Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet

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Beginner's Guide to the Keto Diet

If you ever wondered about weight loss, you are sure to hear about the keto diet. This nutrition system has become the most fashionable in 2018. It’s been blogged about, posted on Instagram for quick weight loss successes (as with many other diets), and talked about for its health benefits.

A new round of popularity has been brought by studies showing that people who consume only meat and fat and do not suffer from cardiovascular diseases, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and type 2 diabetes as much.

In this article, we will discuss whether this diet is really as good as they say it is, figure out how to eat accordingly and determine its suitability for different people.

What is a Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a very low carbohydrate diet based on a high fat intake. It means carbohydrates should make up 5% of the daily caloric intake, proteins – 20%, and fats – 75%.

The concept of weight loss on a keto diet is based on a deficiency of glucose, which is necessary for normal fat oxidation and energy supply to the central nervous system. Reducing carbohydrates to 50 g/day leads to energy hunger and forces the brain to look for alternative sources of energy.

The new “fuel” is ketone bodies, which the liver begins to synthesise from the consumed and previously deposited fat. Thus, after 3-4 days, the body enters a state of ketosis, receiving energy by burning fat which leads to weight loss.

Signs of Ketosis in the Body

One of the main practical values of the keto diet is that it has an objectively measurable parameter – ketones in the blood. So you can easily check if you are doing everything right and getting into ketosis. Using a blood ketone meter, you can accurately determine the amount of ketones in the blood: ketones in concentrations above 0,5 mmol/l are called ketosis. However, the optimal range is 0,5-3 mmol/l.

The state of ketosis in the early days is also accompanied by specific physical signs, including:

  • Fruity or acetone bad breath
  • Frequent urination and intense thirst
  • Bowel dysfunction
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Acute hunger attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss

However, if these symptoms do not go away by the end of the third week of the diet, then it may not be the right nutrition approach for a person, and it is better to stop following it.

Dietary Guidelines for Ketosis

The basis of the keto diet is foods high in protein and fat. The recommended amount of carbohydrates per day should be at most 50 grams – this is how much is contained in 100 grams of bread. Besides that, the diet does not require calorie counting and has an extensive list of allowed foods, which makes it easy to maintain for most people and reduces the risk of relapse.

Foods Allowed on the Keto Diet Menu

  • Fatty meats: chicken legs, steak, pork, bacon
  • Fatty fish, especially salmon, and any seafood
  • Poultry: turkey, duck, and chicken meat
  • Nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs
  • Vegetable oils: olive or linseed
  • Butter and lard
  • In limited quantities, full-fat dairy products: cheeses, cream, and sour cream (be aware that these products are rich in carbohydrates)
  • Low-carb, leafy, non-starchy green vegetables: spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli, kohlrabi, cucumbers, zucchini

Foods Prohibited on the Keto Diet Menu

  • Any starchy vegetables: potatoes, corn, pumpkin
  • Flour products: all types of bread, pasta
  • Cereals and beans
  • Fruits and berries
  • Alcohol
  • Sweets: sugar in all forms, including candies, cookies, and pastries

Nutritional Effectiveness of the Keto Diet

Ketogenic eaters claim numerous positive effects of the keto diet, including: 

  • Rapid weight loss (be careful)
  • Prolonged feeling of fullness 
  • Increased physical and mental health 
  • Extra energy 
  • Skin improvement 

However, nutritionists remind us: there is not a single diet that suits everyone – we are all different, with our own metabolism, microflora and genes. 

The keto diet can indeed provide rapid weight loss, but its benefits for the body cannot be considered absolute. Moreover, weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity can also be obtained from healthier, low-calorie diets. For example, the Mediterranean diet includes a wide variety of protein foods, fats and slowly digestible carbs and is considered to be more balanced in the long run. 

The keto diet is suitable for relatively healthy people who want to quickly lose weight and change their eating habits. According to nutritionists, this regimen has also proven effective in treating type 2 diabetes. By drastically restricting carbohydrates, 95% of patients with this disease can stop taking insulin or reduce their dependence on it and avoid spikes in blood glucose levels.

Patients with type 1 diabetes may also benefit from it, but they should weigh the pros and cons and discuss all the nuances with an endocrinologist before changing their nutrition to fit a high-fat regime. Following a doctor’s instructions is essential to correctly calculate the level of insulin administered and achieve desired results. In some cases, it is better to choose another restrictive diet.

Possible Health Side Effects of the Ketogenic Diet

Due to its serious disadvantages and contraindications, doctors recommend following this diet with great caution. Among the most serious concerns are:

  • High risk of heart disease – a diet high in saturated fats can be harmful to the heart.
  • Liver and kidney damage – excess protein and fat can be harmful to these organs.
  • An increase in insulin – when patients with type 2 diabetes return to carbohydrate-containing meals, their insulin levels may rise again.
  • Keto flu – a negative emotional and physical state that can occur in the first few days of switching to a keto diet (apathy, irritability, weakness, nausea).
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiency – the keto diet excludes fruits and vegetables, which can leave you deficient in vitamins and minerals.
  • Digestive problems – a deficiency of plant fibres from grains and legumes can lead to constipation and abdominal pain.

So, Should You Try a Keto Diet?

The keto diet works great in the short term, suppressing appetite and helping to lose weight faster. It can also be effective for those with epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.

On the other hand, it is not suitable for the long term due to the threat of a constant release of toxic ketone bodies. And it has a rather difficult adaptation period with adverse health effects. 

In summary, you can try keto diet for weight loss but should do so with great care and only after consulting your doctor. In most cases, a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, nuts, and seeds will be more advantageous.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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