What is a Keto Diet? – A Beginner’s Guide

What is a Keto Diet?​​​​​​​

A ketogenic diet, most commonly known as “keto diet” is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet which makes your body go into a fat-burning state known as ketosis. In ketosis, your body uses body fat, rather than carbs, as its main source of energy.​​​​​​​

Basically, ketogenic is low-carb, but it is much more. There is a reason the ketogenic diet has become so popular. It helps improve your overall wellbeing in addition to helping you lose weight.
You have more energy during the day, and you feel sated and full, thereby reducing the cravings for unhealthy snacks. In essence, you are eating less, but better.

That’s what makes the keto diet so unique and successful.
The ketogenic diet is by no means a magic pill made up by some gurus. Countless studies and testimonials are able to back the effectiveness of this diet.
It is a scientifically proven method that balances your body’s fat intake to help achieve optimal weight loss.

How the Keto Diet Works?

When we consume a diet rich in carbohydrates our bodies convert those carbs into glucose (blood sugar) which spikes our blood sugar levels.
When our blood sugar levels rise that signals our body to produce insulin, a hormone that carries glucose to our cells so that it can be used as energy. This is what is commonly known as an insulin spike.
Glucose is our body’s preferred energy source. So as long as you keep consuming carbohydrates, our body will keep turning them into sugar which is then used for energy.
Therefore, when glucose is present in our system our body will refuse to burn off its stored fats.
The only way to start burning fat is by removing carbs. This depletes our bodies glycogen stores (stored glucose), leaving our body no choice but to start burning the stored fats. Therefore converting fatty acids into ketones, putting our body on a metabolic state known as ketosis.

What Are Ketones?​​​​​​​

Ketones are small fuel molecules your body produces when you follow a ketogenic “keto” diet. This is an alternative fuel source for your body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.
Ketones are produced when we eat fewer carbohydrates, which are broken down into our blood sugar, and moderate amounts of protein. However consuming excess amounts of protein can also be converted into blood sugar, so the key is a well planned and balanced diet for optimum health and weight loss results.

​Our liver produces ketones from fat and these ketones then serve as a fuel source throughout our body and especially for our brain.
The brain is a very hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day but it can not run on just fats directly, It can only run on glucose or ketones.
Fueling our body mostly by fats, a state called “ketosis”, has many health benefits for our body including that we become a well oiled fat-burning machine, this is perfect for weight loss without the hunger burning fat 24/7 even when you’re sleeping.
Being in a state of Ketosis we get a source of energy that basically never runs out. This is why the keto diet has become so popular in the last few years.
The foundation of the keto diet is something you have probably heard a million times.
It’s a strictly Low Carb Diet, A gluten-free diet, it’s very similar to A Paleo Diet and also very close to the old and well known Atkins diet. The basic idea is super simple and based on real foods.

The History of the Keto Diet

If we’re stripping carbohydrates make such good scientific sense why isn’t everybody doing this? some people may wonder this is so different from the standard of care. Is this safe and effective for me?
In the long term believe it or not many cultures in the world have eaten this way for centuries.
One of them is the Masai in Africa. And they were actually studied, and what did they find they found that in these people their cardiovascular disease rates were incredibly low.
Despite the fact that the majority of what they were eating was fat. Actually saturated fat and their cholesterol levels surprising to so many we’re low as well.
Another culture that’s known for eaten this way are the Inuits, also know as Eskimo people. They’ve eaten a low-carb high-fat diet for centuries, and again what we have found is an almost complete absence of type 2 diabetes and incredibly low cancer rates.
Let’s look at the history of a ketogenic diet in the US. Remember we didn’t always have insulin and all these medications for diabetes. So what did we do to help people who have this disease before insulin injections became available?
The father of diabetes treatment is considered Dr. Jocelyn. Dr. Jocelyn started treating patients with type 2 diabetes.
Before we had insulin injections and what was his treatment of choice he treated people with a low carbohydrate high-fat diet. And an interesting thing is one of the first people that he treated whose life he saved was his own mother.
With this method, this is how we used to approach this disease. we got off track when we had so many medications that seemed like they might be easier, but we now have to go back and ask ourselves are they or did we know a lot back then.
Something many people don’t realize is that a ketogenic diet is used as a treatment for epilepsy in children. When medications either stop working or are no longer tolerated.
So the medical community deems this to be safe to be used in growing children. A clinical study has looked at the growth and development of children treated with a ketogenic diet for epilepsy and has found that they grow and develop normally so this approach is used even in children.

Top 5 Keto Health Benefits

The Keto diet has skyrocketed in popularity and is seen as one of the fastest and most effective ways to lose weight.
However, besides just accelerating fat loss, there are many other benefits that can be accrued by adopting this fat-based diet. Let’s look at 5 health benefits of the keto diet.

