You might be curious to discover if the ketogenic diet would be effective for you when it seems like everyone — not just famous people — have given it a try. A high-fat, moderate-protein, extremely low-carb diet is known as the “keto diet.” However, is it really accurate — or healthy, for that matter — when individuals claim that you can eat all the butter and bacon you want and still lose weight? Is the keto diet the most effective method for shedding pounds? Or could it actually create more issues than it fixes? Here are the answers to your top keto inquiries.
1. Is the Ketogenic Diet Safe?
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the keto diet started out as a therapeutic eating plan used to manage seizures in epilepsy patients. A ketogenic diet might be required for those people’s health. However, most people don’t necessarily need to follow the ketogenic diet in order to be healthy.
Today, many people use the diet to shed pounds since it has become fashionable. However, eating a lot of saturated fat may put your long-term heart health at danger, and substantially reducing your carbohydrate intake may have unpleasant side effects like constipation and headaches. You may also fall short in terms of specific nutrients, including fiber, due to the restrictive nature of the ketogenic diet (which excludes the majority of fruit and dairy as well as whole grains, many vegetables, and legumes).
2. Is it Safe to Follow the Keto Diet?
Even while eating a diet heavy in fat can seem radical, Scott Keatley, RDN, of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy in New York City, notes that “studies looking at ketosis via food has not revealed any meaningful detrimental implications when done in the short term.” (Ketosis is the normal metabolic state in which your body burns fat instead of glucose, a type of sugar, as its primary fuel source.)
But there haven’t been many long-term studies, says Laguna Beach, California-based functional and therapeutic nutritionist Kendra Whitmire, CNS. It’s challenging to state with certainty whether it’s safe, and a lot relies on the kinds of things you’re consuming as part of the diet. (For instance, salmon is healthier than bacon; olive oil is a better option than butter.) In spite of this, Whitmire claims that correctly implementing the keto diet—especially with the advice of a healthcare provider—should minimize any unfavorable health effects.
3. Is Ketosis Unhealthy?
Your body typically uses carbs as its primary food source. Your body enters a state of ketosis when it begins to burn fat for energy by converting fat into ketone bodies. Beyond the keto flu, “several studies have proven that diet-induced ketosis has no real adverse effects in the short term,” claims Keatley. However, he continues, long-term research is required to accurately gauge the impact. The bottom line: For the majority of healthy people, briefly putting your body into ketosis is probably not detrimental.
4. On a ketogenic diet, how many carbs do you actually consume?
According to Jill Keene, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in White Plains, New York, a keto diet typically consists of 70 to 75 percent fat, 20 to 25 percent protein, and 5 to 10 percent carbohydrates. Everyone will have a different daily intake of carbohydrates, although it typically ranges from 20 to 50 g. On a ketogenic diet, many people track “net carbohydrates,” which are total carbs minus fiber. Because fiber is not digested by the human body, it is not “counted” in the overall amount of carbohydrates. In either case, that low carb count necessitates cautious preparation. You can readily exit ketosis by consuming a small amount of fruit, starchy vegetables, sweet meals, or whole grains.
5. Is Alcohol Allowed on the Keto Diet?
Yes. You can still drink alcohol in moderation even if it frequently contains carbohydrates, according to Keatley. Recognize that depending on the type of alcohol you choose to drink on such days, you may need to adapt your intake of carbs from other sources. That can entail making difficult choices, such as drinking alcohol while forgoing a tiny serving of fruit or Greek yogurt.
The most keto-friendly alcoholic beverages tend to be spirits (when consumed straight, without mixers), then wine. Keatley advises cutting your typical serving in half. Beer and wine can consume a large portion of your carbohydrates without providing any vitamins or minerals in return. He responds, “It’s a waste of your carbs.”
6. Can You Lose Weight on the Keto Diet?
There is no denying that a ketogenic diet may aid in weight loss, at least initially, and there are many anecdotal accounts of dramatic changes. “I have clients who have lost a lot of weight on the ketogenic diet, but they started off being obese and had a lot of fat to go. These people can have very dramatic physical changes, according to Keatley.
In a 2017 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, 20 obese participants lost an average of 44 pounds over the course of four months, mostly from the body and visceral fat. The diet followed consisted of only 600 to 800 daily calories, which is significantly less than what the majority of health professionals advise (it’s crucial to remember that there was no placebo group and this was a tiny sample source, so the conclusions are limited.) Normal-weight adults who followed a non-energy (calorie) limited keto diet over six weeks lost roughly 4 pounds in both fat and lean body mass, according to a 2017 study in Nutrition Metabolism.
