A ketogenic diet is a food eating habit that puts emphasis on consuming more amount of fats and low amount of carbohydrates to achieve health related goal and weight loss. The diet is based on the fact that our bodies can enter a metabolic state known as ketosis (and hence the name ‘keto’) in which it uses fat to produce and meet energy requirements of the body as opposed to the normal usage of carbohydrates to meet the body’s energy demand.
How Ketogenic Diet Works
Several studies have shown that the ketogenic diet can be used to aid in improving health, losing weight, reversing diabetes and even fighting cancer. The diet has been shown to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels which helps with diabetes. It also helps to improve energy levels, uplift mood, helps in better nutrient assimilation and enhances the quality of sleep. Ketogenic diet uses ketone instead of glucose to provide fuel for body. Ketones are compounds that are naturally produced by the body inside its biggest organ – liver, when it is starving for carbohydrates.
Conventionally we derive all our energy needs from glucose which gets absorbed by blood and is transported to the cells where it is utilized to fuel their work. This glucose gets supplied from carbohydrates, which in evolutionary terms is quite new for our species. In earlier times, most of our energy requirements were primarily met through fat and moderately through protein and carbohydrates as grains and cereals were not abundant in supply. Ever since agriculture became part of our civilization, carbohydrates started driving us and it accelerated even further because of industrialization and green revolution which made grain and cereals such as wheat, rice and corn abundant to us.
Ketogenic diet makes an attempt to let the body switch its fuel supply to be met from ketones. The moment body reaches a ketosis state it starts burning fat, which is precisely most people want from their diets. The benefits are derived as the body starts becoming efficient at burning fat, the previously accumulated fat in the body which was earlier simply stagnant inside joins the drive and fuels weight loss and other associated benefits such as feeling satiated and hence less intake of extra calories. This soon gets translated into a positive loop and people who have been on ketogenic diet once start feeling fresh and willing to try for longer duration.
What Comes Under Ketogenic Diet
Food items that contain minimal carbohydrate are the best for ketogenic diet to work. The example of which are:
- Fish and seafood
- Natural Fat such as Butter and Cooking oils
- Vegetables growing above ground
- High Fat Diary such as Cheese, Cream and Yogurt
- Tea and Coffee without sugar
Food items that need to be avoided in order to remain in ketosis:
- Sugar: This means no soft drinks, sport drinks, fruit juice, sweets, candy, cakes, cookies, treats, sauces, dressings, packaged and processed goods.
- Starch: This includes food items such as Bread, Rice, Pasta, Potatoes, French fries and Chips.
- Legumes such as beans and lentils are also high in carb and hence need to be avoided.
- Alcoholic beverage such as beer and wine
- Fruits have high natural sugar that may act against ketosis.
Benefits of Ketogenic Diet
Weight Loss: It is a direct result of following low-carb diet and ketogenic diet simply boosts the rate at which body burns its fat storage.
Less Starvation, More Satiation: Once our body reaches ketosis state, it gains access to fuel source which is abundant and provides a constant supply of energy thereby causing less hunger.
Improved Mental Performance: ketones are efficient fuel source and our brain works better when it has a steady supply of energy.
Control Blood Sugar: The rise and fall in blood glucose level is not observed when our body starts using fat as fuel, this helps in getting a better control of our blood sugar level.
Increased Physical Endurance: Since glucose needs to be replenished soon, the body performs better when it starts utilizing fat as a fuel.
Side Effects of Ketogenic Diet
Our body has become accustomed to using carbohydrates as its default fuel, hence a sudden switch to fat may at first be taken as a surprise by it but it has been generally observed that after a few weeks on ketogenic diet, the body gets accustomed to the new fuel. These initial few weeks are commonly referred to as keto-flu among the followers of this diet. The symptoms of which may include headache, tiredness, muscle fatigue, cramps, dizziness, nausea, irritability. People often observe that their frequency of urination has increased during first few weeks as fat causes less water retention within the body hence the extra water gets lost but this can also result in dehydration which can be the cause behind most symptoms of keto-flu.
Hence as with any new habit related to diet it would be wise to start slow and sustain it so that the body finds it easier to adapt to the good and beneficial habits. For beginners it would be better to reduce intake of carbohydrates slowly and see the changes that take place within their body. This may not produce drastic weight loss but it will surely help in building a healthy habit that can be further improved upon as the body starts using fat as fuel.