You may have heard about a new ketogenic diet. It is often referred to as "keto," pronounced "key-toe," for short. The diet has helped many people lose significant amounts of weight and is being medically recognized for its potential to stem America's obesity epidemic. If you have thought of trying it, but you aren’t sure where to begin, you've come to the right place.
What is the keto diet? A keto or ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high fat diet, using your body's ability to convert fat into energy. By ending the rollercoaster of blood sugar spikes and crashes, it can increase fat burning, reduce hunger, stabilize insulin while improving mood and energy levels.
What is ketosis? Ketosis describes the time during which your body is burning fat, instead of sugar.
How do you get into ketosis? The most important thing is to avoid carbs and to ensure you are getting enough fat from the food you eat. Fat is the primary fuel source. While following the diet, you should aim for 30 grams total carbs and 20 grams net carbs. Net carbs are the total carbs minus the fiber.
What are the benefits of keto? Many keto dieters experience a reduction in appetite, dropping triglycerides, a rise in good cholesterol (HDL), and a reduction in blood sugar and glucose levels. Low-carb and keto diets have proven beneficial and can reduce the number seizures in epilepsy patients and are being studied for their effects on other inflammatory and brain conditions.
What foods should I eat? Keto-approved foods include many that are restricted on other diets, including fats and oils, like butter, lard, coconut oil, olive oil, and high-fat dressings; full-fat dairy, including cheeses, sour cream, and heavy cream; proteins, like eggs, beef, pork, chicken, and seafood; vegetables that grow above ground, like kale and spinach; lower-carb fruits like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries; and nuts and seeds, like macadamia nuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, and almond butter.
What foods should I avoid while on a keto diet? Avoid sugar and sugar-sweetened products, like soda, sports drinks, honey, agave, and maple syrup; all grain-based foods, like wheat, corn, and rice and all bread, pasta, granola, and cereal. Also tubers and tuber-based foods, like potatoes, potato chips, French fries, and yams.
What are the risks? Ketogenic diets appear to be safe for most people. Those who take medication for diabetes or high blood pressure should speak with their doctor before trying a ketogenic diet, as the doses of these medications might need adjusting.
Kimberley Sampson, MD, is an OB/GYN at SVMC OB/GYN and is recently board certified in obesity medicine.