Long-term studies, however, reveal that there is little difference in weight loss between the ketogenic diet and other diets. Adults on a ketogenic diet (consuming less than 50 g of carbs) were compared to those on a traditional low-fat diet in a previous meta-analysis. When compared to the group that reduced fat, individuals following the ketogenic diet dropped an additional two pounds after at least a year. The main reality is that numerous diets, including keto, may ultimately assist you in losing the same amount of weight. With such information, be aware that there might be a better choice for you, advises Keatley.
7. Which Fruits Are Allowed on the Ketogenic Diet?
Generally speaking, fruit is not a staple of the keto diet. Fruit typically contains too many carbohydrates due to its high natural sugar content. However, Whitmire advises that you can consume tiny portions of lower-carb foods like berries. And if you want to go really specific, the higher-fat foods avocado and coconut are actually fruits. These fruits can fit into a ketogenic diet according to USDA carb counts*:
8. Can I Consume Snacks Like Popcorn, Oatmeal, and Yogurt While on the Keto Diet?
Unfortunately, the keto diet definitely won’t work with high-carb items like popcorn or oats. According to USDA data, one cup of air-popped popcorn has 5 g of net carbohydrates, which could be a quarter of your daily carbohydrate allowance. It’s also important to note that 1 cup of popcorn is not a substantial amount because it only has 30 calories and no fat. Most likely, oatmeal doesn’t fit either. The equivalent of half a cup of cooked, plain dried oats offers just 1 gram of fat and 12 grams of net carbohydrates for 77 calories. from the USDA. Regarding yogurt, it depends on the variety you pick and if it adheres to the keto diet. 5 g of carbs are found in one 5.3-ounce container of Fage plain 5 percent milk fat Greek yogurt, for example. Keep in mind to select plain varieties as flavored ones will contain extra sugar (and, therefore, carbs)
According to USDA data, nuts (1 ounce of almonds has 3 g net carbohydrates), seeds (1/2 cup of sunflower seed kernels has 3 g net carbs), and modest portions of low-carb fruits like berries make for better keto-compliant snacking. Other healthy keto snack options include beef jerky and non-starchy vegetables like broccoli and cucumbers.
9. Is the Keto Flu Something I Should Worry About?
You’ve probably read about the keto flu, one unfun side effect, if you’re interested in the keto diet. Keatley asserts that “the keto flu is unquestionably genuine.” “Your body was made to run on carbohydrates, and it does so quite well. It is less effective at producing energy when it turns to fat burning, according to him. Keto causes you to have less energy and you could feel unwell and lethargic, something like the flu. You will emerge from it when your body naturally adapts to this new method of obtaining energy. According to Keatley, this may take a few weeks.
10. Can I Get Kidney Stones on the Keto Diet?
Stones may be more prone to form if you consume a lot of red meat and little water, according to Whitmire. She says that while following a ketogenic diet, you must restore electrolytes and stay hydrated (minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium). If not, you run a higher risk of experiencing adverse effects including kidney stones, she warns. The past study provides a limited window into the potential likelihood of kidney stones. Adults who follow the ketogenic diet have a slightly increased risk of getting kidney stones, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2021 in Diseases. Consult your doctor about any precautions you should take when following a ketogenic diet if you have risk factors for kidney stones, such as a family or personal history of the condition.
11. How Might My Period Be Affected by the Keto Diet?
You might notice a shift in your menstrual cycle. According to Whitmire’s research, younger women who eat significantly low-carb for an extended period of time experience irregular periods or skipped periods. The adrenal system may be taxed by severely reducing carbs, which could result in hormonal abnormalities that mess up a woman’s cycle. Rapid weight loss may also have the same result. The lesson? In particular, if a woman is observing a shift in her cycle, “women may need more carbs on a keto diet than men,” she says.
On the opposite end of the scale, there is some evidence that a ketogenic diet may help women with the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) maintain a healthy hormonal balance. According to a tiny study that was published in Nutrition & Metabolism, a small sample of PCOS-afflicted women who adhered to a ketogenic diet for 24 weeks lowered their testosterone and insulin levels and lost 12 percent of their body weight. Once more, consult your physician, especially if you’re using the diet as a component of your therapy.
12. How Long Should You Follow the Keto Diet for Weight Loss?
According to anecdotal evidence, a keto diet is said to cause rapid weight loss in many people. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, obese dieters who followed a very-low-calorie keto diet dropped an average of 44 pounds over the course of four months. Despite this, Keatley advises customers to only stay in ketosis for a maximum of 12 weeks due to the risks associated with long-term adherence and the possibility of developing nutritional deficiencies.
