What is Keto? From science to recipes, here are the facts


If you’ve heard of friends and celebrities going on the keto diet, or noticed “keto-friendly” recipes, but never really knew what that meant, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about a keto diet so you can decide if it’s right for you!

Why is it called “Keto”?

What we call the “keto diet” is short for ketogenic – this term is used to describe diet because of its relationship to a metabolic process called ketogenesis (when the body breaks down fatty acids and produces ketones). The keto diet basically tries to limit carbohydrates and increase fat so that your body is in ketosis more often, thereby burning stored fat.

What does the basic diet look like?

There are several different keto diets, but the standard formula is 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs per day. Many people increase the percentage of protein to 30% (and fat to 60%) for a little more weight in their diet. Those who are comfortable with the standard keto plan sometimes add extra carbs to workout times and/or cycle through periods where they increase carbs for a day or two at a time. Overall, when you hear about the keto diet, you can assume that carbohydrate intake is very limited overall (between 20 and 50 grams per day).

How does it work to lose weight?

The science behind the keto diet is based on the process of ketogenesis. Usually, your body uses glucose from carbohydrates to produce the majority of its energy, and only small amounts of energy come from the breakdown of fatty acids (ketogenesis). However, when your body runs low on glucose (as it does when you follow a ketogenic diet), it goes into a state of ketosis and begins to switch its energy source to fatty acids. The ketones produced during this process can be used to send energy to organs and the brain. Because a body in ketosis breaks down fat stores, a ketogenic diet often results in weight loss.

Are there other health benefits?

In addition to weight loss, many people have found other health benefits. Originally developed to help children with seizures, the keto diet is often used as part of the treatment for epilepsy. For dieters without epilepsy, those at risk/with diabetes may have an improvement in blood sugar levels due to lower levels of glucose consumed over time. Additionally, due to its generally rapid weight loss, the keto diet can potentially help with other health conditions that benefit from lower body weight. Of course, it’s crucial to discuss any health issues and diets with your doctor, as these results vary from person to person.

Photo: Fertnig via gettyimages.com

What are the potential drawbacks or concerns?

As with any diet, rapid weight loss can be difficult to sustain over the long term and often leads to future weight gain beyond what you lost. The best way to avoid this problem is to have a transition plan in place to allow you to gradually ease out of your chosen diet. The keto diet is very strict, so any deviation can throw your body out of ketosis and thus deviate from your diet goals. With the keto diet, there are potential downsides to being in ketosis for a long time – constipation, dizziness, kidney stones, nutrient deficiencies, and low blood sugar are all potential side effects of the ketogenic diet. Finally, because the diet requires a high fat intake, the risk of heart disease may increase if dieters are not careful to choose only heart-healthy fats.

What should I eat/avoid?

Carbohydrates are found in many major food categories: fruits, starches, grains, sweets, beans and legumes, and alcohol, to name a few. Eliminating most foods from these categories is essential for following the keto diet. Instead, choose foods like lean meats, heart-healthy oils and fats, cheese, eggs, fatty fish, nuts/seeds, and low-carb vegetables. There are great collections of keto recipes here broken down by meal, ingredient, and more.

How do I know if Keto is right for me?

If you’re looking for quick weight loss and don’t mind changing your diet to focus mostly on whole ingredients that cut out the carbs, then keto might be right for you! Talking to your doctor is always the first step in choosing a diet, so go armed with this knowledge!

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