1. Stabilizes your blood sugar levels
The insulin hormone is the main factor when it comes to weight gain. The keto diet is rich in fat and very low in carbohydrates. So, the diet does not spike your blood sugar levels. This, in turn, prevents unnecessary weight gain because excess insulin will not be shuttled off into your fat stores.
Type 2 diabetes patients will benefit from the keto diet because it will regulate and improve insulin sensitivity while keeping their blood glucose levels stable.

2. Reduces Inflammation
The keto diet is very low in sugar. Any sugars that you find in your diet will come from fruit (only to be consumed occasionally), which is safe.
Sugar, especially refined sugars are the main culprits when it comes to inflammation in the body, once on a Ketogenic diet, you’ll notice that the aches and pains you were experiencing have miraculously disappeared.

3. Lower Cholesterol Levels
Once again, this is tied to your sugar consumption. For decades, it was believed that fatty foods raise your cholesterol levels. However, in the latest studies, doctors are discovering that most cholesterol is produced by the body and not a result of dietary choices.
When sugary foods inflame the body, it releases a wax-like substance to cover and protect the cells. This is the body’s way of self-preservation. This waxy substance is known as cholesterol.
A well-balanced keto diet eliminates needless sugar consumption by eliminating processed foods. As a result, your inflammation drops along with your bad cholesterol levels.
When combined with the healthy fats consumed in the keto diet, this two-pronged approach proves highly effective for reducing bad cholesterol levels and restoring your health.

4. Increased Energy
Most people on a keto diet experience feeling more energetic once they are in a state of ketosis. Since the body is burning ketones for fuel rather than glucose, it has ample amounts of body fat to tap into.
Not only will your body be burning fat, but ketones are a much cleaner source of fuel for the body. Your moods will be better because your body is not subject to ebbs and flows of glucose.
On a normal diet, you’ll crave carbs when your energy levels dip because the body uses glucose as a fuel source. You’ll not have such issues with the keto diet.

5. Appetite Under Control
When on a keto diet, since your blood sugar levels are stable and your body is fat-adapted, you’ll not be craving food all the time as is commonly seen with other diets.
Many people on a keto diet report not feeling hungry throughout the day because the body always has a source of fuel.
In fact, drinking coffee in the morning is enough to keep them going until late afternoon.
Once the keto diet suppresses ghrelin (your hunger hormone), you’ll be less likely to overeat and your weight will drop easily.​​​​​​​

The Difference Between Keto, Low-Carb, and Paleo.

The Ketogenic diet is commonly confused with other low carb diets or even paleo diets. However, there are considerable differences of which you should be aware of.

Keto vs Low Carb

A low-carb diet can be anything it wants to be, as long as it is low in carbohydrates, and “low” is rarely defined. Since there is no real number to gauge our progress, We might still be consuming too many carbs. Most importantly what the low-carb diet lacks is that all-critical ketonic state that turns carbs into fats and provides your body with a new and effective source of fuel.

This can leave you very hungry and tired.
The ketogenic diet has a specific ratio of carbs to fats to protein. This manipulation is critical, and it’s why a low carb diet won’t work as well, if at all.

Keto vs Paleo

The Paleo is also a low-carb-type diet. It is based on the assumption that eating the way our cavemen ancestors did, i.e., meat and no carbs, sugars, or grains, is the healthiest type of diet.
There are problems with this reasoning. First, our ancestors never experienced the kind of diseases that we face.
Specifically, the ketogenic diet is a healing diet that is very beneficial for the body in many ways and can also help prevent diseases. The paleo diet does not do this.
Also, a paleo diet is based around eating meat proteins instead of controlling the ratio of fats, carbohydrates, and protein to achieve a ketonic state that uses fat as fuel.

What can I eat on the Keto Diet?

While on the keto diet, most of your diet will consist of foods high in fats coupled with a measured intake of proteins and low carbohydrate intake. Some of the food groups allowed in this diet are:

1. Proteins
Poultry: Free-range Cornish hen, quail, goose, pheasant, chicken, duck, and turkey.
Fish and Seafood: Cod, tuna, scrod, anchovies, mackerel, flounder, catfish, trout, mahi-mahi, halibut, sole, sardines, salmon, halibut, snapper, and calamari. Remember to always go for wild-caught fish in order to avoid toxins present in commercially reared fish.
Grass-fed Meat: These include beef, venison, goat, and lamb. Meat from wild animals is also acceptable; however, avoid sausages and meats that come with sugary sauces and those covered in breadcrumbs. Choose the chunks of meat with more fat since they contain less protein and more fat.
Pork: Boston butt, pork chops, ham pork, and loin. When choosing ham, be on the lookout for added sugar.
Bacon and Sausages: Preferably, you should buy these at specialty health food stores. If this is not possible, always read the labels to avoid those which contain fillers such as soy or sugars.
Canned Tuna and Salmon: Canned tuna and salmon are okay to consume while you are on the keto diet. However always try to avoid seafood that is rich in fillers, breaded seafood, and fried seafood.
Vegetable Protein Powders: Protein supplements such as whey protein, hemp protein, pea, and rice are acceptable.
Whole Eggs: This includes chicken eggs, and quail eggs which you can prepare through any mean desired; fried, soft or hard-boiled, deviled, scrambled, or omelet style.
Shellfish: Oyster, mussels, lobster, shrimp, crab (not imitation crab that contains additives), clams, scallops, and squid.

