The ketogenic diet, also called the keto diet, is not just another foodie craze – it’s a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many benefits for healthy living, including long term weight loss. Chances are, you have heard of very low-carb diets, like the Atkins diet and other popular diets, but do not understand all of the potential benefits it can provide. Want a diet that doesn't rely on you religiously counting calories to lose weight? Then the keto diet may be for you! We’re here to break it down for you:
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
Keto dieting involves drastically reducing carb intake and replacing the calories with unsaturated and saturated fats. The fewer carbs you intake, the better. So, how does the keto diet work? This switch to a lower carbohydrate intake puts your body in a metabolic state that is called ketosis. In ketosis, your body is unusually efficient at burning stored fat to produce a source of energy through ketone bodies. It is best to avoid all refined carbohydrates, also known as processed carbs. The ketogenic diet may cause significant reductions in blood sugar levels and insulin levels, cause fat loss, gain of muscle mass, reduce high blood pressure, and improve your overall physical performance and body composition.
Types of Ketogenic Diets
Standard keto diet (SKD): Very low-carb diet, moderate-protein intake, and high-fat diets. Typically 5% net carbs, 20% protein, and 75% unsaturated or saturated fat.
Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): Periods of higher-carb refeeds. Typically 5 keto days followed by 2 high net carb days (total carbs minus fiber).
Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): Designed to add net carbs around workouts.
High-protein keto diet: Includes more protein than the SKD. Typically 5% carbs, 35% protein, and 60% dietary fats.
Only the standard ketogenic diet and the high-protein ketogenic diet have been studied for their healthy benefits through scientific evidence. CKD and TKD are advanced methods that are generally guided by nutritionists for bodybuilders or professional athletes. How much protein, carbs, and fat differ for each diet, so make sure you research each diet to find which one is best for you!
Research has shown that the ketogenic diet is superior to a low-fat diet in achieving weight loss. It is the perfect combination of fats and carbs, while not having too little or too much protein. One of the best parts of keto dieting is that it is filling, so you achieve body weight loss without significantly reducing your food consumption. If you do not follow the ketogenic diet correctly by adding too much extra fat or oils into your meal plans, then weight gain may be experienced. Weight reduction on the keto diet has been shown to be 2-3 times that of low-fat diets.
Keto dieting is also good for diabetes management and prediabetes. The ketogenic diet allows you to lose weight by shedding excess fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Excess weight can often cause issues with insulin resistance. One study even showed that the keto diet improved insulin sensitivity by 75%. Many people on the keto diet have been able to reduce or stop taking diabetes medicine completely.
Additional Health Benefits
This very low carbohydrate diet paired with high fat food intake originated to treat neurological diseases, such as epilepsy. Studies show a wide-range of benefits to ones health when on low carbohydrate diets like keto:
Heart Disease or cardiovascular disease – Keto diet reduce body fat percentage, HDL cholesterol levels (LDL cholesterol may increase), high blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
Cancer – Keto diets are currently being used to slow tumor growth in cancer patients.
Alzheimer’s disease– Keto diets reduce symptoms and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Epilepsy – Keto diets have been shown to cause massive reduction in seizure activity in children.
Parkinson’s disease – A study found that the keto diet may help improve Parkinson’s symptoms.
Polycystic ovary syndrome – The keto diet reduces insulin, which can reduce symptoms of POS.
Brain injuries – A study on animals found that the keto diet can reduce concussions and help speed recovery from brain injuries.
Acne – Lower insulin and less sugar and decrease in high intake of processed foods improve acne.
Foods to Avoid
Any high-carb foods should be limited in your meal plan. Also avoid the following:
- Sugary foods – soda, fruit juices, cakes, candy, etc. (get those sugar cravings under control!)
- Grains – wheat products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
- Fruit and fruit juice – all fruit except small portions of berries
- Beans & legumes – peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
- Low in fat or diet products – highly processed and high net carbs
- Condiments and sauces – often contain high levels of sugar and unhealthy fats
- Unhealthy high fat foods – processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- Alcohol – high net carbs per serving, can throw you out of nutritional ketosis
You should base the majority of your keto meals and keto recipes around these low-carb foods and fatty foods:
- Meat – red meat, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, etc.
- Fatty fish – salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel
- Eggs – specifically pastured or omega-3 whole eggs
- High fat dairy products — Butter, cream, almond milk (or other nut milk), peanut butter (or another nut butter)
- Cheese – unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue, mozzarella)
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, chia, etc.
- Healthy oils – extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil
- Avocados – whole avocados or fresh guacamole
- Low carbohydrate, non starchy vegetables – most veggies and leafy greens, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
- Condiments – salt, pepper, herbs, salad dressings, and spices
- Dark chocolate or cocoa powder – a good keto friendly option for a sweet tooth
- Try grass fed meat instead of traditional processed meats
As with any diet, the ketogenic diet only works if you are consistent and stick with it. There are so many things that the ketogenic diet can do, from improving total body fat metabolism or overall metabolic health to reducing vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Getting started can be hard, but the results are worth it! It can be a great way to improve your health, achieve healthy weight loss, or regulate blood sugar control, but you should always seek out professional medical advice and weight loss advice prior to starting. It may also be beneficial to reach out to a registered dietitian. It is possible to feel ill as your body adjusts to new meal plans, which many refer to as "keto flu". Make sure you monitor keto flu symptoms, which can include constipation or, in rare cases, kidney stones. Make sure your electrolyte intake is consistent to counteract adverse effects and ensure keto success. Any good diet takes time and determination, so don't think it is not working if you are not experiencing rapid weight loss after a few days or a few weeks. Create an eating plan and goals for yourself, and do not give up on your keto journey and the positive long term effects of keto friendly foods like the examples listed above! This is not just a weight loss diet, but a diet that can improve your standard of living in so many ways. Our favorite thing about low-carb diets, like the ketogenic diets, are that they allow you to eat meats! You can enjoy great quantities of Carnivore Club’s artisan cured meats, unlike other diets. It’s the perfect reason to fill up on salamis and prosciuttos, as if we needed another reason.
Check out these meal ideas from these Keto-Friendly Cured Meat Recipes