The ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet that focuses on improving health conditions and weight loss. Different studies prove that a ketogenic diet is superior to other low-carb diets even with corresponding calories intake.
There are different types of ketogenic diets and various health benefits. This article explains everything you need to know about this diet. Plus sample meal plan to help you get started.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A Ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate diet. Keto diet, for short, involves the increase in intake of high-fat foods, while cutting down carbs. Glucose from carbohydrates is the preferred source of energy by body cells. But, the increase in fatty foods causes the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Most often, people use the keto diet to lose weight.
A Ketogenic diet leads to a metabolic state known as ketosis. Ketosis is the breaking down of body fats to produce molecular fuels known as ketones. When there’s little glucose in your system, the body turns to ketones as its energy source. In the absence of glucose, ketones provide energy to the brain.
For ketosis to occur, your daily carbohydrate intake should be less than 50 grams. At times, it can be as little as 20 grams per day.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
The main aim of Ketogenic diets is to bring about ketosis. There are different ways to do this, thus leading to the different types of Ketogenic diets.
These different keto diets have the same formulation: high-fat and low carb. The difference generally arises in the percentage of each component.
Here are the different types of keto diets:
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): The most common and recommended type of ketogenic diet is the Standard Ketogenic Diet. It consists of very low carb, moderate protein, and high fat. This type of keto diet usually has 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrate. It’s also referred to as Very Low Carb Ketogenic Diet (VLCKD).
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): CKD typically involves taking a keto diet consecutively for some days, followed by a day or two of a high-carb. Athletes and body-builders adopt this type of ketogenic diet. They use the higher carb days to replenish the glycogen lost during workout sessions.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): In this keto diet plan, you take carbs during high-intensity workouts. It’s a middle ground between the standard ketogenic diet and the cyclical ketogenic diet.
High-protein Ketogenic Diet: This plan is similar to the standard ketogenic diet but involves more protein intake. The typical high-protein diet contains 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
MCT Ketogenic Diet: This keto diet follows the rule for the standard ketogenic diet but substitutes MCT for dietary fat. Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) is present in coconut oil and contains a large amount of fat. MCTs produce more ketone bodies than dietary fat. Dietary fat is mostly long-chain triglycerides. It’s best to take a combination of MCT oil and non-MCT fat, because a large consumption of MCTs may cause diarrhea.
Keto Diet Meal Plan
Different factors like age, body weight, activity level affect a meal plan. For a keto diet plan, you generally have to avoid high-carb foods, fruits, and vegetables. Low fat or diet foods are highly processed and high-carb. You should avoid them too.
Some of the high-carb foods include rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, peas, and whole-grain products. You should avoid sugary foods like cakes, ice cream, smoothies, chocolate bars, soda, and juices.
Keto diet foods include:
Meat: Fresh and unprocessed meat contains low carb and is rich in minerals and vitamins. You can use various kinds of meat – chicken, turkey, as staple foods in your keto diet plan. Grass-fed is the best and healthiest choice. It’s important to note the amount of meat you consume should be moderate. Keto foods are high-fat, not high-protein. When you consume excess protein, it’ll be difficult for your body to get into ketosis.
Seafood and Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are keto diet foods. They are carb-free and rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Some shellfish, like crab and shrimp, are carb-free while others are not.
Low-Carb Veggies: Like broccoli, cauliflower, avocado, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, onions, and zucchini. Vegetables are high in vitamin C, minerals and are great anti-oxidants. They also spice up your meal and will keep you full. Starchy vegetables like potatoes are high-carb. You should remove them from your keto diet plan.
Eggs: You can scramble, boil, or fry your eggs. Eggs are one of the versatile keto foods. They are also nutritious and healthy.
Nuts and Seeds: Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecan nuts, walnuts. Seeds like flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds.
Oils: Healthy oils like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and butter. You can use to fry, cook, or add to your salads and vegetables. Limit intake of unhealthy fats, like processed vegetable oil. Margarine isn’t a keto food. It contains additives and high content of omega-6 fats.
High-fat dairy products: Cheese, butter, and cream are great. Avoid low-fat yogurts since they contain lots of sugar. You can add a small amount of milk in your coffee. But it’s best if you can avoid it totally.
Drinks: Water is the ideal drink, but you can take tea or coffee with no sweeteners. Avoid sweet dessert wine, beer, and sugar-sweetened. There are keto-friendly beer and wine you can take.
Berries: Most fruits are high-carb and contain lots of sugar except berries – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries. They are healthy and rich in nutrients. However, you should take small portions.
