Keto Diet 101: Things to Know Before Trying It

In the past decade, many types of diets have emerged promising rapid weight loss and improved health. While most of them are repackaged into catchy names, they follow similar principles that restrict carb intake. One of the most well-known today is the Keto diet. What is it and should you try it for yourself? Keep reading to understand the basics of this program.

What Is the Keto Diet?

“Keto” comes from the word Ketogenesis, which is when the liver produces Ketone bodies from fatty deposits. These are converted into energy instead of sugars in the form of glucose, but this process doesn’t start until glucose supplies are depleted.

This is the guiding principle behind a Keto diet. At first, this specialized program was used medically to reduce epileptic seizures among children. The Keto diet eventually reached the mainstream fitness community, which saw the potential for rapid weight loss. However, long-term studies are still needed to see any long-term effects.

Its popularity stems from the high-fat foods required by the diet. Instead of restricting serving portions in all food groups, Keto diet encourages the consumption of fats. In typical programs, fats can constitute up to 90% of caloric intake. Protein is still an important part of the diet, but foods that contain both protein and fats are preferred. This primarily comes in the form of meat, which is highly accessible, diverse, and preferred by many.

Benefits of a Keto Diet

There are many advantages associated with Keto Diets. Most of these stem from the lowered consumption of carbs, while some are directly correlated with the increased intake of fat.

More Weight Loss at First

Cutting your carbs is an effective weight loss strategy. The body is forced to consume energy reserves when it doesn’t get sugar from what you eat. Eventually, Ketogenesis starts, leading to more fat loss. However, this only occurs during the first six months or so. Once most energy reserves are consumed by the body, weight loss would be insignificant.

Lowered Blood Sugar

When you’re consuming fewer grams of carbs, your blood sugar levels will eventually start to decrease. A Keto diet is particularly effective at restricting your carb intake. That’s why it’s one of the recommended programs for those with diabetes or insulin resistance. Studies have even documented people no longer need glucose-lowering medication after following a Keto program for six months. 

Reduces Appetite

The appetite suppression associated with Keto diets is connected to the reduction of glucose and other sugars. Certain hormones regulate glucose levels in the body, and these can increase the feeling of hunger in higher concentrations. The reverse is true, so lower glucose means lower appetite. In addition, hunger only occurs when the body is unable to access energy. Once Ketogenesis starts, you’ll have an alternate source of fuel. 

Fights Against Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a set of conditions tied to diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and stroke. Some of these factors are obesity, elevated blood pressure, and low levels of good cholesterol. Keto diets have been shown to help fight against these conditions thanks to the lowered intake of high-carb foods. If followed consistently, a Keto program may eliminate metabolic syndrome entirely.

Cautions and Risks

Keto is a fairly recent fitness program, so there haven’t been a lot of studies to understand its long-term effects. That’s why it must be approached with caution to avoid any dangers. Here are some risks that come with this diet.

Nutrient Deficiency

Because of the restriction of a Keto diet, you won’t have access to micronutrients and vitamins present in carbohydrate-rich foods. These include magnesium, Vitamins B and C, and phosphorus. These are found in grains, fruits, and other plant-based foods. That’s why it’s important to supplement your program with vegetables or multivitamins.

Digestion Issues

Grains, starchy root crops, and legumes are usually eliminated in a Keto diet. However, these are important sources of fiber, which is essential in bowel movement. That’s why constipation is a common issue for those following a Keto program. People with pre-existing digestion issues should consult a professional before going on a Keto diet.

Kidney Issues

Aside from filtering waste, your kidneys help metabolize protein for use in the body. However, a Keto diet introduces a large amount of protein, which can overwhelm the kidneys. This leads to diseases and conditions like kidney stones. Kidney failure may even occur in the long run. 

Considerations for Vegans

A vegan Keto diet can be hard to pull off given how dependent it is on meat and other fat-rich foods. With the restrictions on grains, starches, and other carbohydrate-rich foods, you might think that it’s impossible to truly commit to it. However, there are many substitutes that will let you enjoy the benefits of a Keto diet without harming animals.

You need to get your calories from plants rich in fats, including nuts, avocado, cocoa, and coconuts. Don’t forget to supplement the high-fat diet with protein and a minimal amount of carbs. Some great meat alternatives include legumes, mushrooms, and tree nuts.

What To Eat?

We won’t dive into the specific diet plans and recipes that you should follow for a Keto program. Instead, we’ve shared some major considerations to remember when creating meal plans for this diet.

  • Stick to Healthy Fats: While a Keto diet encourages meat consumption, you still need to understand that too much of it can lead to more problems. Instead of eggs, pork, or beef as your source of fat, you can try healthier alternatives like plant-based fats and fish. These pack omega fatty acids and unsaturated fats.
  • Don’t Forget Your Micronutrients: Supplement your diet with leafy vegetables and fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut. Aside from giving you minerals and vitamins, these provide the fiber that Keto diets usually lack.
  • It’s Okay to Indulge: A Keto diet may be restrictive, but that doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of simple pleasures. There are many Keto-friendly foods out there like candies, desserts, and chocolates. They usually contain high amounts of healthy fats while being sugar-free.

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