Yes, I am sure I got a few eye-rolls the moment some of you read the title. I also know that there is a lot written about the Keto diet and a huge section hates it. On the other hand, for some it is a way of life. Even though the internet is flooded with information about the Keto diet, I decided to write this article because I have seen the benefits of this diet within my family. That is right-from 108 kgs to 70.9kgs, over a period of 3 years.
There is no arguing the fact that eventually its how many calories you eat that determines how much weight you will gain or lose, but empirical evidence suggests that Keto for weight loss is effective because the diet aids hunger control by regulating your insulin and blood sugar levels. So that’s half the battle won!
Hence, despite the criticism or scepticism, I passionately believe that keto for weight loss isn’t a myth like many believe it to be. So, before you give up, I urge you to read this article and decide for yourself….
What is Keto?
Ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet, quite similar to Atkins. In this diet, since the intake of carbohydrates is low, the body efficiently uses fat for energy and puts your body into a state called Ketosis. It also converts the fat present in the liver to ketones, which supply energy to the brain.
This is the simplest explanation of the keto diet, where it uses fat as energy; which means the fat in our body that makes the body “fat” or “overweight” is used up, and this leads to the reduction of the inches! So, don’t you think that this makes Keto the best option for weight loss?
Why opt for Keto when there are almost more than 30 diets that one could follow?
I believe, Keto is the best weight loss diet, but in addition to that it also possibly lowers the risk of a number of diseases. It has been proven to be beneficial against diabetes where it regulates the blood sugar and insulin levels, epilepsy (this diet was introduced some time in the 1920s as a cure for epilepsy), cancer (where in certain types of cancer, Keto helps in slowing down the growth of the tumour) and Alzheimer’s. Safe to say that these are some of the dreaded diseases, isn’t it?
If you want more, Keto has other health benefits wherein it reduces the diastolic blood pressure and triglycerides’ levels in the blood. Keto helps in weight loss by aiding in the loss of excess fat which is linked to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and prediabetes. Especially for women, it helps in dealing with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOD).
Before I explain further, it is important to know….
Why should we avoid or take minimal amount of Carbohydrates?
What does excessive intake of Carbohydrates do to our body?
To answer to this, lets see what carbs are…
- Carbohydrates are the chief or primary source of energy that our body uses to function such as the sugar, starches, dietary fibre which are present in plant food and dairy products. All kinds of carbohydrates are made of sugar molecules. When these sugar molecules link together, they form fibre and starch. This is broken down in the body to form Glucose, which powers the body functions. Now, Glucose is known as blood sugar.
- There are good carbs and bad carbs.
- Good carbs are the ones found in whole grains, cereals, whole wheat flour, fruits, which take a longer time to be broken down by the body and used as energy.
- Bad carbs are found in refined flour, sugar, cookies, pasta, processed food, and other bakery items which contain very little fibre.
When the intake of carbohydrates is high, it disrupts the blood sugar levels; especially the ones which have a high glycemic load. This could lead to Type 2 diabetes.
It also increases the levels of triglycerides, a type of unhealthy fat, which travels through the blood.
Excessive carbs can lower the good cholesterol known as HDL. Now, high triglycerides combined with low HDL is a clear invitation to various cardiovascular diseases and other complications.
Carbohydrates are the main culprit behind weight gain. And the worst part, refined sugars and carbs don’t tend to make you feel full despite their high calorie counts. So, all we want is to eat more! Undoubtedly delicious but extremely dangerous. Tough choice, right?
What are the several types of Ketogenic diet?
If you decide to switch to Keto for weight loss, it is important that you know the few kinds of ketogenic diets that you could choose from:
- SKD (Standard Ketogenic Diet)– this is a high fat, moderate protein, and very low carb diet. This diet consists of 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carb.
- CKD (Cyclical Ketogenic Diet)– this a favourite option for the ones who follow the ketogenic diet for weight loss. In this form of diet, a person follows 5 days of keto and 2 days of high carb intake. Here, people do tend to go overboard and many a times it requires a lot of determination to get back to the keto regime. But still, you get the best of both worlds in this option.
- High Protein Ketogenic Diet– This is similar to SKD but here the protein levels are higher. So, the distribution looks like: 60% fat, 35%protein and 5% carbs. Yeah, even lesser carbs here.
- TKD (Targeted Ketogenic Diet)– this diet is the best option for those into heavy workouts. For that extra energy, one can introduce more carbs into the diet around workouts. This is not a good option for the ones who are only looking at weight loss through diet and minimal exercise.
This makes it very easy for you to choose the kind of keto diet you want to opt for your weight loss regime.
What can you eat and what should you avoid?
