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A keto diet is not based on a moral obligation, such as veganism, or on an idea of what our ancestors ate but based on how our body burns sugar and fat for energy.
Keto is short for Ketosis, a natural process that all our bodies are capable of. Our bodies like to burn glucose (simple sugars) for energy but the keto diet forces your body into a state of ketosis which makes your body burn fat for energy rather than glucose.
The Keto Diet
The goal of the keto diet is to get your body to burn fat and your fat storages rather than glucose. Foods like fruit, milk, bread, and pasta are broken down into simple sugars and this is what your body will use as energy. These are things you don’t want to eat if you’re wanting to burn fat.
To achieve fat burning you must eat a low carb, low sugar, and high fat diet according to the keto diet.
How much of each macronutrient you eat is different for each person and depends on what you are trying to achieve. The chart above is based on a person’s daily calorie intake and as you can see, it’s very high in fat.
To get an idea of what the diet might look like, I went ahead and used this Keto Calculator to calculate my keto macros. I weigh about 135lbs with 26% body fat and chose lightly active with the goal to lose weight. So, my personal macros aren’t too off from the basic keto macro chart but it will be different for everyone. When you break it down it comes out to 20g of Carbs (80Kcal), 79.92g of Protein (319.68Kcal), and 168.68g of Fat (1518.12Kcal) for a total of 1917.83 calories.
Can You Lose Weight on the Keto Diet?
The keto diet is popular for weight loss and yes, you actually can lose weight on this diet. One study found that it does indeed help loose a significant amount of weight. It also helped reduce the level of triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and blood glucose while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. Another study found that the keto diet can help control hunger and aid in weight loss.
However, the keto diet is not meant to be a long term dietary solution. It takes about 2-3 weeks minimum for the diet to work and should not exceed 6-12 months. The transition from a keto diet to another diet should be gradual.
Other Health Benefits
The keto diet could possibly be beneficial for those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, acne, cancer, polycystic ovary disease (PCOS), and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Since carbohydrates are converted to glucose, which increases blood sugar levels, the low carb, high fat keto diet could be very beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes. However, diabetics on the keto diet should keep an eye on their ketone levels.
Surprisingly, the keto diet has been used and shown success in helping children who have epilepsy. There’s a possibility that it could aid with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Ketoacidosis doesn’t usually occur in those eating a balanced diet and who are eating regularly but it’s something everyone going on the keto diet should be aware of.
Your liver produces ketones during ketosis from fatty acids which is your goal on the keto diet to burn off your fat. However, if you have abnormally high levels of ketones it can actually poison your body, this is called ketoacidosis.
Ketoacidosis is more common in those with type 1 diabetes but it can occur in those with type 2 diabetes. There are home kits where you can test your ketones levels if you are diabetic or if you’re worried about your levels.
Early signs of Ketoacidosis include:
- Abdominal pain
- Confusion and difficulty concentrating
- Dry or flushed skin
- Excessive thirst and dry mouth
- Fruity breath
- Frequent urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
If you are diabetic and experience any of these symptoms while on the keto diet, stop the diet and see a doctor immediately as ketoacidosis is considered an emergency to diabetics.
What Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
The keto diet is made up mostly of meats, fats, and non-starchy vegetables.
- beef, lamb, goat, venison, wild-caught fish & seafood, pastured pork and poultry, liver, heart, kidneys and other organ meats
- Saturated fats (lard, poultry fat, ghee, butter, coconut oil)
- Monounsaturated fats (avocado, macadamia and olive oil)
- Omega 3s (fatty fish and seafood)
- leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, chard, chives)
- celery stalk, asparagus, cucumber, summer squash
- Pork rinds
- Bone broth
- Whey protein
This is not a complete list but it’s the main food eaten on a keto diet. So, what should you absolutely not eat?
- Wheat, rye, oats, corn, barley, millet, rice, buckwheat, sprouted grains, quinoa, white potatoes
- Pasta, bread, pizza, cookies, crackers
- Processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined fats
- Sunflower, safflower, canola, soybean, grapeseed, corn oil, margarine
- Milk (for the most part)
- Sugary alcoholic drinks
- Tropical fruit
- pineapple, mango, banana, papaya
- Fruit juice and dried fruit
- Low-fat food
Keto & Veganism/Vegetarianism
Can you be vegan or vegetarian and go on a keto diet? You can, it’s just a lot harder without animal based proteins and fats. Vegetarians would probably do better than vegans with this kind of diet. If you are vegan and want to try the keto diet, check out these vegan/keto friendly recipes.
Not everyone responds the diets the same. Talk to your doctor first before switching over to a keto diet. Make sure to watch your ketone levels especially if you are diabetic.