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What You Should Absolutely Know About The Ketogenic Diet

Dr. Anthony Close
October 22, 2021
Health Hub

The ketogenic diet (or keto diet) has become a very popular weight-loss diet in recent years. It involves systematically lowering carbohydrates and replacing them with protein and healthy fats. Google searches for the ketogenic or keto diet have roughly tripled in the last three years.

However, in addition to weight loss, this approach has been claimed to help with everything from heart disease to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s touted as a miracle solution to all sorts of ailments — but does the science support these claims? By the end of this article, you will understand enough about the ketogenic diet so you can decide if it's right for you.

1) How Does the Keto Diet Work?

The keto diet, for those unfamiliar with it, is a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet. What’s allowed: meat, fish, eggs, and other non-starchy vegetables; some dairy; and small amounts of nuts and berries. What’s not allowed: processed foods, sugar, and anything containing carbohydrates such as grains (including wheat), legumes (such as beans), or starchy vegetables like potatoes. Why? The idea behind keto is that when your body burns fat instead of carbs, it enters what's known as ketosis.

This state helps you burn fat faster—or at least feels that way—because your body uses fats rather than carbs for energy. On top of helping you drop pounds faster, studies show that people who go on a keto diet have better long-term heart health than people who don't.

2) How Many Carbs are on the Keto Diet?

The amount of carbs you can eat on a keto diet depends on your body size and activity level. To be in ketosis—where most people aim to be with a keto diet—you should eat fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day. If you’re trying to gain weight, you’ll want to aim for 100–150 grams of net carbs daily. Those who are obese or have diabetes may need to stay within 20 grams of net carbs per day.

3) Is There Such Thing as Too Much Fat?

While a ketogenic diet can be a great way to get your daily dose of fat, it’s important to remember that there is such thing as too much of a good thing. This may especially be true when it comes to eating a high-fat diet over time, which has been linked to metabolic syndrome and other health conditions. Speak with your doctor before starting on such an extreme diet so you can figure out what foods are right for you.

4) Best Foods on Keto

Consuming too many carbohydrates is bad for our bodies—whether it’s sugar, refined carbs, or whole grains.

On a ketogenic diet, you’ll need to avoid these carb-heavy foods. Sticking to healthy fats and protein will help you stay on track with your weight loss goals while keeping your body in ketosis. Here are 10 of our favorite keto-friendly food choices:

1. Grass-fed beef: Because most grass-fed beef has more fat than grain-fed meat, it makes an excellent choice when following a ketogenic diet. Plus, it's high in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which may have anti-cancer properties

2. Leafy greens: Leafy greens are typically nonstarchy veggies that are packed with fiber and nutrients but low in calories.

3. Almonds/walnuts/pistachios: Low carbohydrate nuts are another great way to kickstart your day on a ketogenic plan without breaking your calorie bank.

4. Butter/coconut oil: High-quality fats should make up around 60 percent of your overall daily calorie intake on a ketogenic diet

5. Berries/sweet fruits: While berries can be relatively low in carbs depending on their sweetness level, other sweet fruits like oranges should be avoided until you're at maintenance levels

6. Herbs & spices: Spices like basil, oregano, and cilantro can boost flavor without adding unnecessary sodium

7. Olives & olive oil

8. Tomatoes They’re full of lycopene, an antioxidant that lowers inflammation and improves heart health

9. Coffee: Most varieties of coffee won't spike blood sugar levels unless you add unhealthy syrups or creamers to them

10. Pickles: Since pickles are made from fermented cucumbers, they'll add beneficial probiotics to your gut microbiome profile.

Read More: How Cortisol Damages The Heart

5) Foods to Avoid on Keto

There are a few food types you’ll want to be sure to avoid on keto.

Things like bread, pasta, rice, most fruits, and starchy vegetables (like potatoes) will quickly spike your blood sugar and kick you out of ketosis.

It’s generally recommended that only 20 percent of your diet is made up of carbohydrates. Once you reach that limit, it can be tricky to enter back into ketosis without indulging in carbs again. For example, one cup of cooked pasta contains approximately 45 grams of carbs; one slice of bread has about 15 grams; one medium-sized fruit contains about 15 grams.

Read More: Comprehensive Guide To Testing Cholesterol Levels [2021]

If you go over these numbers at any point during your day, odds are good that they’ll knock you out of ketosis for a significant period. On top of that, these foods have been linked to various health conditions including diabetes and cancer—so going overboard with them isn’t exactly healthy either! So as far as what not to eat goes on keto, think less along those lines and more around avoiding processed foods as much as possible—as well as heavily processed meat products such as bacon or sausage.

Instead, try focusing on eating plenty of fresh produce, whole meat, seafood, and dairy while staying away from high-carb items whenever possible. When eating at restaurants there are some other factors to consider too. Restaurants tend to bring out big bowls of salad or chips before meals come out which might throw off your diet if you aren't paying attention.

Consider asking for things like sauces on the side so that you can better control how much oil/fat/calories, etc get added into each meal before consuming it.

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