Foods that you can eat:
- Meat – chicken, turkey, red meat, ham, bacon, sausage
- Low carb veggies (this is very important as one MUST incorporate the veggies in the diet) -all kinds of green veggies like spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale. Horseradish bok choy, turnip- you could checkout the list for cruciferous veggies, tomatoes, onion (in moderation), etc
- Fatty fish – mackerel, trout, tuna, salmon
- Butter and cream
- Unprocessed cheese like mozzarella, cheddar, goat cream, blue.
- Seeds and nuts – flax, chia, pumpkin seeds, etc, almonds, walnuts
- Healthy oils like Olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil
- Condiments such as herbs, spices and salt and pepper.
- Do check the list of healthy low carb food here.
Foods to avoid:
- Anything that has sugar: soda, fruit juice, ice cream, candy, chocolates, etc.
- Grain and anything that contains starch – rice, pasta, cereal, wheat-based products, corn etc.
- Beans and Legumes like kidney beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas etc
- Tubers and root veggies – potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips etc
- Unhealthy fats or low-fat products like mayonnaise, processed oils, salad dressings etc
- Alcohol – that’s a difficult one but maybe if you opt for CKD.
- Fruits – all fruits except blueberries, strawberries etc
- Anything that says sugar-free diet food- sweeteners, desserts, sugar-free candies etc.
Healthy Keto Snacks- find a list of few healthy keto snacks here.
You could also find a lot of keto recipes online and kick-start your weight loss regime.
What are the common mistakes that people make while following keto?
Even though people often choose to follow Keto for weight loss, there are few mistakes that they often tend to make that renders the whole idea ineffective and they start believing that Keto is nonsense.
- Eating hidden carbs– always check the labels of the items you buy from the store. These hidden carbs are found in the form of certain sauces, condiments, salad dressings etc.
- Eating too many keto sweets– just because it is “keto friendly” does not mean that calories don’t matter anymore, ultimately if you eat more than your required daily calories, you shall gain weight irrespective of the diet you follow!
- Not drinking enough water or replenishing electrolytes– Since you have opted to follow Keto for weight loss, remember to keep your body hydrated. In a ketogenic diet, dehydration is a possibility. Also, it can create a shift in the electrolyte balance. The reason is: carbs are stored in the body along with water. But when these reserves deplete, the water content in the body is also lost, along with sodium.
Therefore, you might have heard that in a keto diet, one ups their salt intake in food. if that is not what you want to do, then take supplements that could replenish the sodium and other micronutrient reserves.
- Not eating enough fats– The fact is that Keto is a high fat diet which means you need to watch your fat intake. Just a low carb diet won’t do the trick. If you do not eat enough fats, you will feel unsatiated and will crave for more. Fat is satiating. So, make sure that you take enough fats which will reduce cravings and help your body to remain in the state of ketosis.
- Eating too much protein– this is the most common mistake that one makes while starting Keto for weight loss as they feel that protein keeps you full for longer periods. However, excess proteins lead to gluconeogenesis, where the excess protein is converted into glucose. So, do remember that it isn’t just a high protein diet. It is a high fat diet! Because fat must be the fuel source and not protein.
- Not being prepared for the Keto flu– this is the trickiest phase in the Keto for weight loss journey. And honestly, even if you read about it and know about it, one can’t really prepare for it. When your body transitions into ketosis, that is the transition from carbohydrate burner to fat burner, one might experience flu-like symptoms like muscle cramps, aches, fatigue, and nausea. This is also known as keto-flu. It mostly happens in the initial stages when you start the ketogenic diet. It can also happen if one decides to opt for CKD; rare but possible.
So, do not feel that there is something wrong with you and give up the diet. You can make this transition easier by making sure that you eat foods rich in sodium, magnesium, and potassium. And keep yourself well-hydrated.
- Not giving importance to your veggie intake– it is important to watch what veggies you eat. Veggies too have carbs in them. So, keep in mind that you consume nutrient rich vegetables or as I mentioned earlier, consume veggies that are classified as cruciferous.
- Not paying attention to Vitamins and Micronutrients– it is obvious that not all food has the same nutrient levels. Just because your body is in ketosis, doesn’t mean that you are getting all the nutrients. Veggies provide the essential vitamins and micronutrients for the optimal functioning of the body. If you are not able to track the intake of these vitamins and micronutrients, then at least choose a good FDA approved supplement and take it regularly, to cover the gaps.
Advantages of following Keto for weight loss:
- Helps lose weight quickly.
- Improves energy levels.
- Improves cardiovascular health.
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels and prevents Type 2 diabetes.
- Improves focus and brain function.
A word of caution: In case you are suffering from any health disorder, it is advisable that you consult with your physician before you start Keto for weight loss or any other diet plan for the same.