What is a keto diet and is it healthy?

What does “keto” mean?

Keto meaning ketogenic, is a low carbohydrate, high fat, and moderate protein diet that has been compared to the Atkins diet.

If you consume a high carbohydrate diet, your digestive system breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose. This glucose is absorbed into your bloodstream. As your blood glucose level rises, your pancreas releases the hormone insulin into the blood. Insulin is needed to transport glucose from your blood into your body’s cells, to be used as an energy source. On a high carbohydrate diet, glucose will be used as your body’s primary fuel source. If you consume a low carbohydrate diet, such as the keto diet, your body will burn fat for energy instead. The term keto or ketogenic is derived from this process – known as ketosis.

If you eat high-fat food your digestive system will break down the fat into fatty acids. These fatty acids are then absorbed into the bloodstream and straight into your cells. This means they do not require insulin to enter your body’s cells, as glucose does. Fatty acids can also be transported to the liver where they are converted into ketones – the essential fuel our brain cells need. Keto diets can help to reduce blood sugar (glucose) and insulin levels.

What is a Keto Diet?

There are many variations of the ketogenic diet, although only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been validated with substantial research. A standard or high-protein keto plan would use these macro percentages:

Standard ketogenic diet: 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.

High-protein ketogenic diet: 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.

What can you eat on a keto diet?

What to eat on a keto diet depends on your taste and preferences. A keto diet will require more planning, especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian.

How does the keto diet work?

If you eat less than 50 grams of carbohydrates each day, it should take around 2-5 days to enter ketosis. You are in ketosis when your blood ketone range is between 0.5-3.0 mmol/L, which you can test via a finger pinprick test. You can also find out if you’re in ketosis with a breath analyzer or urine strip. You may also be able to tell you’re in ketosis due to several changes in your body, including increased focus and energy, weight loss, and a reduced appetite. You may also experience fruity breath due to increased ketone production.

Is keto healthy and does keto work?

There are a number of potential benefits of the keto diet. Keto may work well for you in the short term or the long term, depending on your objectives. Eating a high fat and low carbohydrate food may help protect against cardiovascular disease, as your insulin and blood glucose (sugar) levels will be reduced. A keto diet may also increase ketone production (essential fuel for our brain cells) and increase fat breakdown, leading to weight loss. Fatty acids in high-fat food don’t need insulin to enter our body’s cells, so this kind of food source or supplement can provide an instant energy boost, for example, a MCT oil. MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil is great if you want to enhance your morning coffee or your pre-workout drink. MCT is medium-length chains of fats named triglycerides. As they’re shorter in length, they’re easily digested and processed by your body.

Most people can try the keto diet safely. It can help you to lose slightly more weight than a low-fat diet. This often happens with less hunger. However, it is best to discuss any significant changes to diet with a dietitian or doctor.