Here’s a sample meal plan for one week:
• Breakfast: Eggs with bacon
• Lunch: Zucchini noodles with avocado shrimp pesto
• Dinner: Fried salmon with broccoli and cheese
• Breakfast: Salad sandwiches
• Lunch: keto spinach and goat cheese pie
• Dinner: Roast beef with asparagus and sautéed mushrooms
• Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach and smoked salmon
• Lunch: Keto chicken lettuce wraps
• Dinner: Cheese frittata
• Breakfast: Iced tea or bullet-proof coffee
• Lunch: Shrimp avocado salad with tomatoes and feta
• Dinner: Cabbage stir-fry
• Breakfast: Pancakes with berries and whipped cream
• Lunch: Tuna salad stuffed with tomatoes and boiled eggs
• Dinner: Meatballs, cheddar cheese, and vegetables
• Breakfast: Egg muffins with cheddar cheese
• Lunch: Salmon-filled avocados
• Dinner: Bun-less cheeseburger, bacon, and eggs.
• Breakfast: Fried eggs, tomatoes, and cheese
• Lunch: Spiced cauliflower soup with tofu cubes
• Dinner: Chicken/Fish casserole
A keto diet plan should contain adequate protein, higher fats, and very low carbs.
You can substitute and add different vegetables, fish, cheese, and other keto foods, depending on your preference.
Healthy Keto Snacks
- Sticks of celery with salsa and guacamole
- Full-fat Greek yogurt
- A handful of nuts and berries
- Dark chocolates with at least 70% cocoa
- Boiled eggs
- Kale chips
- Cheese roll-ups
- Smoothie with almond milk, nut butter, and cocoa powder
- Sugar-free turkey jerk
Snacking too much may lead to weight gain. It’s best to snack with caution.
Ketogenic Diet Can Help You Lose Weight
Ketogenic diets are efficient for weight loss. You can achieve ketosis without long-term or intermittent fasting.
Keto diets are filling and suppress hunger. Decreased food craving is due to the high-fat content of the keto diet. Also, there’s a decrease in hormones that stimulate appetite –leptin and ghrelin.
You don’t need to count or keep track of calories. It’s the best option for people who don’t like tracking their food intake.
In comparison with the recommended low-fat diet, a keto diet food is more effective in weight-loss.
A study compared Diabetes UK’s dietary guideline with keto diet plans for over three months. In the end, keto diet foods caused three times more weight loss.
Another study suggests that the keto diet can cause fat loss in obese people when used for some months to a year.
A low carb diet gets rid of excess water from your body, and this contributes to weight loss in the first weeks. Other mechanisms behind keto diets and weight loss from studies are:
- Reduced appetite
- Increased fat loss
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Increase in ketone bodies
- Boosted metabolism
How Low Carb is a Keto Diet?
A keto diet is a very low carb. It’s restrictive and more effective in achieving ketosis. Most persons find the keto diet challenging to maintain in the long run, so they switch to low-carb diets.
The main difference between a keto diet and a low-carb diet is the carbohydrate intake. A keto diet restricts you to fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day. A low carb diet allows 50 to 150 grams per day.
The ketogenic diet is low-carb but not every low-carb diet is a ketogenic diet. With a keto diet, you can sustain ketosis. However, a low-carb diet may allow you to fall in and out of ketosis.
The question remains, “which carb level should you choose?”
Adopting a strict keto diet or a low-carb diet depends on your goals. People with Type 2 diabetes will benefit more from a keto diet by keeping carb intake under 20 grams per day. Also, people who want to lose a lot of weight will notice a faster result with a strict keto diet. People who have less weight to lose, and with normal blood sugar levels will do well with low-carb diets.
With a keto diet, you may experience side effects like headache and fatigue as your body tries to adapt to changes. However, these effects may not be present with low carb diets. You can start with a keto diet and monitor the results on your body. This result will help you decide if you should stick to a keto diet or add fewer carbs.
Keto Benefits: Why Eat a Keto Diet?
Ketogenic Diet and Weight Loss
Keto diet will help you lose weight. A keto diet is more effective for weight loss than a high-carb, low-fat diet. In comparison with other weight-loss strategies, keto weight loss is faster and superior.
Ketogenic Diet and Metabolic Diseases
A keto diet will help you fight metabolic syndromes. These syndromes are associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. They include:
- High blood pressure
- High triglycerides
- Decreased High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
- Abdominal fat
- Increased blood sugar levels
Keto diets will, however, lower blood pressure and triglycerides; reduce blood sugar level and abdominal fat. There’s also an increase in the level of high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol).
