The Keto diet is more than just the latest food fad to come along. If you’ve already been following a Paleo or Primal lifestyle, it might surprise you to find out how similar Keto is to them.
But what makes Keto unique is that it’s an amazing tool for optimizing your health, fat loss, blood sugar control, mental function, and more. So if you’re interested in learning more about the ketogenic diet, then please keep reading!
In this article, I’ll cover the mechanism behind the keto diet, a quick history of where the diet comes from, what you can eat on a keto diet, some of the health benefits you can expect, and tips for getting started.
What is the Keto Diet + How does it work?
The main aim of the keto diet is to put your body into a powerful metabolic state called nutritional ketosis where you’re burning more ketones as fuel rather than glucose.
You can achieve nutritional ketosis by limiting your carbohydrate intake. This will lower your blood sugar levels so that your body can’t use glucose as an energy source – there simply won’t be enough available. That’s when nutritional ketosis kicks in.
Your body will produce more ketones, which can be created from stored fat. Ketones are made in your liver from the breakdown of fatty acids. That means your body could use your excess fat stores to generate energy!
But it’s not just fat loss that has people excited about the Keto diet (although plenty of people love it for that reason).
A quick history of the Keto Diet
It may surprise you to know that the keto diet has been around for almost a century – so for a “new” diet, it’s surprisingly old! It was created back in the 1920s as a form of treatment for children with epilepsy, and it was found to be highly effective. Specifically, it was developed to mimic the metabolic effects of fasting on the body – as fasting has been an accepted way of alleviating epilepsy symptoms since Biblical times. While Keto is still being used as a treatment for epilepsy, most people are currently excited about its potential for curing/preventing illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer’s as well as being an effective weight-loss tool.
Health benefits of a Keto diet
There are many of these, so here are the main 4 benefits that people love:
1. It’s effective for weight loss.
The exact reason why Keto is so great for helping people lose weight is still a bit unclear. It could be that nutritional ketosis helps people burn more of their body fat, or that people tend not to overeat as Keto naturally makes you less hungry, or that stable blood sugar levels help our bodies heal metabolic issues that allow us to shed fat better, or some other reason or a combination of reasons. Whatever it is, it seems to work for people as the many keto weight-loss success stories indicate.
2. It can help you beat your sugar cravings
…by making you less dependent on glucose as an energy source. Running your body on ketones means you don’t get the dips and spikes in blood sugar which is one of the main causes of sugar cravings or other uncomfortable symptoms like brain fog and feeling “hangry”.
3. It can help stabilize your mood and increase mental clarity.
A study was done to look at the effect of a ketogenic diet on animals and results showed the diet had an antidepressant effect. Most people also find that they no longer suffer from brain fog on Keto. They can concentrate better and for longer. So your mind will benefit as well as your body!
4. It has a wide range of possible therapeutic uses
What can you eat on the Keto Diet?
If you’ve been Paleo/Primal, then switching to eating a Keto diet is easy. You just cut out all the high carb and sugary foods and add in a bit more healthy fats. More specifically, here are some of the main categories of foods to eat and avoid:
Good foods to eat are:
- Leafy green vegetables,
- Meats and organ meats,
- Fish and shellfish,
- Avocados and olives,
- Nuts and seeds,
- Herbs and spices,
- Healthy fats like ghee, lard, olive oil, and coconut oils.
Foods to avoid include:
- Starchy vegetables (like sweet potatoes),
- Sugary fruits (like pineapples and bananas),
- Dried fruits (like raisins)
- All sugars (including Paleo sugars like honey and maple syrup),
- Vegetable oils,
- Artificial sweeteners,
- Diet sodas,
- Anything else overly processed.
4 Tips to get started on the Keto Diet
If you fancy giving the keto diet a go, here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Start by limiting carbs to 25g per day…but eating unlimited protein. There’ll be plenty of time to adjust the amount of protein/fat you consume, but your first step is to reduce carb consumption. Moreover, It’ll stop you from feeling overwhelmed by changing too much at once.
2. Support your diet with a healthy lifestyle by making sure you’re exercising regularly, getting enough high quality sleep each night, and reducing your stress levels. You’ll be able to take greater advantage of the diet’s health benefits if you’re not feeling tired and stressed out. Plus it’ll help you stick to Keto better.
And if you’d like to make exercise an easy part of your daily routine with a few tweaks, Anya has a helpful article you can check out here.
3. Plan your meals before you start Keto by finding tasty recipes you’d like to try, so you won’t be stuck starving and unsure of what to eat. And also make sure to stock up your kitchen and pantry with the recipe ingredients you’ll need. While at the same time getting rid of any non-keto foods you have at home (they can’t tempt you if they’re not there!)
4. Swap your breakfast for a ketone-boosting morning ritual. It’ll make meal planning easier as you’ll only have to plan for two meals instead of three, plus it can help you kickstart ketosis. Drink a large glass of water first thing in the morning. Then drink a green smoothie (with avocado, kale, and coconut or MCT oil).
Ready to get started on Keto?
A keto diet isn’t for everyone, but it can be a fantastic tool for losing weight and boosting energy. So, if you’re interested in giving it a try then please check out our more comprehensive guide to starting a ketogenic diet here. And for Keto recipe ideas, please check out my Keto cookbooks here.
Louise Hendon is the co-host of The Keto Summit and author of the Essential Keto Cookbook. She loves creating easy and delicious healthy meals for busy people. And in her spare time, she loves traveling the world and reading mystery novels.