The keto diet – A beginner’s guide

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The keto diet may be for you if you want to lose weight and improve your health.

It involves eating lots of fat and very few carbs, which shifts your body from using glucose as its main energy source to burning fat.

This is great if you have type 2 diabetes or obesity because it can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance.

Let’s look at the basics to understand what this lifestyle change entails (and if you should try it).

What changes occur in the body with a keto diet

The Keto diet contains a minimal amount of carbohydrates (carbs).

This means that following a keto meal, there is no rise in glucose in the blood, which is necessary for insulin secretion. Insulin is essential for glucose metabolism.

Now the body starts to break down fats to produce energy. The body utilises dietary and stored fat to generate energy in this low insulin environment. The resultant metabolic state is known as ketosis.

The brain starts to use ketones for energy, although its primary energy source is glucose.

How do you identify the body is in ketosis?

When the body is in ketosis, you will likely feel a dry mouth, increased thirst and need for frequent urination. However, the issue with increased urination, electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium are lost. So you need to drink plenty of fluids to hydrate yourself.

You also notice bad breath or fruity odour when the body tries to eliminate the acetone produced during ketosis.

Benefits of a keto diet

  1. During ketosis, the body switches to stored fats (especially around the belly) and dietary fats for energy production. Ketosis also subsides the hunger. All these factors contribute to reducing abdominal obesity, thus helping reduce the incidence of metabolic syndrome.
  2. Reduces the risk of getting diabetes. If you already have diabetes, it helps improve blood sugar control due to the reduced carbs intake and insulin sensitivity. It also reduces oral hypoglycaemic agents and insulin requirements.
  3. Promote weight loss by utilising stored fats and minimising carbs intake due to reduced hunger.
  4. Improve the good cholesterols (HDL) level and reduces the bad cholesterol (LDL) level.
  5. Promote high blood pressure control.
  6. Good blood pressure, blood glucose and lipid control help to improve heart health.
  7. Reduce chances of getting cancers because due to low intake of carbs, oxidative substances (a precursor of cancers) produce less.
  8. It improves the hormone balance that stabilises your menstrual disorders and prevents polycystic ovarian disease.
  9. Prevent the development of acne. This is due to better blood sugar control, non-consumption of refined carbohydrates and a better balance between gut bacteria and skin health.
  10. The Keto diet is good for the brain. It helps us to protect and strengthen brain & nerve cells. It is also effective in controlling epilepsy (fits).

Foods to eat on a Keto diet

Your diet needs to be based on combining the following categories of foods to benefit from a ketogenic diet.

  • Meat – Include poultry (chicken, duck and turkey) and red meat (beef, mutton, lamb and pork). Try to avoid ham, sausage and bacon because they are processed.
  • Fish – select oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardine, rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Eggs – A large egg contains less than 1 g of carbs and about 6 g of proteins. The rest is fats. This makes eggs perfect for a keto diet.
  • Cream, butter and cheese – choose unprocessed cheese like mozzarella, cheddar or goat cheese.
  • Nuts and seeds – Almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds
  • Healthy oils – Olive, sunflower, canola and coconut oil
  • Non-starch (non-root) vegetables–Most of the green vegetables, broccoli, spinach, tomato and onion
  • Fruits – All types of berries, avocado and oranges.

Foods to avoid in a keto diet

  • Every pleasure has some cost. Similarly, the keto diet has some restrictions on your happiness. You need to avoid taking the following categories of foods in the keto diet.
  • Sweets: The most loved candy, chocolate, cakes, pastries, ice creams, and cookies should be avoided, and besides this, cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, saccharin, and corn syrup are considered unhealthy.
  • Fruits: Surprisingly, you need to avoid all fruits except a few, such as avocado and barriers.
  • Grains: Like fruits, grains are also unsuitable for this food plan. It includes almost every grain, like wheat, rice, corn and millet.
  • Legumes: We must avoid most beans like black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, soybeans, and chickpeas.
  • Root vegetables – Potato, carrot and sweet potato
  • Sauces: We must avoid consuming ketchup, BBQ sauce, Tomato sauces, and especially sugar-added ones.
  • Alcohol: Avoid beer, wines, spirits, sweetened alcoholic drinks, and cider.

What are the problems with a keto diet?

Every good thing has some downside too. Similarly, the Keto diet can result in several issues.

  • You can get a condition called keto flu where you feel unwell. There can be nutritional deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances such as sodium, potassium and magnesium.
  • Sometimes you can develop constipation because the keto diet does not include fibre-rich fruits and grains.
  • There is reduced insulin secretion in ketosis, thus decreasing muscle protein synthesis. This leads to reducing lean muscle mass. Therefore, the keto diet is not great for athletes because there is less muscle mass growth and reduced glycogen storage.

Who can take the keto diet

  • The Keto diet can be taken by all except those who are,
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding. Weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and metabolic changes with ketosis are not suitable for fetal growth. It also can suppress milk production.
  • Patients with gallbladder and pancreas should not try this diet. These two organs play a crucial role in fat digestion. Therefore, any issue with these two organs may be unable to handle a high fat load in a keto diet.
  • Also who have undergone bariatric surgery or gastrointestinal surgery need to avoid this type of diet.
  • People with kidney disease need to avoid this diet because an electrolyte imbalance occurs with a keto diet.
  • The Keto diet is some form of extreme diet; hence people who have had eating disorders need to avoid this diet.

The Bottom Line

The keto diet is good for weight loss and has many other health benefits.

During this diet, the body goes to a metabolic state known as ketosis. The body shifts its energy production to fats from glucose in this state. This shift brings the most health benefits. 

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