Ketogenic Diet and Type 2 diabetes
A low-carb diet has been a standard treatment for people with diabetes. The fewer carb you take, the faster your insulin resistance improves. A study reveals that keto diets helped improve insulin sensitivity by 75%. Improved insulin sensitivity reduces blood sugar levels by allowing the cells to use more blood glucose. It’s important to talk to your doctor first before dropping your medication or making dietary changes.
Other Health Benefits of Keto
- Epilepsy: Since the 1920s, keto diets help control seizures. An increase in the level of ketone bodies reduces the frequency of seizures in epileptic patients. The ketogenic diet is used in children and adults with drug-resistant epilepsy. Some studies show that about 10-15 % become free from seizures.
- Heart disease: Keto diet plans encourage you to eat healthy fats like avocado. This lifestyle change can improve heart conditions by reducing cholesterol. A 2017 study of animals and people on keto diet confirmed the reduction in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, and triglycerides. And an increase in high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol. A keto diet reduces your chances of getting heart disease by decreasing the level of bad cholesterol.
- Cancer: Studies suggest a keto diet may benefit cancer treatment. During ketosis, your body uses up stored sugar. The insulin level is less, and lower insulin levels may protect you against some cancer. Keto diet foods may have an anti-tumor effect. The research in this area isn’t conclusive yet.
- Brain Function: The keto diet may help improve conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. A 2019 study revealed that keto diets have neuroprotective functions. They help strengthen and protect brain cells. Research is still ongoing on the roles of the keto diet on brain functions. Keto diet also helps patients with Parkinson’s disease and sleep disorders.
- Acne: In some persons, acne is due to diet and an increase in sugar levels. Eating highly processed food and refined carbohydrate may affect the skin negatively. A decrease in high carb food, and taking keto foods, may significantly reduce acne.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This is as a result of increased insulin level, obesity, among others. Ketogenic diets help with weight loss and reduce insulin levels.
Side Effects and How to Minimize Them
Keto diets are generally safe. However, a side effect known as keto flu may occur. The symptoms are often noticeable in the first week as your body tries to adjust. They disappear afterwards.
These symptoms include:
- Fatigue and reduced physical performance
- Bad breath
To minimize these side effects, you can start with low carb diets first before switching to a keto diet. This slow transition allows your body the time to adapt to the dietary changes.
Ketosis affects your fluid and mineral balance. An increase in water and salt intake will help replace the lost fluid and minerals. Also, it can prevent or reduce these symptoms in the first week.
Supplements for a Keto Diet Meal Plan
Supplements are optional. But they can help increase the body’s ketone level and compensate for any nutritional deficiencies.
MCT oil: Medium-chain triglycerides are present in coconut oil. They are a good source of energy and increase ketone levels. You can mix into your drinks or food. Start with 1teaspoon or 5ml. A higher initial dose may cause symptoms like diarrhoea.
Electrolytes: When starting on a keto diet, maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance is essential. You can get electrolyte supplements to increase your sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium levels. Adding extra salt to your food is helpful. Keto foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, spinach, are also rich in minerals.
Omega-3 fatty acids: keto-friendly food such as fatty fishes is rich in Omega 3. Taking omega-3 supplements can help improve the effect of keto diets. People who take blood-thinning drugs should consult a doctor before using Omega-3 supplements.
Magnesium: Most food high in magnesium, like beans and fruits, are eliminated in a keto diet. You can meet your magnesium needs by supplementing with 200 to 400g of magnesium per day. Some keto foods rich in magnesium include spinach, avocado, pumpkin seeds, mackerel.
Digestive enzymes: A digestive supplement that contains lipase and the proteolytic enzyme will help optimize digestion. This supplement is especially useful when transitioning to a keto diet. It will help alleviate symptoms like nausea and fatigue.
The ketogenic diet is one of the popular ways to lose weight and improve health. It’s easier to achieve and sustain ketosis with low carbohydrate and high fat intake.
Results vary with individuals. Some persons may notice changes with less than 50 grams of carbs per day. Others may have to cut down to 20 grams per day. You’ll get positive keto weight loss results if you stick to your meal plan and stay consistent. As with other diets, consistency is necessary to be successful.
Aside from spurring weight loss, a keto diet has other health benefits. It’ll help reduce metabolic syndromes, control seizures, type 2 diabetes, PCOS, amongst other health conditions.
People on specific medications should seek a doctor’s advice before starting a keto diet.