Ketogenic diet is a type of eating pattern that primarily focuses on eating sources of good fat with a smaller proportion of carbohydrates and moderate protein, leading the body to switch from carbohydrate to fat metabolism. Simply put, the keto diet is a low-carb diet with a high-fat content to allow the body to use the body’s stored fat actively. The ketogenic diet helps lower blood sugar and insulin levels, enabling the body to burn instead of storing fats. It is beneficial for those who would like to lose weight in a short time as well as patients suffering from certain diseases. A ketogenic diet is truly a “food as medicine” for weight loss and treating underlying ailments effectively. It has more than a hundred-year history in medicine, being a treatment for epilepsy in the days before the advent of modern anti-seizure medications. It is still effective for patients refractory to drug treatments.
What is the principle of the ketogenic diet?
Ketogenic or "keto" diet is eating low amounts of starchy foods like rice, flour, potatoes, grains, fruit juices, sugar-sweetened beverages, or some fruits. When consuming starchy foods, the body digests them into glucose which is absorbed rapidly, sharply raising blood sugar and insulin. Carbohydrate is the primary energy fuel the body use. A low carbohydrate diet depletes the body's storage of carbohydrates before the next meal, lowering blood sugar and insulin. The body enters a state of "ketosis," or a condition in which the body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates; the liver generates ketones which are measurable in blood and urine as an index of ketosis. Ketosis reduces hunger and aids in weight loss. Early on, a subject may feel tired and have low energy. After the transition, the body adjusts to use fat more efficiently.
What is the ketogenic diet?
Ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that contains approximately 60% fat, 30% protein, and 10% carbohydrates, compared with 30% fat, 15% protein, and 55% carbohydrate in a conventional diet. In a ketogenic diet, carbohydrate is limited to 50 grams a day, and fat is much higher than the level accustomed to by most people. Because fat hardly induces insulin secretion compared to carbohydrates and protein, the keto diet keeps blood insulin low while maintaining blood glucose levels. Low insulin enables a switch from fat storage to fat burning, inducing a state of nutritional ketosis, in which the body burns fat rather than glucose for energy. Therefore, a ketogenic diet aids in rapid weight loss. Because the diet reduces hunger and helps control blood sugar, doctors recommend the diet for patients with diabetes, heart disease, obesity, certain cancers, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or epilepsy.
What are ketogenic foods?
Healthy keto foods are unprocessed, fresh, real foods containing good fats consisting of monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats while avoiding inflammatory seed oils and refined carbohydrates, such as sugar-sweetened beverages. Sources of good fats include:
- Foods contain monounsaturated fatty acids, including olive oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, nuts, or seeds, including almonds, macadamia, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios; chia, flax, and pumpkin seeds.
- Foods containing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, including tuna, mackerel, sardines, and walnuts, help lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and help build new cells for the body.
- Medium-chain triglycerides such as coconut oil.
Foods low in carbohydrates include:
- Meats such as chicken, pork, beef, and eggs.
- Dairy products: mozzarella, cheddar, blue cheese, whipped cream, and real butter.
- Coffee, tea, dark chocolate, and sugar-free cocoa
- Low-carb vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, cauliflower, bell peppers, bell peppers, lettuce, Japanese cucumber, garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, asparagus, radishes, garlic, as well as spices, peppers, and herbs
- Low-carb, low-sugar fruits such as mangoes, green apples, berries, avocados, guava, lemons, oranges
What are the health benefits of a ketogenic diet?
- Promotes weight loss: The ketogenic diet limits carbohydrates and sugar, lowers insulin, and stimulates the burning of stored fat, leading the body into a state of nutritional ketosis while curbing appetite and increasing muscle mass.
- Helps reduce blood sugar levels: Ketogenic diet limits carbohydrates to no more than 50 grams per day, which is very little, causing the level of insulin in the bloodstream and triglycerides to decrease, helping the metabolic system to work better, and is particularly beneficial for patients with type 2 diabetes. Studies found that the ketogenic diet helped reduce lipid and blood sugar levels without taking drugs.
- Reduce the risk of developing certain cancers: Ketogenic diet lowers blood sugar, which consequently lowers insulin, an anabolic hormone that regulates cell growth and may be linked to certain cancers, such as brain cancer, reducing the risk of complications related to insulin in the bloodstream.
- Promote heart health: Ketogenic diet includes a good source of fat, including omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower triglycerides, increase HDL-C cholesterol, helps the circulatory and metabolic system function better, and strengthening the heart while reducing the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure.
- Helps protect brain function: Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet has preventive benefits on the nervous system and brain cells as ketones easily cross the blood-brain barrier providing a steady source of energy for neurons and may have a neuroprotective effect and improving cognitive function that helps prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and dementia. Furthermore, the ketogenic diet aids in the reduction of epileptic symptoms as well. The crucial aspect of the keto diet is the daily proportion of 3–4 grams of good fat per 1 gram of carbohydrates and protein. However, a daily meal plan should be under a doctor's or nutritionist's supervision.
- Helps improve endocrine disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) caused by insulin resistance with excess testosterone, ovulation abnormalities or anovulation, irregular menstruation, skin issues, and unexplained weight gain from excessive consumption of carbohydrates, all of which have a detrimental effect. Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet helps PCOS patients lower insulin in their bloodstream.
- Help reduce acne and make your face glows: Lowering the intake of carbohydrate, which causes high blood sugar and insulin, can curtail acne and brighten facial skin. In addition, foods containing bad fats, which are another cause of acne and negatively affect skin health, should be avoided as well.
What are the side effects of a long-term ketogenic diet?
Those new to the ketogenic diet may experience "keto flu," which includes symptoms such as stomach aches, dizziness, fatigue, and mood swings as their bodies adjust to ketosis. You can alleviate the symptoms by increasing salt intake to compensate for urinary salt loss because of the lower blood insulin of the ketogenic diet.
For the long-term, when the body regains metabolic flexibility in burning fats, following a cyclical ketogenic diet meal plan with two days a week of higher complex carbohydrate consumption is beneficial. The keto diet may not be suitable for those with conditions related to the liver, pancreas, thyroid, and gallbladder or for pregnant women.
How do we start eating a ketogenic diet?
The goal of following a ketogenic diet is according to the needs of the individual, whether it is to lose weight, maintain health, or treat disease. You make your ketogenic meal plans beforehand. Each meal should contain 60-80% fat, 10-30% protein, and a carbohydrate limit of 5%, and should be combined with an exercise routine to gradually decrease sugar and fat volume in the body until good health results are evident.
Those with comorbidities such as diabetes, high triglycerides, and blood sugar levels or taking certain medications should consult a specialized nutritional physician before starting the ketogenic diet.
In nutritional science, the ketogenic diet is high in healthy fats but low in carbohydrates and moderate in protein to maintain health. The ketogenic diet lowers sugar, triglycerides, and insulin and raises HDL-C while helping to lose weight, maintain muscle mass, and treat some underlying diseases efficiently.