Everything You Need to Know About the Keto Diet

fruit, vegetables and egg

The keto diet is all the rage among celebrities, athletes, and the fitness community because they say it burns fat like no other diet out there.

Short for the ketogenic diet, going keto is a new invitation to cut carbs to a minimum, not unlike other popular low or no-carb diets like the South Beach diet, the Atkins diet, and Zone.

Unlike those other diets though, ketogenic is best known for being difficult to come to terms with because of the complicated rules. The plan sets caloric and nutritional intake goals, but it doesn’t rule out certain foods. Instead, it discourages them.

Have you thought about keto diet but aren’t sure where the rules begin and end? Keep reading for everything you need to know about the Keto Diet.

What Is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenesis diet, or keto diet, gets its name from your body’s fat burning energy source: ketones. Your body produces ketones whenever it hoovers up fat, so anyone who loses weight experiences ketosis.

Ketosis is a natural state for your body, and it engages in the process with no help from you at all. However, not all ketones are the same.

weight loss benefits in ketosis

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Ketones pop up when you eat a high-fat meal and when they burn fat reserves hidden away in the rest of your body. Experiencing ketosis doesn’t mean you lose weight – it only guarantees attacks on fat.

The goal, then, is to focus your body’s ketones on fat reserves rather than newly arrived fat. As a result, the keto diet mandates an ultra-low carb diet to the tune of sometimes only 20 grams per day.

Why Go Keto?

burn fat

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The driving force behind the keto diet is weight loss, which is theoretically possible even if the diet has not yet undergone rigorous scientific testing.

Those who promote the diet believe there are other benefits, too.

The ketogenic diet first arrived in the 1920s not as part of a Hollywood scheme to get a six pack in three weeks but as part of medical treatments for childhood epilepsy. Today, dieters claim that their meal plans improve their cognition and boost both mental and physical performance.

While some dieters may feel that way, there is not yet any hard evidence that the keto diet does anything beyond helping epileptic children avoid seizures.

Ketosis: The Basics

Keto dieters split their daily food intake up into three components: fat, protein, and carbs. Sixty to 80 percent of your daily caloric intake comes from fat, and protein makes up another 20 percent.

Only 5 to 10 percent, or 20-30 grams per day, of carbohydrates may pass your lips.

Twenty to 30 grams of carbs? What does that look like when carbs are in most foods? The trick, some say, is to count your net carbs. If a food has 12 grams of carbs and seven grams of fiber, then you only count five net carbs.

Some examples of acceptable carbs include:

  • 5 oz banana (27g net carbs)
  • 5 oz apple (23g net carbs)
  • 2 medium (1 cup) grapefruits (26g net carbs)
  • 11 oz carrots (22g net carbs)
  • 8 oz red onion (26g net carbs)
  • 33 oz red pepper (19g net carbs)
  • 75 cups or 20.5 oz cauliflower (16g net carbs)
  • 120 g sweet potato (26g net carbs)

You can eat foods traditionally accepted as carb-heavy including bread, soda, and candy, but those servings are limited. For example, half a can of Coca-Cola eats up your entire carb allowance for the day. Can’t live without a break? You’re allowed just under two slices.

What Foods Can You Eat?


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There’s no prescribed diet for keto followers, and much is left up to your tastes.

The average food list includes a high fat, high protein, low carb group of foods deemed “safe” for ketosis. Most of these foods fall within the realm of;

  • Meat and seafood (famously including bacon)
  • Eggs and some dairy (unsweetened products)
  • Vegetables (mainly green vegetables)
  • Fats and oils
  • Nuts and seeds

Keto dieters have the option to enjoy a varied diet that isn’t too dissimilar to the Atkins or Mediterranean diet or even the paleo diet.

However, it’s not the list of included foods that trip up would-be weight loss champions. It’s the banned food list.

The Foods You Can’t Eat on the Keto Diet

The list of foods stricken from your diet is far longer than what the typical menu includes. For some, the differences in what’s available and what isn’t result in psychological warfare that sets you up for failure before you even start.

Why? Because sugar in almost any form is out of the question. Whether natural or artificial, your body’s desire to indulge in life-preserving glucose is out.

What’s on the banned list, you ask cautiously? Here it is:

  • Fruit
  • Root vegetables
  • Grains, starches, and by-products including cereal, bread, rice, and oatmeal
  • Legumes
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Sweets
  • Sweetened drinks including smoothies, soda, tea, and coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Oils (canola, soybean, peanut, sesame, sunflower, and grapeseed)
  • Most processed foods including low-carb and low-fat products

The Keto Diet vs. Other Low Carb Diets

The ketogenic diet plan may be at the center of the universe at the present moment, but it seems like we have heard it all before. How does the diet differ from other low-carb diets promising rapid fat loss?

low carb vs. ketosis

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Whether you call it the keto diet or not, all diet plans rely on the process of ketosis, which is the natural process your body uses to burn fat.

Keto diets and low-carb diets have the obvious in common: they both focus on low carb eating.

The most significant difference between the keto diet and other low carb diets like Atkins is that keto takes the ultra-low-carb gimmick seriously. A strict Atkins diet follower enjoys 10 percent of their daily caloric intake in carbs. Follow the keto diet, and you might sneak in 2 percent to 5 percent in carbs.

Such low intake of carbohydrates is what many believe to be the difference in fat loss between the two.

Fat also plays a different role in each diet. Keto dieters eat up to 90 percent of their daily calories from fat whereas Atkins users and other dieters get closer to 60 percent of their calories from fat with a higher balance of protein.

Finally, the keto diet relies on carb-starving throughout all phases of the process. Atkins and other diets begin to re-introduce carbs onto dieters’ plates over the long term. While hardcore keto followers might balk at the idea, it might prove to not only more sustainable but prevent ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis happens when excessive amounts of ketones build up in the blood, and it can be fatal if ignored.

How Do I Get Started?

Like all diets, keeping it simple is the best way to get started. Dive straight into keto by creating a plan that includes all the foods you like and finding new ways to put them in your diet.

If you’re not sure how to count carbs or whether a specific food is kosher or banned, ask around in the keto diet forums. There’s a good chance someone has had that question before.

Before starting the diet, prepare your body and your life for the carb flu. Anyone on the Standard American Diet will suffer worse, but even those on diets like the paleo diet will see the symptoms.

Avoid starting the diet during a particularly stressful or busy period in your life so that you have the freedom to adjust to your new carb intake without seeing repercussions in your personal or professional life.

Finally, make sure you support your new diet by getting the nutrients you need. New keto dieters often fail to achieve the salt intake they need and neglect green vegetables for fats and meats. Your transition feels more natural when you consciously include these into your diet.

Who Shouldn’t Use the Keto Diet

The keto diet isn’t for everyone because it is so restrictive.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should stay away unless receiving explicit consent from their doctor.

Anyone with gallbladder or liver disease or another condition must also avoid the keto diet. The amount of fat and protein is too hard on the liver to participate safely.

Finally, if you’re at risk of diabetes or you have a family history of diabetes, avoid the keto diet. A recent study linked the diet to type 2 diabetes in mice. The mice in the study began resisting insulin and struggled to regulate their blood sugar levels only three days into the diet.

Keep in mind that the long-term effects of the keto diet are not well-researched, and the physiological effects of ketosis are poorly understood. If you have any health issues at all, discuss the keto diet with your doctor before starting the program.

Will You Join the Brave?

The keto diet isn’t for the faint of heart because it takes low-carb even more seriously than other ultra-low-carb diets out there. Still, many people say it helped them take the weight off and feel better than ever before.

Are you getting ready to go keto? Share your tips in the comments below.

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