2. Fats and Oils
Because the good fats are our main source of energy while on a Keto Diet, stick to the types of fats and oils you enjoy.
These may include:
* Omega 3 fatty acids from fish like tuna, shellfish, and salmon
* Fish supplements or krill
* Monounsaturated fats such as egg yolks, avocado, and butter
* Vegetable oils such as olive oil and coconut oil.
* Non-hydrogenated beef tallow, ghee, and lard.
* Duck and chicken fat
In order to make it easier to stick to this diet, be aware of which types of fats your body can tolerate. When starting a Keto diet many people seem to have zero or very low tolerance of vegetable oils and mayo. This may be a good thing because most of these oils are rich in omega 6 fatty acids – the kind that is bad for your body’s cholesterol levels.
In this case, work with the listed monounsaturated fats to reduce the inflammatory effect brought about by polyunsaturated fats.
Nevertheless, work to balance both fats because you cannot survive on monounsaturated fats alone (You need a lot of fats and oils). Even then, avoid hydrogenated fats such as margarine to reduce the number of trans-fats you eat.

3. Fresh Vegetables

For these foods always go for the organic ones or better still, grow your own vegetables and avoid all the pesticide toxins.
Avoid starchy vegetables (corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, and winter squash) that are high in carbs. Instead, opt for a moderate intake of sweet vegetables (squashes, peppers, tomatoes, and carrots).
Vegetables that make it to the list are:
Collard Greens
Onions (high in sugar; moderate intake)
Alfalfa Sprouts
Beet Greens
Dandelion Greens
Bamboo Shoots
Brussels sprouts
Bok Choy
Celery Root
Swiss chard
Snow Peas
Bean Sprouts
Salad greens and lettuces: Romaine, Arugula, Fennel, Bok Choy, Boston lettuce, Endive, Mache, Escarole, Sorrel, Radicchio, Chicory Water Chestnuts
Dill Pickles

4. Dairy Products
Mascarpone cheese Unsweetened whole milk yogurt (limit intake of this type of yogurt because it is a little high in carbs)
All soft and hard cheeses
Cream cheese
Full fat sour cream (do not forget to check for additives)
Full fat cottage cheese
Heavy whipping cream
Remember to always go for raw milk products and if you don’t have access to them, go for the organic ones.

5. Beverages
Bulletproof coffee
Decaf Tea
Flavored seltzer water
Decaf coffee
Herbal tea
Lemon and lime juice (limit intake)
Clear broth or bouillon

6. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts: almonds, macadamias, pecans, and walnuts are the nuts with the lowest level of carbs meaning you can consume them in small amounts. Other nuts such as chestnuts, pistachios, and cashews contain a higher amount of carbs; thus, you should carefully monitor their intake. Nuts are best soaked for some time before roasted.
Nut flours: these are necessary because while you are on this diet, it does not mean baking no longer fits into your life. Nut flours such as almond flour will suffice.

7. Sweeteners
Some options include:
Inulin and Chicory root
Lo Han Guo
Liquid Stevia

8. Spices
Here are spices allowed on the keto diet:
Sea salt
Chili pepper
Cilantro or coriander seeds
Black pepper
Cumin seeds
Cayenne pepper
Mustard seeds

As you can see from the above very detailed list, the keto diet is NOT a highly-restrictive dieting lifestyle, it also offers you a variety of foods to choose from; thus, you should not feel overwhelmed.

However, there are foods you should avoid to achieve optimal ketosis as your body makes the switch from using glucose to synthesizing fats for ketones.

In the next section, we shall outline the foods you should avoid:

Foods to Avoid on a Keto Diet

If you stick to the food listed in the previous section, you do not have to worry about not achieving optimal ketosis.
On the same note, as you increase the intake of those foods, you should also be on the lookout for the following foods that may hinder ketosis:
Avoid all grains, wholemeal included (rye, wheat, oats, barley, corn, millet, rice sorghum, and buckwheat). Also, avoid all products made from grains; these include foods such as crackers, pasta, pizza, and cookies.
Avoid refined fats and oils like sunflower, canola, grape seed, corn oil, soybean, and Trans-fats such as margarine.
Avoid milk (only full-fat raw milk is acceptable). For coffee, replace your choice of milk with a reasonable amount of full-fat cream.
Avoid tropical fruits such as bananas, pineapples, mango papaya, etc., and some high carb fruit.
Avoid fruit juice.
Avoid factory-farmed pork and fish.
Avoid all artificial sweeteners containing Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharine, etc.
Avoid alcoholic sweet drinks such as beer, and sweet wine
Avoid Soy Products

Now that you know what to eat and what to avoid, you are well on your way to a healthier, more balanced and fuller life.

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Please enjoy the Video below by Dr Oz on the What is A Keto Diet.