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What is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a high-fat diet that has become popular in recent years, and has been shown to potentially help several health conditions. 

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The author of this article is not a medical professional. This article is for informational purposes only, and not to diagnose or treat any particular disease or health condition. Always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional that is familiar with your specific health history.

The ketogenic diet (keto) is a high-fat diet that has become popular in recent years. However, the diet is not something new as it has been used for decades to treat certain conditions, including epilepsy. 

Keto aims to drastically reduce the carbohydrate intake in favor of fat with the purpose of inducing a state of ketosis. Besides helping you lose weight, this diet also has various other health benefits. 

The Basics of Keto

The body needs three types of food fuels to function: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. With a low intake of carbs like in the case of the ketogenic diet, the liver starts to produce ketones either from dietary fat or your body’s fat stores. The process is called “ketosis,” and it basically turns the body into a machine that burns fat. The body reaches a state of ketosis on average between two and four days after starting the diet.

To reach the state of ketosis, you need to eat between 25 and 50 grams of carbohydrate per day maximum (approximately 5 to 10% of your calorie intake. This is approximately the equivalent of a banana or a small yogurt. A person eating a normal diet gets approximately 50% of their energy from carbs.

To reach ketosis, you need to consume foods that are low in carbohydrates and high in fat. For example:

  • Bacon
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, tuna)
  • Ham
  • Heavy cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Red meat
  • Sausage
  • Vegetal oils

Foods that you should not eat include:

  • Potatoes 
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Legumes

What are the benefits of the keto diet?

The main reason people adopt a keto diet is to lose weight. But besides weight loss, the keto diet may also play a role in the prevention of the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes — research has shown that the keto diet can lead to improvements in HbA1c levels.
  • Bipolar disorder — keto may be a mood stabilizer.
  • Obesity — obese individuals on a low-calorie keto diet typically lose more weight than those on a normal diet.
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease — a study has shown that that higher-risk adults on a keto diet experience better memory function.
  • Parkinson’s disease — some studies have shown that nutritional ketosis may preserve cognitive function.
  • Certain cancers — more studies are needed to determine the role of keto in cancer therapy, but research has shown that there may be benefits of a keto diet in combination with radiation and chemotherapy.

Are there any side effects of the keto diet?

In the short term, making the switch from a classic diet to a ketogenic one can lead to nausea, fatigue, constipation, cramps, headaches, and bad breath. All these inconveniences are mainly related to dehydration. This is because the keto diet forces the body to use its glucose reserves and glucose is stored with water in the muscles and its elimination leads to dehydration.

The keto diet may be suitable for many people, but it’s a really restrictive one and it’s always a good idea to consult a doctor or nutritionist before embarking on it. 

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