefore, what must be done is to reduce the consumption of carbohydrates by assuming no more than 50 grams per day, and replace them with "good" fats, i.e. eggs, meat, fish, vegetable oils and seeds. It is also important to moderate your protein intake. These too can in fact be transformed into glucose, with the consequence that the transition to ketosis would become slower.
A useful way to quickly introduce ketosis is, instead, to resort to intermittent fasting. There are different ways to practice it, but the most common involve consuming food only at different times of the day, for example by consuming meals within an 8-hour span, and remaining fasting for the remaining 16.
How to know if you have reached the state of ketosis? First, by observing your body. an increase in thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination and decreased appetite. But if you want to be sure, you can take urine or breath tests that will also reveal how many ketones your body produces.
Lose weight on the ketogenic diet
All the research done on the ketogenic diet has proved its effectiveness in weight loss but, what is more important, it is a diet that allows you to lose weight without having to count calories. But that's not all: weight loss is faster than with classic low-calorie diets, and brings a significant benefit in reducing blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Finally, with the same number of kilos lost, with the ketogenic diet more fat is lost, even compared to low-fat diets. All with the added benefit of suffering less hunger pangs.
The ketogenic diet in people suffering from diabetes and prediabetes
The reason why the ketogenic diet it produces beneficial effects in the case of pathologies such as diabetes it is the fact that the latter has among its symptoms changes in metabolism, high blood sugar, and impaired insulin function.
The ketogenic diet, by reducing excess fat, is useful in contrasting type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome. Furthermore, improves the insulin sensitivity of 75%, and affects the level of hemoglobin A1C, essential in controlling blood sugar levels.
Other health benefits of the ketogenic diet
As we said in the introduction, the ketogenic diet provides benefits in the prevention and contrast of various pathologies.
These include neurological disorders and epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, heart disease, thanks to the reduction of body fat. It has also been shown that the ketogenic diet has an effect in reducing or slowing the growth of tumors and slowing down the progression of Alzheimer's. Finally, satisfactory results were also recorded in the case of brain trauma.
However, these are researches whose results are still in progress, and therefore to be taken with due caution.
Foods to avoid
The ketogenic diet not only requires that the intake of carbohydrates be limited, but also that certain types of foods that interfere with ketosis are eliminated from one's diet.
- Sugary foods: fizzy drinks, fruit smoothies, ice creams, sweets, etc
- Starchy foods and simple carbohydrates: from rice to pasta, but also cereals such as barley and spelled
- Fruit: all except for small portions of strawberries and berries
- Tubers and roots: potatoes, carrots etc
- Low-fat or sugar-free diet products: sugar-free candies, diet puddings, etc
- Some sauces and condiments: BBQ sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc
- Processed foods
As part of the ketogenic diet, the foods to give preference to are:
- Meat: red meat, steaks, ham, sausages, bacon, chicken and turkey
- Fish that is high in “good” fats: salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel
- Butter and cream: to prefer creams - such as cream - rich in fats, and grass fed butter, from free farms
- Cheese: unprocessed cheeses such as gorgonzola, mozzarella, ceddar and goat cheese
- Seeds and dried fruit: almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, chia, etc
- Oils: extra virgin olive oil, coconut and avocado
- Avocado: both fresh and in guaca mole
- Low-carb vegetables: green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc
- Condiments: salt, pepper, herbs and spices.
The extra tip? Try to base your meals on just one food.
An example of a weekly ketogenic diet
To better understand how the ketogenic diet works, let's look at what you can eat in a week:
Breakfast: vegetables and eggs with tomatoes
Lunch: chicken salad with extra virgin olive oil, feta, olives
Dinner: salmon with asparagus cooked in butter
Breakfast: egg, tomato and spinach in omelet
Lunch: smoothie with almond milk, peanut butter, spinach and coconut powder with a strawberry salad.
Dinner: cheese tacos with salsa.
Breakfast: nut milk pudding chia with coconut flakes and blueberries
Lunch: Avocado and Shrimp Salad
Dinner: pork ribs with parmesan, broccoli and salad
Breakfast: omelet with avocado, salsa, peppers and onion
Lunch: peanuts and celery sticks with guacamole
Dinner: boiled chicken with pesto and cheese and a side of grilled zucchini
Breakfast: Sugar-free Greek yogurt, whole milk with peanut butter, coconut powder and berries
Lunch: vegetable and beef tacos with peppers
Dinner: casserole cauliflower and vegetable mix
Breakfast: cream cheese pancakes with blueberries and grilled mushrooms
Lunch: courgette salad
Dinner: white fish cooked in coconut oil with kale and pine nuts
Breakfast: fried eggs and mushrooms
Lunch: chicken and broccoli with sesame oil
Dinner: spaghetti bolognese
The extra tip? Always try to vary vegetables and meats since each offers different nutrients. Also, to vary further, you can find many keto recipes on the net.
