Keto, it seems to be the latest buzz word these days popping up almost everywhere you look. However, most of us don’t really even know what it is so or what it means. In today’s blog post we break it all down for you in easy-to-understand blocks so you can decide if it’s something you want to explore for yourself!
First off, let’s start with the word KETO. What does it mean and what does it stand for? Keto is short for ketones. People say keto for short when referring to a ketogenic diet. Ketones, also known as “ketone bodies,” are byproducts of the body breaking down fat for energy that occurs when carbohydrate intake is low.
A keto diet is well known for being a low carb diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy.
When you eat something high in carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin.
- Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy.
- Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it around the body.
Since the glucose is being used as the primary energy source, your fats are not needed and are therefore stored. Typically on a normal, higher carbohydrate diet, the body will use glucose as the main form of energy. By lowering the intake of carbs, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. During this state, we produce ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver.
The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state. But remember, we don’t do this through starvation of calories but rather starvation of carbohydrates.
Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it, however, when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer many health, weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits.
The Benefits of a Keto Diet
- Better brain function
- A decrease in inflammation
- An increase in energy
- Improved body composition
- Weight loss
- Lowered blood pressure
- Helps fight Type II Diabetes
What to Eat and What NOT to Eat
To start a keto diet, you will want to plan ahead. What you eat depends on how fast you want to get into a ketogenic state. The more restrictive you are on your carbohydrates (less than 15g per day), the faster you will enter ketosis.
You want to keep your carbohydrates limited, coming mostly from vegetables, nuts, and dairy. Don’t eat any refined carbohydrates such as wheat (bread, pasta, cereals), starch (potatoes, beans, legumes) or fruit. The small exceptions to this are avocado, star fruit, and berries which can be consumed in moderation.
What NOT to eat…
- Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.
- Sugar – honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
- Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
- Tubers – potato, yams, etc.
Yes, go for it…
- Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
- Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, etc.
- Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
- Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries, and other low glycemic impact berries
- Sweeteners – stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, and other low-carb sweeteners
- Other fats – coconut oil, avocado oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.
Try to remember that keto is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. Your nutrient intake should be something around 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrate.
Typically, anywhere between 20-30g of net carbs is recommended but the lower you keep your carbohydrate intake and glucose levels, the better the overall results will be. If you’re doing keto for weight loss, it’s a good idea to keep track of both your total carbs and net carbs.
Protein should always be consumed as needed with fat filling in the remainder of the calories in your day.
You might be asking, “What’s a net carb?” It’s simple really! The net carbs are your total dietary carbohydrates, minus the total fiber. I recommend keeping total carbs below 35g and net carbs below 25g (ideally, below 20g).
If you’re finding yourself hungry throughout the day, you can snack on nuts, seeds, cheeses, or peanut butter to curb your appetite.
Vegetables on a Ketogenic Diet
Dark green and leafy is always the best choice for vegetables. Most of your meals should be a protein with vegetables, and an extra side of fat. Chicken breast basted in olive oil, with broccoli and cheese. Steak topped with a knob of butter, and a side of spinach sauteed in olive oil.
If you’re still confused about what a net carb is, don’t worry – I’ll explain further. Let’s say for example you want to eat some broccoli (1 cup).
- There are a total of 6g carbohydrates in 1 cup.
- There’s also 2g of fiber in 1 cup.
- So, we take the 6g (total carbs) and subtract the 2g (dietary fiber).
- This will give us our net carbs of 4g.
Here’s a list of the most common low carb vegetables.
|Spinach (Raw)||1/2 Cup||0.1|
|Bok Choi (Raw)||1/2 Cup||0.2|
|Lettuce (Romaine)||1/2 Cup||0.2|
|Cauliflower (Steamed)||1/2 Cup||0.9|
|Cabbage (Green Raw)||1/2 Cup||1.1|
|Cauliflower (Raw)||1/2 Cup||1.4|
|Broccoli (Florets)||1/2 Cup||2|
|Collard Greens||1/2 Cup||2|
|Kale (Steamed)||1/2 Cup||2.1|
|Green Beans (Steamed)||1/2 Cup||2.9|
Note: Vegetarian or vegan? It’s still possible. Just keep in mind that the dietary restrictions can sometimes be a little bit intense.
Is the Keto Diet right for me? What are the pros and cons?
1. The keto diet is satiating.
Eating healthy fats and moderate protein keeps you satiated, meaning you eat less overall. This also allows for a variety of satisfying foods. One drawback of many diets is that people get hungry and succumb to their favorite “forbidden” foods. That’s less likely to happen on a ketogenic diet.
2. The keto diet is anti-inflammatory.
A well-designed keto diet cuts out unhealthy foods including sugary, processed gut-wrecking foods.
3. The keto diet is gut-healing.
Combined with plenty of plant foods, keto done the right way is a great way to heal your gut.
4. The keto diet can improve energy and clarity.
After the transition to utilizing ketones for fuel, many people report feeling better, having more energy, and experience improved mental clarity.
5. The keto diet can help you lose weight.
You will probably lose weight on the plan and get other health benefits.
1. The keto diet is limiting.
If you need a lot of variety in your meal plans, keto might leave you feeling limited and bored.
2. The keto diet can contain too much fat for some.
Some people don’t do well eating the high amounts of dietary fat a ketogenic diet requires. Researchers debate whether humans are designed to digest these high amounts of fat.
3. The keto diet can be a social bummer.
Sticking with the plan might be challenging during vacations, social engagements, and other times keto-approved foods aren’t available.
4. The keto diet can result in the keto “flu.”
Even if you take the right precautions like optimizing electrolytes, keto flu as you transition into utilizing ketones for fuel can be intense enough to turn some people off keto diets.
5. The keto diet can get in the way of long-term weight loss.
If you’re using ketosis for weight loss, you may see initial results, but eating too many calories from any food can stall fat loss or make you gain weight.
Some Final Thoughts
Be aware that it’s not uncommon to experience some negative reactions and side effects when transitioning into this way of eating. Although not everyone, some people will experience the following symptoms, often referred to as the keto flu, but which usually subside within a couple of weeks:
- Fatigue/lack of energy
- Muscle weakness or pains
- Poor sleep
- Constipation, nausea or upset stomach
- Brain fog
To help you overcome these symptoms, here are several steps to try taking:
- Most importantly, to combat nausea, fatigue and constipation due to the low-carb keto diet, adopt alkaline diet principles.
- Add bone broth to your diet, which can help restore electrolytes that are lost during ketosis. When you follow a keto diet, even if you’re drinking a lot of water, you will lose a lot of water weight and also flush essential electrolytes out of our system, including magnesium, potassium or sodium. Adding bone broth is a great way to replenish these naturally, in addition to getting other nutrients and amino acids.
- Foods to eat more of than can also help increase electrolyte intake are nuts, avocados, mushrooms, salmon and other fish, spinach, artichokes, and leafy greens.
- Reduce your exercise load temporary.
- Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and also consuming enough salt/sodium.
- Consume even more fat if you’re hungry.
- Avoid eating synthetic ingredients in processed foods. Also try to limit “low-carb foods” that are still unhealthy and difficult to digest, even those that many ketogenic diet programs might recommend or include. These include cold cuts, processed meats (especially pork) or cured meats, bacon, and processed cheeses.
Please note that we’re not endorsing the Keto diet, we’re simply sharing the facts. If you choose to explore the keto diet we’d like to hear from you on what your results were like and if you’d recommend it to others. So that’s a wrap on Keto!
The Blendtopia Team