During the transition period after quitting the keto diet and starting to consume more carbohydrates, he notes, patients frequently gain some weight. Additionally, if they go back to their pre-keto eating habits after feeling deprived of the plan, they risk gaining back all of the weight they lost and possibly even more.
13. What Effect Will the Keto Diet Have on Your Cholesterol Levels?
The intriguing aspect of a ketogenic diet is that it frequently results in weight loss, which on its own can lower blood lipid levels. The amount of saturated fat you consume may be more than ever at the same time, coming from foods like butter, bacon, cream, and coconut oil.
It has long been known that consuming too much saturated fat can increase cholesterol and put us in danger of developing heart disease. Because of this, many experts are concerned that consuming more fat may be particularly dangerous for those who already have heart disease or who are at risk of developing it.
After 24 weeks, total cholesterol levels declined, “bad” LDL cholesterol levels plummeted, and “good” HDL cholesterol levels rose, according to a small study of obese patients following a ketogenic diet. That can be a reflection of the fact that cholesterol tends to decrease with any weight loss, regardless of how it is attained. Additionally, as was already noted, those with heart disease risk factors should speak with their doctors before starting a ketogenic diet. According to earlier studies, people who were at risk for cardiovascular disease had reduced arterial function when they consumed a diet that was low in carbohydrates but high in fat and protein.
The sort of fat you consume when on a keto diet may be the deciding factor. The impact of a low-fat diet in comparison to a low-carb diet was examined in a review and meta-analysis. Higher intakes of monounsaturated fat (such as olive oil or avocado) in the setting of a high-fat diet were related to greater levels of heart-protective HDL cholesterol, but lower intakes of saturated fat were associated with lower cholesterol levels.
14. On a ketogenic diet, how much protein will you consume?
According to Keene, 20 to 25 percent of the calories in a typical ketogenic diet may come from protein. This diet is moderate in protein, contrary to a frequent misperception that it is high in protein. She claims that too much protein can be broken down into sugar and used as an energy source. The body will break out of ketosis as a result.
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Having said that, avoid consuming too little protein. If you lose weight, you should be able to maintain ketosis without sacrificing lean body mass (muscle), according to Whitmire. 1.2 to 1.5 g of protein per kilogram of body weight can be roughly calculated from this. (According to Harvard Health Publishing, the recommended daily intake is presently 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight.) A 140-pound lady should aim for 76 to 95 g per day as a result. For comparison, the USDA estimates that a 3-ounce chicken breast contains 26 g of protein.
Fatty fish (like salmon or mackerel), which provides a dose of heart-healthy protein and omega-3 fatty acids, is one of the finest sources of protein on a ketogenic diet, according to Keene. Another excellent option is eggs, which have 6 g of protein and 5 g of fat per large egg.
Even though the keto diet emphasizes fat, you don’t have to live on bacon and sausages. Leaner proteins like chicken or cod are acceptable; just remember to add fat to these lower-fat sources (for instance, roast the chicken with olive oil). Many beef cuts are also categorized as lean or extremely lean because they include 10 grams or less of total fat and only a little amount of saturated fat (4.5 g and 2 g or less, respectively). According to the Mayo Clinic, these include top round roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak, sirloin tip side steak, the eye of round roast and steak, and top sirloin steak.
15. Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Reversed With the Keto Diet?
Despite the fact that carb counting and distributing carbohydrates equally throughout the day may be simpler to stick to, Keene adds that this option is still on the table given the strength of the newer studies.
It’s true: According to some preliminary studies, certain type 2 diabetics may benefit from a ketogenic diet. For instance, in a small study that was published in 2017 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, overweight adults with type 2 diabetes were randomly divided into two groups: one that followed a ketogenic diet, and the other that followed the American Diabetes Association’s low-fat diet recommendations as the control. In comparison to the control group, the keto group experienced greater blood sugar reduction after 32 weeks, with half of them achieving an A1C of less than 6.5 percent (less than 5.7 percent is considered normal). In addition, 28 pounds were dropped by the keto group, as opposed to 7 pounds for the control group.
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Keto can bring health hazards to those with diabetes, particularly if you’re following it without the guidance of a medical practitioner, although larger and longer-term research is required. Importantly, those who use insulin or who are on blood sugar-lowering medications should be warned that significantly reducing carbs, as you must do on the keto diet, might result in dangerously low blood sugar levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, if left untreated, this condition, known as hypoglycemia, can cause seizures, unconsciousness, and blurred vision. (Experts advise against trying the keto diet if you have type 1 diabetes.)