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We got a nutritionist to explain what the keto diet actually entails and how you can do it safely

Published on:4 April 2021, 10:30am IST
The keto diet is a popular way to lose weight. But it is not as simple as cutting out carbs and eating fats. That’s what we got a nutritionist to explain everything you need to know about it
Vibhuti Jain
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keto diet
Find everything you wanted to know about the keto diet here. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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The ketogenic a.k.a. keto diet is a high fat, moderate protein, and low-carb eating method where a majority of your calories are from fat. Originally developed in the early 1970s to treat childhood epilepsy, the diet is now going mainstream as a low-carb tool for several health benefits, particularly weight loss. 

Here’s how keto is different from other low-carb diets

The keto diet isn’t just any low-carb diet or in any way similar to the Atkins or the paleo diets. It is very high in fat and very low in carbs to put your body into “ketosis”–a metabolic state where you are pushing carbs low enough that the body doesn’t have any other choice than to burn fat instead of glucose for fuel. 

When the carbs you eat get digested, it gets broken down into glucose which fuels your body. And when an excess amount of glucose gets consumed or is present in the system, it gets stored in different ways such as glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue, and as fat in your adipose tissues. 

That’s when your body starts breaking down fats into ketone bodies which provides energy to almost all types of cells. This process of fat being used for energy by breaking down into ketone bodies is known as “ketosis”. One enters this state by cutting down their carbohydrate intake as low as 20~30g per day and majorly relying upon fats for calories.

This is what ketosis feels like

Ketone levels indicate if the keto diet is working well and if a person is in a state of ketosis. There are certain symptoms such as increased thirst, decreased hunger or appetite, frequent urination, and dry mouth, which are indications that one has entered ketosis. Blood, urine, or breath ketone testing methods that measure ketone levels also help determine if one has entered ketosis.

Keto diet enormously elevates the fat burning process to result in a more stable flow of energy to your brain, as well as, all the other organs. Unlike low-fat diets, you won’t feel the urge to eat frequent meals since the keto diet dramatically cuts down cravings and hunger. 

keto diet
Doing keto the right way is important. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
On the keto diet, you are less likely to feel hungry all the time

Thanks to the satiating effect of the protein, or perhaps the ketones themselves, while doing keto there will be a tremendous reduction in appetite. Several studies have demonstrated that people who followed a keto diet reported significantly less hunger and the desire to eat frequently compared to others. 

But maintaining protein consumption in moderation is crucial for maintaining ketosis since protein could be converted into glucose if had in excess, which might decelerate your transition to ketosis. Therefore, as far as protein is concerned, moderate is key: it is kept high enough to maintain lean body mass but low enough to maintain ketosis. 

There are several versions of the keto diet such as the standard keto, cyclic ketogenic diet, high protein keto diet, and the targeted keto diet where each differs upon the percentage of fat, protein, and carbs. While the clinical ketogenic diets limit carbs to 20-50 g per day, the extreme carb-counted or hardcore keto diets limit daily net carbs to less than 30g.

“Net carbs” are those carbohydrates that get absorbed by your body or those that can be completely digested into glucose. Whereas “total carbs” include all the types of carbohydrates a meal contains including sugars, starches, and dietary fiber. To calculate net carbs, simply find out the total carb content and subtract the grams of dietary fiber and sugar alcohols. Not only is counting net carbs an effective weight loss strategy but it can also help keto dieters include plenty of nutritious, fiber-rich foods in their diet without going over their everyday keto carb goals. 

What can you eat on the keto diet?

The keto diet isn’t all fats and meat! You can also enjoy a wide variety of scrumptious and nutritious meals. But since most Indian dishes are a mix of ingredients, not all of them are low-carb or keto-friendly. It is therefore very important to be aware of what to eat and avoid while on a keto diet.

keto diet
keto can be a little tricky in the beginning but proper attention can solve your problems. It’s time to find out. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

It is appropriate to base the majority of your diet if you are doing keto, on foods like cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, unsweetened coffee, tea and milk, dark chocolate, low-carb vegetables, and fruits (cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, zucchini, avocado, watermelon, strawberries, etc), yogurt, paneer, fish and seafood. And foods to avoid include grains (rice, wheat, oats, etc), sugar, starchy veggies, honey, juices, and all the other high-carb foods. 

Here’s how you can succeed at keto

Being a restrictive diet, keto can be a little tricky in the beginning. But setting a proper weekly ketogenic diet meal plan can help. And apart from being prepared for the common side-effects like the keto flu, here are a few tips to avoid some common pitfalls and succeeding at keto:

  • Discuss with your doctor and ensure they’re on board with your plan, particularly if you’re on medications
  • Stay well hydrated and add enough salt to your food
  • Do not increase your fat intake too much too quickly
  • Stock up on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like flax & chia seeds, olive oil, etc

Vibhuti Jain Vibhuti Jain

Vibhuti is a lead nutritionist & head of research and development at Lo! Foods.