Find Out All You Need to Know About The Very Popular Keto Diet!
The keto diet works by switching your body’s fuel source from glucose from carbs to fatty acids. We do this by eating only low carb/no carb foods. The goal is to get into a state of Ketosis so that all the wonderful fat-burning can begin!
A ketogenic diet or keto diet is a low carb high-fat diet. While you eat far fewer carbohydrates on a keto diet, you maintain moderate protein consumption and may increase your intake of fat. After about two to seven days after starting the keto diet, the reduction in carb intake puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis, where fat, from your diet and from your body, is burned for energy.
The ketogenic diet also has a lot of benefits such as weight loss, physical and mental health benefits. The idea is to get ketones in your blood. What you‘re doing is removing all carbohydrates from your diet and living off just protein and fat. This will force you into burning your own fat while releasing ketones to your blood.
When you’re consistently eating food rich in carbohydrates, your body produces glucose for energy and this serves as the go-to source for powering your body’s processes. When you eat something high in carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin.
- Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so that it will be chosen over any other energy source.
- Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it around the body.
Since the glucose is being used as a primary energy, fats aren’t needed and are therefore stored. Typically on a normal, higher carbohydrate diet, the body will use glucose as the main form of energy. By lowering the intake of carbs, the body is induced into a state of ketosis.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is the medical term for the metabolic state where your body begins to burn fat for energy rather than carbs.
A high-carb diet will give your body lots of glucose to turn into energy. But if you deprive your body of carbs it will resort to breaking down existing fat stores to get access to fatty acids.
Ketosis is the metabolic process of using fat as the primary source of energy instead of carbohydrates. Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. Your body will then use these fatty acids to make fuel by sending them to the liver. The liver turns them into ketones, which are an efficient fuel for both body and brain. You’re considered to be in ketosis if your body is producing a high enough level of ketones.
The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state. We don’t do this through starvation of calories but starvation of carbohydrates.
Different Types of Keto Diets
There are several types of ketogenic diet. They include:
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): This is the classic keto diet that everyone knows and does. This is the most common and recommended version of the keto diet. Here, you stay within 20-50 grams of net carbs per day, focusing on adequate protein intake and high-fat intake. The SKD method is the most used and researched version of keto.
This is a diet that is very low in carbs, moderate in protein, and high in fat. If you are looking to lose fat quickly and you only do low to moderate intensity activities (e.g., walking, cycling, yoga, and light weightlifting), then the SKD may be the ideal diet for you.
With this dietary approach, carbohydrates have to be restricted greatly. An intake of 30g or fewer of carbohydrates a day is typically required to induce and stay in ketosis (which is one of the primary purposes for restricting carb consumption so much). Keto carb limits will vary from person to person, but the general rule is to avoid fruits, starches, added sugars, and other foods that are high in net carbs.
Your primary sources of carbohydrates on the Standard Keto Diet will be low carb vegetables, nuts, seeds, and high-fat dairy products.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
This is a variation where you eat SKD, but intake a small amount of fast-digesting carbs before a workout.
On this diet, you follow all the guidelines of the standard keto diet, with one exception—before intense workouts, you eat carbohydrates. Typically, targeted keto dieters will consume anywhere from 25 to 50 grams of carbohydrates about 30 minutes to an hour prior to working out. Dieters often find that this helps them feel stronger and more capable during workouts.
While this does take the body out of ketosis temporarily, it will resume within a few hours, depending on how many carbs you consumed. Essentially, the theory behind this diet is that since the additional carbs are immediately burned off, they won’t get stored as body fat.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
This is a variation of keto for bodybuilders and contest goers, generally giving one day a week to carb up and resupply glycogen stores.
The cyclic keto diet is similar to standard keto, with the exception of one to two days per week. Five to six days per week, a cyclic keto dieter will eat according to standard keto guidelines. Then, for one or two days, they will have a ‘carb cycle’—also commonly known as a ‘carb refeed’ day. On this day, they will eat about 140 to 160 grams of carbohydrates.
This type of keto diet is often followed by athletes, since they require a carb refeed day to replenish glycogen stores in their muscles. High levels of athletic training drains nearly all glycogen from their muscle stores, so it’s necessary to replenish them.
It’s important to note, though, even if you choose to do this diet, that doesn’t mean your days off should involve tons of processed foods and desserts. Instead, look to whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits for your carb intake.
Unless you are an athlete or bodybuilder, then it is recommended that you follow the standard ketogenic diet for best results.
While it’s easy to think that the keto diet is one-size fits all, there are actually several different types of keto diets, and they all have different benefits, depending on what your nutritional goals are.
They all have the same premise, super low carb and hight fat. They each have their own set of unique guidelines.
What To Eat On A Keto Diet
To start a keto diet, you will want to plan ahead. That means having a viable diet plan ready and waiting. What you eat depends on how fast you want to get into a ketogenic state.
The more restrictive you are on your carbohydrates (less than 15g per day), the faster you will enter ketosis.
You want to keep your carbohydrates limited, coming mostly from vegetables, nuts, and dairy.
