The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits.
keto diet has been proven by over 20 studies to help lose weight and improve health. Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
What Is a Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.
Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the keto diet, including:
Standard keto diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs.
Cyclical keto diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
Targeted keto diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
High-protein keto diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
Ketogenic Diets Can Help You Lose Weight
A keto diet is an effective way to lose weight and lower risk factors for disease. In fact, research shows that the keto diet is far superior to the often recommended low-fat diet.
Ketogenic Diets for Diabetes and Prediabetes
Diabetes is characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar and impaired insulin function. The keto diet can help you lose excess fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome.
One study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by a whopping 75% and another study says the ketogenic group lost 24.4 pounds (11.1 kg), compared to 15.2 pounds (6.9 kg) in the higher-carb group. This is an important benefit when considering the link between weight and type 2 diabetes.
Other Health Benefits of Keto
The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases such as epilepsy. Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:
Heart disease: The ketogenic diet can improve risk factors like body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar.
Cancer: The diet is currently being used to treat several types of cancer and slow tumor growth.
Alzheimer’s disease: The keto diet may reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression.
Epilepsy: Research has shown that the keto diet can cause massive reductions in seizures in epileptic children.
Parkinson’s disease: One study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome: The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which may play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
Brain injuries: One animal study found that the diet can reduce concussions and aid recovery after brain injury.
Acne: Lower insulin levels and eating less sugar or processed foods may help improve acne.
Foods to Avoid
Foods high in carbohydrates should be limited.
Here is a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:
Sugary foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
Grains or starches: Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
Fruit: All fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries.
Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
Unhealthy fats: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
Alcohol: Due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
Foods to Eat
You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:
Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
Fatty fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
Eggs: Look for pastured or omega-3 whole eggs.
Butter and cream: Look for grass-fed when possible.
Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella).
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
Healthy oils: Primarily extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
Avocados: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
Low-carb veggies: Most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
Condiments: You can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices.
Example of Keto Meal Plan For 1 Week
To help get you started, here is a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs and tomatoes.
Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
Dinner: Salmon with asparagus cooked in butter.
Breakfast: Egg, tomato, basil and goat cheese omelet.
Lunch: Almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder and stevia milkshake.
Dinner: Meatballs, cheddar cheese and vegetables.
Breakfast: A ketogenic milkshake (try this or this).
Lunch: Shrimp salad with olive oil and avocado.
Dinner: Pork chops with Parmesan cheese, broccoli and salad.
Breakfast: Omelet with avocado, salsa, peppers, onion and spices.
Lunch: A handful of nuts and celery sticks with guacamole and salsa.
Dinner: Chicken stuffed with pesto and cream cheese, along with vegetables.
Breakfast: Sugar-free yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder and stevia.
Lunch: Beef stir-fry cooked in coconut oil with vegetables.
Dinner: Bun-less burger with bacon, egg and cheese.
Breakfast: Ham and cheese omelet with vegetables.
Lunch: Ham and cheese slices with nuts.
Dinner: White fish, egg and spinach cooked in coconut oil.
Breakfast: Fried eggs with bacon and mushrooms.
Lunch: Burger with salsa, cheese and guacamole.
Dinner: Steak and eggs with a side salad.
Always try to rotate the vegetables and meat over the long term, as each type provides different nutrients and health benefits.
Healthy Keto Snacks
In case you get hungry between meals, here are some healthy, keto-approved snacks:
Fatty meat or fish
A handful of nuts or seeds
Cheese with olives
1–2 hard-boiled eggs
90% dark chocolate
A low-carb milkshake with almond milk, cocoa powder and nut butter
Full-fat yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder
Strawberries and cream
Celery with salsa and guacamole
Smaller portions of leftover meals
See Also: How Poor Sleep May Hurt Your Heart
Supplements for a Ketogenic Diet
Although no supplements are required, some can be useful.
MCT oil: Added to drinks or yogurt, MCT oil provides energy and helps increase ketone levels. Take a look at several options on Amazon.
Minerals: Added salt and other minerals can be important when starting out due to shifts in water and mineral balance.
Caffeine: Caffeine can have benefits for energy, fat loss and performance.
Exogenous ketones: This supplement may help raise the body’s ketone levels.
Creatine: Creatine provides numerous benefits for health and performance. This can help if you are combining a ketogenic diet with exercise.
Whey: Use half a scoop of whey protein in shakes or yogurt to increase your daily protein intake. You can find many tasty products on Amazon.
A Keto Diet Is Great, but Not for Everyone
A keto diet can be great for people who are overweight, diabetic or looking to improve their metabolic health. It may be less suitable for elite athletes or those wishing to add large amounts of muscle or weight. As with any diet, it will only work if you are consistent and stick with it in the long term.