The ketogenic — or keto — diet is all the rage these days. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of it and know someone who’s following it.
Have you wondered whether or not it’s a good fit for you?
There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding the ketogenic diet. Some people say it’s too restrictive to be sustainable and others even go so far as to say that it’s dangerous.
With the perpetuation of all these myths, it can be hard to know whether you should give the keto diet a try.
That’s why we’re here to set the record straight. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the ketogenic diet so you can make an informed decision for yourself about whether you’ll follow it or not.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet requires you to eat a high percentage of your calories from fat (usually around 70 percent or higher).
It also requires you to consume just a moderate amount of protein (usually around 15-20 percent of your daily calories) and a low number of carbohydrates (around five percent of your daily calories).
The keto diet is very different from the Standard American Diet, which is comprised primarily of carbohydrates, many of them very processed. It also pushes back against the myth that fat is bad for you and should be avoided at all costs.
What Happens When You Eat This Way?
When you stop eating lots of carbohydrates and start consuming the bulk of your calories from fat, some interesting things happen in the body.
Instead of getting its fuel from glucose, the simple sugar that comprises carbohydrates, your body starts to run off of stored fat.
When the body starts breaking down fat for energy, substances called ketones are produced. When you’re producing ketones, you’re in a metabolic state known as ketosis. This is where the name for the ketogenic diet comes from.
Benefits of Eating Keto
What is so great about running off of fat instead of glucose? Why would somebody choose to eschew carbs and starting following a keto diet?
There are actually a lot of physical and mental health benefits that you can experience when you start following a ketogenic diet. The following are some of the greatest benefits the diet has to offer:
Weight loss is one of the most popular reasons why people turn to the ketogenic diet. Many people experience significant weight loss when they start following this diet.
It’s true that you can lose weight following any diet, as long as you’re eating fewer calories than your body burns.
Following a keto diet can be easier for some people, though, since eating higher amounts of fat helps them to feel more satiated and reduces their cravings.
Improved Cognitive Function
Many people find that their cognitive function improves when they follow a ketogenic diet. This likely has to do with the fact that, once they start running on fat instead of carbs, they experience fewer blood sugar spikes and crashes throughout the day.
Reduced Seizure Frequency
The original use of the ketogenic diet was to treat the seizure disorder epilepsy.
Many people who suffer from epilepsy experience significant reductions in seizure frequency and severity when they start eating a high-fat, low-carb diet.
It’s especially beneficial to children who struggle with epilepsy, as well as those who are resistant to popular epilepsy medications.
Help with PCOS
The ketogenic diet can be very beneficial to women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (also known as PCOS).
PCOS is characterized by a variety of issues, including irregular menstruation, insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and difficulty losing weight.
The ketogenic diet can help to rectify all these issues and improve the quality of life of women with PCOS.
Common Keto Mistakes
If you’re interested in starting a ketogenic diet, it helps to ease into it. Don’t just dive into the deep end and cut your carbs dramatically from day one. Instead, start by slowly reducing your carbohydrate intake and increasing your fat intake.
Doing too much, too soon is one of the most common mistakes people make when they start trying to follow a ketogenic diet. The following are some other mistakes you ought to try to avoid as well if you want to experience success with this way of eating:
Not Eating in a Calorie Deficit
If you’re following a keto diet to lose weight, you need to make sure you’re still eating in a calorie deficit.
Work with a registered dietician or another health professional to calculate your maintenance calories and figure out a healthy calorie deficit to help you reach your weight goal.
Not Staying Hydrated
Dehydration is a common problem among people following the ketogenic diet. Carbohydrates help your body to hold water. When you start restricting carbs, you need to be sure to replace that water so you don’t experience symptoms like nausea, headaches, and fatigue.
Make sure you’re drinking adequate water when you start the keto diet.
Be sure to consume enough electrolytes (including sodium, potassium, and magnesium), too to make sure your body can absorb the water you’re drinking. You can read more here on the importance of electrolytes while following a keto diet.
Not Focusing on Food Quality
Don’t forget to focus on food quality, either. You could technically follow the keto diet while eating bunless cheeseburgers from McDonald’s.
You’re going to miss out on a lot of important nutrients if you take that approach, though. Try to get the majority of your calories from whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Limit your consumption of inflammatory fats like canola oil, vegetable oil, and margarine, too. Focus on healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, and avocado oil instead.
Get More Keto Advice Today
There are a lot of physical and mental health benefits that come with following a ketogenic diet.
Now that you know more about the popular diet and how to get started with it, do you think it’s a good option for you? If so, you’ve got all the tools you need to start following this diet and achieve your specific health goals.
If you’re interested in learning more about keto or other popular diets, we’ve got lots of other great articles available on our site.
Check out the Health section today for more helpful advice.