The Keto Diet – What You Need to Know Before Starting

The keto diet involves replacing carbohydrates with healthy fats. While this diet can be challenging initially due to lack of energy or other symptoms, its main goal is weight loss and other positive health outcomes.

Working with a nutritionist or dietitian can help you identify a nutritional plan tailored specifically to your goals.

What is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb eating plan designed to shift your metabolism away from carbs and toward fat and ketones. While typically safe for most healthy individuals, initial side effects like diarrhea, fatigue and headaches may occur while your body adjusts (38). Some individuals report experiencing what’s known as “keto flu” shortly after starting the diet (39).

A typical keto meal typically includes meat, fish or eggs combined with cheese, nuts and other dairy products like avocado and olive oil. Other mainstays include berries, leafy vegetables such as cauliflower or cabbage and other cruciferous veggies like mushrooms; fruits such as tomatoes; and small quantities of whole grains (wheat barley and rye are permitted, though their consumption must remain minimal to limit excessive fiber intake).

Water, unsweetened coffee or tea, black and green tea as well as any beverage containing less than 50 grams of carbohydrates daily is allowed on this diet plan. Milk may also be enjoyed; for optimal results try almond, coconut or another low-carb beverage instead.

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

The keto diet drastically limits carb intake, forcing your body to use fat as fuel instead. Your brain and muscles still require glucose for energy, however; therefore, the keto diet includes a set amount of protein to maintain lean muscle mass without disrupting ketosis.

Dieting helps reduce insulin levels, which allows your body to access stored fat more readily as fuel, while also balancing other hormones like leptin and ghrelin which regulate hunger. When choosing foods for this diet it’s important to choose high quality ones like grass-fed meats and organic produce (check out EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides for guidance).

Dieting can be challenging for some due to food restrictions and initial side effects. Before beginning any diet program, it is wise to consult with a healthcare provider or dietitian; particularly if you suffer from conditions like diabetes or heart disease that require medications. Furthermore, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should avoid such diets altogether.

What are the Side Effects of the Keto Diet?

A keto diet is rich in fat and low in carbohydrates, which allows your body to break down fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. Some individuals may experience flu-like symptoms in the first few weeks as their bodies adjust to using fat as fuel; these effects can be mitigated by staying hydrated and eating foods rich in sodium, potassium and other electrolytes such as salt.

Some individuals also experience digestive discomfort at the start of a keto diet, which can be mitigated by creating an appropriate meal plan including plenty of leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables as well as dairy products with reduced carb content like cream and half-and-half. Sugary beverages and artificial sweeteners have also been shown to decrease health benefits associated with keto diets.

Make sure your meals contain plenty of high-quality fats like grass-fed butter or ghee, olive oil and MCT oil (for coffee or smoothies). This will help keep cravings under control and will keep you on the right path when they arise.

What Should I Eat on the Keto Diet?

The keto diet calls for you to consume approximately 50% of your total caloric intake as fats – healthy unsaturated ones like nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil are recommended; saturated fats such as those found in meat (pork, bacon) or full-fat dairy products like cream and half-and-half are allowed as they contain the fatty portion separated during processing and contain butyric acid which supports gut health.

Your daily carb consumption should be limited to 20-50 grams or less, which includes starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes) as well as high-sugar fruits like bananas. Water should be the beverage of choice instead of sugary drinks such as fruit juices, fizzy beverages and cordials; low-carbohydrate drinks like coffee, tea or green smoothies with unsweetened almond milk or whey powder will help you reach an appropriate balance of macronutrients while decreasing risk of dehydration.

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