keto ketogenic diet low carb

Baked salmon fish fillet with salad. Picture: Envato Elements

The ketogenic diet: What you need to know

So you’ve heard about the keto diet but what is it and is it safe?

keto ketogenic diet low carb

Baked salmon fish fillet with salad. Picture: Envato Elements

The keto diet is a low carb diet designed to force your body into burning ketone bodies for fuel rather than sugar from carbohydrates.

The liver produces ketone bodies from fat stores – called ketosis – which is where the diet gets the name. The primary aim during the diet is to keep the body in a state of ketosis so that it begins fueling your day-to-day activity with energy from fat.

Ketosis is a natural state our body goes into when fasted. Once your body depletes the energy stores from carbohydrates, the body switches to ketone bodies as a fuels source. While fasting is the best way to cause ketosis eating a heavy carbohydrate-restricted diet will work as well.

keto ketogenic diet low carb
Keto meal consisting of chicken, nuts, broccoli and carrots. Photo: Envato Elements/bhofack2

The principles behind the diet are similar to the banting diet but carbs are even more restricted. Unlike the banting diet, you need to monitor your protein intake carefully.

So what’s on the keto menu?

High level, this is what you would be allowed on the Keto diet:

  • Saturated fats from oils may be consumed in high amounts, as well as smaller amounts of healthy unsaturated fats.
  • Fruits are a no-no – they are rich in carbs but small portions of certain fruits, like berries, are allowed.
  • Restrict carbohydrate-rich vegetables. Opt for leafy green vegetables that grow above ground.
  • Steer clear of large quantities of meat, but low-carb unprocessed meats gets the green light.
  • Fish and other seafood are excellent additions to your menu.

Is the keto diet safe?

There are obvious dangers to cutting out the carbs from fruit and vegetables. You’re going to end up missing out on vitamins and minerals, as well as decrease your fibre intake, which can lead to constipation.

keto ketogenic diet low carb
Vegetarian buddha bowl with eggs and fresh raw vegetables. Photo: Envate Elements/Timolina

In addition, like all of the high-fat diets, consuming saturated fats may be linked to an increase in bad cholesterol and heart disease. For now there’s a lot of debate around this issue.

Planning and research is essential

The keto diet is not natural; you’ll need to prepare your refrigerator in advance and plan your meals in advance. The one advantage that the keto diet does have over other diets is that you can test for ketosis.

A few companies sell these keto strips that give you an indication of your concentration of ketone bodies. This means you’ll never be in any doubt about whether your diet is working or what impact cheating has on ketosis.

Many people who try keto also report “keto flu”. This is generally an unpleasant period during which the body is adapting. The dieter may experience symptoms like fatigue, headache, irritability, difficulty focusing (“brain fog”), lack of motivation, dizziness, sugar cravings and nausea.

keto ketogenic diet low carb
Meats, cheese, eggs, leafy greens, nuts, berries and avocado. Photo: Envato Elements/Nadianb

This is unpleasant enough for many to throw in the towel on the diet. However, many other users report that their bodies adapt after a few days.

Changing the way your body fuels itself is not a small change and should be undertaken with caution.

Make sure you do the appropriate research. Speak to your doctor before making any permanent changes to your diet and exercise routine.

The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Before undertaking any course of treatment, please consult with your healthcare provider.