Okay, so while there are different versions of keto, let’s say you’re thinking of following the standard keto diet, for the sake of convenience. Just because you’re not eating all your fave carb-y foods, that doesn’t mean you’re going to go hungry. You’ll be loading up on healthy fats (like olive oil and avocado), along with plenty of lean protein like grass-fed beef and chicken, and leafy greens or other non-starchy veggies.
The biggest learning curve when adapting to a keto diet is around food. You already know what you can’t eat while training your body to rely on ketones: high-glycemic, sugary foods; bread products; starchy vegetables; and other high-carb, glucose-laden items—in other words, essentially everything most of us regularly reach for in the American diet. But what can you eat?
Contrary to popular belief, the ketogenic diet is not all bacon and bulletproof coffee. Yes, it’s a higher fat, moderately low protein, and very low-carb diet, but it can include a wide variety of foods, including plenty of low-carb vegetables, full-fat dairy products healthy fats, and moderate fruit (berries), and it can be followed whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free, too.
Once you know what snacks to stock up on, ingredients to cook with, and recipes to turn to, you’ll begin to realize that keto cuisine is actually quite approachable, and it even includes iterations of many of your favorite foods. As you begin to restrict your carb intake by carefully counting your grams of carbs, your blood sugar will thank you, too!
So cast away any notions of deprivation or hunger. On the keto diet, you’ll feel full and satisfied, not to mention more energized than ever!
As you get started, don’t think you have to master the nuances of keto cooking, or even eating, all at once. First, stock up on and work with your favorite foods from the keto diet food lists below, then broaden your horizons as you get more comfortable with the diet. Soon, you’ll discover that you actually can have your cake and eat it too, without getting kicked out of ketosis or blowing your maximum daily macros (macronutrients), including carb counts!
What Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
- Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
- Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, etc.
- Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
- Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries, and other low glycemic impact berries
- Sweeteners – stevia, erythritol
- Xanthan gum (acts as a binder for baked goods and a thickener for sauces and soups)
- Other fats – coconut oil, olive oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.
- Almond flour (great for baking and breading)
- Bell peppers (especially green bell peppers; they have lower total carbs than yellow or red bell peppers)
- Berries (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries; good sources of antioxidants)
- Brussels Sprouts
- Coconut flour (good for baking)
- Cucumber (peeled)
- Dairy (heavy cream, cheese, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, some cheeses, like brie, mozzarella, and feta; we don’t recommend full-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese; though they’re protein-rich, each has 4 or 5 grams of carbs respectively, and low-fat is off limits, too)
- Dark leafy greens (wonderful low-carb veggies)
- Green beans
- Hemp hearts (rich in good fat, protein, and minerals; good for breading and baking)
- Meat (grass-fed beef, pork, poultry)
- Nuts (macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, brazil nuts, hazelnuts; be mindful of pistachios and cashews, which are higher-carb)
- Seafood (fish, especially fatty fish like mackerel or salmon–they’re high in Omega 3 fatty acids, and shellfish such as mussels and clams)
- Zucchini (in moderation)
Snacks on the Keto Diet
Be sure to have some of these on hand at all times. Readily available, keto-friendly snacks are lifesavers when you’re hungry and don’t have immediate access to a keto-friendly meal.
- Beef jerky (watch for added sugar)
- Bone broth
- Cacao nibs
- Egg salad
- High-fat yogurt
- Mascarpone cheese mixed with a little erythritol
- Nuts (macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, brazil nuts)
- Nut butter
- Soft cheese with celery
- Veggies with blue-cheese dressing dip
Sweets are totally allowed! There are plenty of packaged options out there designed for keto fans. Don’t think that just because you’re on Keto you can’t enjoy your sweets! See below for some sweet treats that are made exclusively for the Keto Dieters out there!
Beverages Allowed on The Keto Diet
Because the ketogenic diet is a natural diuretic, it’s very important to replenish the water and electrolytes you are losing. Staying hydrated will help combat the “keto flu” and avoid early keto symptoms of muscle cramps, headaches, and fatigue, all of which are signs of suffering from electrolyte imbalances. Zero-calorie soda is not included in the list below because many artificial sweeteners aren’t good for you, and some diet drinks contain sugar alternatives that can kick you out of ketosis plus, all of them perpetuate the craving for sugar, which is something you will otherwise joyfully lose on a keto diet.
- Bone broth
- Bulletproof coffee
- Almond milk (unsweetened only)
- Sparkling water
Drinking lots of water is very important when you’re on the Keto Diet. Carbohydrates are responsible for storing water in the body, so when you drastically reduce those, you need to replenish that water more often now. No matter how much water you drink, the amount of ketones your body produces stays the same.
What Not To Eat
Carbs to Avoid on The Keto Diet
There are five types of carbs to avoid on keto:
- Beans and legumes
- Most fruits
- Starchy vegetables (including sweet potatoes, potatoes, and most winter squash)
- Sugar (natural, calorie-free sweeteners like stevia and erythritol are OK)
If you’re going to get into ketosis quickly, you need to limit your carb intake. All grains are mostly made of carbohydrates, so the easiest and best way to stay low-carb is to avoid grains completely.
Some carbs, like rice and corn, contain enough carbs in one serving to hit your entire day’s carb allotment.
