Keto diet pros and cons: What it is, what it isn’t, how it can help you
The desire to lose weight and look better has always preyed on our fragile human egos.
Almost as long as we’ve had civilizations, people have sought clever plans, specific foods, and other tricksy means to achieve an ideal figure the quick and easy way.
In fact, the word “diet” actually stems from the Greek word diaita, in both its meaning as a person’s general overall nutrition intake, as well as a set of restrictions on food for the purposes of altering your body.
Records show that ancient Greek athletes would cut out bread and eat more dried figs and legumes when they were training for the Olympics – pretty solid advice even by modern standards.
That’s as long as you don’t count this tip from the physician Hippocrates for ancient Greek athletes on how to treat muscle soreness:
“Get drunk once or twice,” he told them.
You, sir, are hired.
But while diet fads come and go, one modern diet that seems to be more than just a temporary craze is the ketogenic diet, or keto diet.
What is a keto diet?
The keto diet is centered around eating foods that are very low in carbohydrates, contain moderate amounts of protein, and are very high in certain fats.
The name comes from the word “ketosis,” a term for a metabolic state your body enters when you’ve sharply reduced your carb intake for some time.
We’ll explain more about what being on a keto diet means, and answer questions like how many carbs should I eat on a keto diet, and what can you eat on a keto diet, but first let’s get into what it actually is.
Here’s how a ketogenic diet works:
Normally, your body burns glucose (aka sugar) for energy. Glucose in your body comes from carbohydrates, which are converted into glucose and stored in your liver.
From there, it’s released into your bloodstream as your body’s demands for energy wax and wane.
However, after a couple of days of severe carb restriction in your diet, your body’s glucose runs low, and it’s forced to turn to an alternative energy source. This process is known as “ketosis.”
In ketosis, your body accelerates production of “ketones,” which are also made by your liver, but not from sugar. Rather, ketones are made from your body’s fat, and from the fat you ingest.
What are the benefits of a keto diet (aka ketosis diet)?
The keto diet is an appealing option for millions of people looking to lose weight, and there are lots of reasons why.
But just know that the main attraction for lots of people is that you can be on a keto diet for extended periods of time without constantly feeling hungry like you often do on traditional diets.
Other benefits of the ketogenic diet is its speed, efficiency and effectiveness.
That’s because when your body’s sugar levels drop in ketosis, insulin production in your body is also reduced, dramatically increasing the rate at which your body burns fat.
Additionally, once your body is in ketosis and running on ketones rather than glucose, you have a steady energy supply.
Gone are the days of the sugar crash – the kind you get when you eat a lot of carbs, which as we’ve already mentioned, your body converts into sugar.
What can you eat on a keto diet?
We’ll get to some specific foods that are ideal to stock up on when you’re asking how to start keto.
But the main thing to be aware of if you’re concerned about what can you eat on a keto diet because you’ve experienced diets where you’re walking around all day feeling as if you’re starving, that just isn’t the case here.
Using the keto diet principles, dieters have been able to drop significant weight without suffering from the severe hunger pangs most people dread when they’re looking to drop a few pounds.
Even more amazing, what surprises many people about a keto diet for beginners is finding out you often don’t need to count calories at all.
It’s a diet program that permits users to not only lose a great deal of weight rapidly, it has even been shown to be useful in alleviating Type 2 diabetes as well.
How do I get started on keto? Is it safe?
Dozens of studies have been done over the years showing that a keto diet is effective and safe if followed properly.
As long as you provide your body with sufficient nutrients and don’t have any underlying health issues like Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, liver, heart or kidney disease, or high blood pressure, you should be good to go.
As far as getting started on a keto diet, most people want to know how many carbs should I eat on a keto diet?
We’re talking at most keeping it under 50 grams a day, with 20 grams per day being the ideal.
To put that in perspective, two slices of whole wheat bread contain about 20 grams of carbohydrates.
So you can see that you’ll have to give some serious thought to your food intake if you plan to achieve and maintain ketosis over time.
How to start keto
Another tip is to try intermittent fasting. This is a style of diet restriction that has gained popularity in recent years, and which has proven useful in kick-starting the body on the road to ketosis.
Traditional fasting – that is, cutting out all food altogether for a period of days or even weeks(!) – also has the effect of pushing the body into ketosis. After all, if you’re not eating anything at all, you’re not eating any carbs.
But the thing about total fasting is that it sucks rocks.
If you’re following a keto diet plan in addition to this, intermittent fasting restrictions like these can help push your body into ketosis more quickly.
So, what can you eat on a keto diet? Fat, baby!
There are a number of popular and well-received keto diet planning books available that have gotten tens of thousands of positive reviews, so we won’t lay out a specific, day-to-day diet plan here.
However, below you’ll find a few of the primary foods you’ll want to look to if you’re wondering what can you eat on a keto diet.
Be aware that one big piece of the puzzle that’s often hard to grasp for people who are wondering how to start keto is that, unlike with most other diets, in keto diets fat is not your enemy.
Again, look to the books linked above for specific keto diet plans.
But here’s a partial list of a few keto-friendly foods to help you understand what you can eat on a keto diet:
Seafood: Fish and shellfish are great keto diet foods. Salmon contains almost zero carbs, as do shrimp and crab. These and other seafoods are also high in B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
Low-starch vegetables: Sorry, no potatoes for you here, lads. Kale, broccoli and cauliflower are your friends on keto.
Cheese: Cheese is almost the ideal food for keeping your keto carbs per day low. A 28 gram block of cheddar contains just 1 gram of carbs, but a whopping 7 grams of protein.
Avocados: These delicious little green guys contain about 9 grams of carbs per 100 grams (about a half avocado). Better yet, 7 of that is fiber, so you only have a net of 2 grams of carbs.
Meat and poultry: You’re going to get high protein, nutrients, and good cholesterol, plus almost zero carbs with grass-fed meat and poultry.
Coconut oil: Coconut oil remains stable even at high heat, and it contains medium-chain fatty acids that help to increase ketone production.
What can you not eat on a keto diet?
The extensive decades of research on the keto diet has shown nutritionists, medical doctors and scientists that the old-school belief that “eating fat makes you fat” is just plain wrong – or at least it provides an incomplete picture.
What we’ve come to find out is that it’s sugar – and highly processed foods that contain sugar and sugar derivatives, as well as starches that convert into sugar in the body – that contribute most directly to accumulating body fat.
So starchy, high-carb foods and sugary desserts and beverages are a no-go.
If you’re concerned about what can you not eat on a keto diet, and worried about what you might have to give up, we’re mostly talking soda, desserts, bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice.
Conclusions: How to start keto
The main takeaway is that, although the keto diet sounds like a radical shift, millions of people swear by it, and the adjustment period isn’t as dramatic as it might sound.
Plus, with results including losing weight without feeling hungry all the time, can you really complain about giving up bread and soda?