As in all diets, snacks are also present in the ketogenic diet. Those “keto approved” are:
- Fatty fish and meat
- A handful of dried fruit
- Keto sushi
- One or two boiled eggs
- Keto bars
- Dark chocolate with 90%
- Full fat Greek yogurt with peanut butter and coconut powder
- Guacamole and raw peppers
- Berries and fresh cheese
- Celery and guacamole
- Dry beef
- Small portions of leftovers
The tricks of the ketogenic diet
One thing to say about the ketogenic diet is that the first few days can be tough, and that's why knowing some little tricks to better deal with it can be really useful.
First, get familiar with food labels: Read the fat, carbohydrate and fiber content. You might be surprised to find that even your favorite food can be included on the keto diet.
Then, plan meals in advance, and possibly also cooked in advance. This way you won't have any problems even on days when you don't have time to cook. Also, scour the web: there are numerous blogs and forums offering keto-friendly recipes. Another alternative is to look for gods frozen foods keto-approved or even home delivery meals.
Finally, when you are at a social event – be it a company dinner or a simple family lunch – consider bring food with you if you are not sure about finding allowed foods. It will make your life much easier.
Ketogenic diet: the tricks for eating out
As you may have guessed by reading the weekly meal plan, a keto-friendly dish can be safely found in any restaurant. In fact, it is enough to order a dish of meat or fish or eggs, and replace the fries with a salad.
Think Mexican restaurant: you can enjoy meat with extra cheese, garlic sauce and guacamole. And for desserts? A berry salad.
Some side effects, and how to make sure they don't ruin your diet
Although the ketogenic diet is really healthy, during the first few days you may experience some side effects due to the fact that your body has to adapt to the new diet. Some anecdotes report episodes of "keto fever", which however - don't worry - passes in a few days.
Keto fever presents with symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation, vomiting, increased hunger, tiredness, trouble sleeping, nausea, or difficulty digesting. But it is possible minimize these symptoms progressively reducing carbohydrates rather than eliminating them overnight.
Then pay attention to the possible drop in mineral salts, which you can remedy by adding more salt to meals, or by taking supplements after consulting with your doctor. Finally, at least during the first few days, don't worry about calories and eat your fill, also because the ketogenic diet doesn't require you to watch calories in order to lose weight.
The risks of the ketogenic diet
Let's start by saying that the ketogenic diet it is a healthy diet. However, like all diets, carrying it on for a long time can cause disturbances, such as a protein deficiency or an excess of fat, but also stones and micronutrient deficiency.
Furthermore, while the ketogenic diet fights type 2 diabetes, it can promote the onset of diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that increases the acidity in the blood. Individuals who are genetically predisposed to this condition should avoid the keto diet.
Ketogenic diet supplements
The keto diet does not require the introduction of supplements. However, some may be useful to you. For example, theMCT oil it may help you control the amount of ketones. We've already talked about minerals, but caffeine is also useful, increasing metabolism and offsetting the sense of exhaustion. Finally, creatine and protein powders increase protein intake and help keep training intensity high.
Frequently asked questions about the ketogenic diet
Here are some FAQs to answer the most common questions about the ketogenic diet.
- Will I ever eat carbs again?
Of course yes. At the beginning it is important to reduce the intake of carbohydrates, but after two or three months there is no problem in taking them, at least on special occasions.
- Will I lose muscle mass?
There is this risk, but it can be avoided by taking protein powder.
- Can I gain muscle mass on the ketogenic diet?
Yes, but probably slower than those on a moderate carbohydrate diet.
- How much protein can I eat?
Protein intake should be moderate, as it may affect insulin levels and reduce the ketone count. Up to 35% of proteins, however, are allowed.
- What to do if I feel constantly tired?
Some people find it difficult to use fat and ketones efficiently. In this case you can help your body by inserting a supplement such as MCT oil or moderate amounts of carbohydrates.
- My urine has a funny smell
Don't worry: it's simply one of the effects of ketosis.
- My breath smells bad, what can I do?
This is also a common effect, just drink more water and chew sugar-free peppermint gum.
- I've heard that ketosis is bad for the body: is it true?
People often confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. The latter is dangerous, but ketosis is safe and healthy. However, the advice is to always consult with your doctor.
- I have vomiting and diarrhea and digestive problems, what to do?
This side effect usually goes away within a month. However, if it persists, you could include vegetables rich in fiber, provided they are in moderate doses.
Who is the ketogenic diet recommended for?
The ketogenic diet is the ideal diet for those suffering from diabetes, has the slow metabolism, or more simply wants lose weight. On the other hand, it may be less suitable for athletes, and in general for those who want to increase muscle mass.
It may also not be suitable for some people's lifestyles, such as those who often eat out and help themselves with cereal bars, or those who have to attend many social events for work. The advice, as always, is to consult a doctor before embarking on any diet.