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There are many diet trends on the market these days (and every day, it seems), but one in particular has risen in popularity at a tremendous rate and been touted to provide substantial health benefits: the very low-carb ketogenic (or “keto”) diet.
Try Chef Tse’s grilled chili lime flank steak with only 1g of carbs per serving if you skip the tortillas:
When you eat refined carbohydrates, the body’s blood sugar rises and over time the body ends up relying a lot on sugar as a source of energy. This causes your body to crave even more sugar and carbs to make sure that you have enough energy to survive. This in turn is associated with weight gain as the body turns unused carbs into fat. In contrast, a keto diet is one where you change the types of foods you eat to train your body to burn fats for fuel rather than sugars or carbohydrates.
Americans generally eat more carbohydrates than proteins or fats. Because carbs or sugars are found in so many foods, it’s pretty easy to eat a large amount of them. But when transitioning to a keto diet you are supposed to eat substantially more fats than carbs. After you start eating more fats than carbs, the body’s insulin levels drop and the cells release fat. “[Then] the liver turns the fat into ketones, your body’s second choice for energy,” explains Lauri Wright, PhD, an assistant professor in public health at the University of South Florida. This initiates a metabolic state of ketosis, a fat-fueled state which is the main goal in a keto diet. The theory is that the increased energy and decreased appetite associated with ketosis leads to fewer calories consumed and thus more weight lost.
Check out our infographic on how other diets are designed with different goals in mind.
What does a keto diet look like?
The foundation of the keto diet is eating fats and proteins instead of carbohydrates. Because everyone’s body is different and works in different ways, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian and plan what kind of keto diet plan would work for you. Here are a few examples of what a day's worth of keto meals could look like:
Breakfast – black coffee and sausages
Lunch – salad with greens, tuna, olives, blue cheese dressing
Snack – nuts, broth, cheese with celery sticks
Dinner – tomato bisque, steak, green beans, mushrooms.
Dessert – maple walnut ice cream made with sucralose/xylitol
Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?
If you’re interested in starting a keto diet, there are few additional things to remember.
There is going to be an adjustment period.
Anytime you change your diet, your body is going to go through some changes – starting a ketogenic diet is no different. Because you are changing the type of fuel your body is used to using for energy, your body could experience something called the “carb flu.” This is just a term used for the drowsy, over-tired feeling you may get after beginning. These symptoms typically only last a few days but, you want to make sure that you drink plenty of water and possibly transition more slowly in to straight keto eating to save your body from an extreme shock.
Keep up the exercise.
If you want to really see an impact in your body and your waistline, it is important to stay moving and exercising. It can be difficult to feel motivated when you are mixing up your diet, but if you start small and then build your workouts as the dieting gets easier, it will help in the end. Go cycling, take a walk, go for a hike, swim a few laps, or try some fun new group workout to keep you motivated and energetic.
Keto is likely not a long-term solution.
Since ketogenic dieting adjusts the natural way your body processes food, it is important to know when to resume normal eating habits. In most cases, keto dieting is practiced for only a few weeks at a time. The key before starting is to speak with an experienced health provider and create a plan that is best for you and your body. Everyone’s dietary and lifestyle needs are unique, so losing weight and keeping it off is a matter of personalized nutritional planning.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.