No grains – even whole meal (wheat, rye, oats, corn, barley, millet, bulgur, sorghum, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains), and anything that’s made out of grains, such as pasta, pizza, cookies, crackers, cake.
Beans and Legumes
Beans provide some fiber and other nutrients, but they’re not a great fit for the keto diet due to their high starch (carb) content. An exception is green beans, as they’re younger and less starchy than dried beans. No legumes – beans, lentils, soy etc. There are also other reasons for doing so. Lectins aren’t good for consumption in large quantities.
Fruit is healthy, right?
Sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re keto-compliant. Fruit is high in sugar and carbs, so they’re usually a no-go on the keto diet. That includes tropical fruits, fruit juices, dried fruits, and fruit smoothies (for the most part).
No fruit – fructose is also sugar. Don’t eat apples, bananas, pears, oranges, pineapples, grapes, mangos. Avoid fruit juices and also dried fruit, like dates, raisins. Lemons, limes and berries are allowed because they’re mostly fiber.
If you do have fruit, choose lower-sugar options like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and eat them sparingly.
Your smoothies should be mostly veggies, healthy fats, protein like collagen powder or nut butter, and sugar-free liquids like almond milk or hemp milk. For an additional omega-3 boost, add flaxseed or chia seed to your smoothies.
Avoid any vegetables that grow beneath the ground (like carrots, turnips, potatoes, and sweet potatoes) and focus more on non-starchy vegetables. This includes brassicas like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and collards. Other veggie options include leafy greens, like chard, spinach, and lettuce, and non-starchy veggies including bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini.
The high starch content of some vegetables (like those in the list below) is problematic because — like with beans — high-starch means high-carb.
No high carb veggies – white potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes. Turnips, carrots, and beetroot are in the yellow zone. You can eat them just a little bit but definitely avoid them completely during adaptation.
Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar has 56 different names on nutritional labels. There are hidden sugars everywhere.
While there might be better options for overall health like raw honey, sugar is sugar, and it will still kick you out of ketosis. Sugars to avoid*:
No sugar– sweets, ice cream, pudding, chocolate, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, syrup etc. Read the labels, as sugar hides in all shape and form.
No artificial sweeteners – Splenda, Equal, sweeteners containing Aspartame, Acesulfame, Sucralose, Saccharin, etc. Despite their non-caloric content, they can still spike your blood sugar and insulin, which creates a placebo effect.
Can you drink alcohol on a keto diet? Yes, if you do so in moderation, stick with keto-friendly libations, and factor them into your macros. Generally speaking, hard alcohol is okay (clear alcohols like vodka and gin are best), low-carb beer is fine (though watch the carbohydrates; they add up quickly), and you can even raise a glass of dry red or white wine or dry sparkling wine. Your best bet for mixed drinks is sparkling water and a squeeze or two of lime or lemon. Just be sure you don’t overdo it. Moderation really is key here.
No high carb alcohol – beer, sweet wine, mojitos, Piña carbonados, ciders, long drinks or any other type of cocktails. They’re all full of sugar. If you’re going to drink then remember to stick with clear spirits, such as vodka and gin.
Proteins to Avoid on a Keto Diet
Some of the high-protein foods that should be avoided for best results on keto include:
- Factory farmed meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood. Although many of these foods are keto-friendly from a fat, protein, and carb content perspective, they may not be optimal for overall health because they tend to be nutritionally inferior to pasture-raised animal products and wild caught seafood.
- Milk and all low- and reduced-fat dairy products. This includes low-fat yogurts, fat-free butter substitutes, reduced fat cheese, evaporated skim milk, low-fat cream cheese, and other similar dairy products.
Fats To Avoid On The Keto Diet
Fat is an excellent food source that helps your body make important hormones and neurotransmitters. Plus, without all those carbs, your body will use more fatty acids to fuel your body and brain.
However, the source and quality of your fats are crucial. Healthy fats are the most keto-friendly food you can imagine.
Not all fats are created equal, and processed vegetable oils are by far the worst for you.
Inflammatory Vegetable Oils
Your keto meals should focus on using high-quality, healthy fats. Unprocessed and nutritious oils, such as coconut oil, virgin olive oil, pasture-raised ghee, butter, and macadamia nut oils are great sources of healthy fats. If you choose healthy sourcing for your animal proteins, lard and tallow can also provide you with healthy fat.
Other great sources of healthy fats are small fatty fish (like mackerel and sardines), avocado oil, pasture-raised egg yolks, and avocado-based mayonnaise. Avoid harmful processed vegetable oils like these four offenders:
Macros on Keto
Try to remember that keto is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. Your nutrient intake should be something around 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrate.
Typically, anywhere between 20-30g of net carbs is recommended for everyday dieting – but the lower you keep your carbohydrate intake and glucose levels, the better the overall results will be. If you’re doing keto for weight loss, it’s a good idea to keep track of both your total carbs and net carbs.
Ketogenic Diet Conclusion
Keto can be very beneficial in many ways for dieters. There are lots of options for meals and food so you won’t feel restricted and might me more likely to stick with it. If you’re looking to lose weight I highly recommend trying this diet!
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