It may come as a surprise to many that the ketogenic diet was first introduced in the 1920s – and its purpose was not for weight loss. The medical community initially used the keto diet as a treatment for epilepsy, continuing its use for two decades until antiepileptic drugs became the treatment of choice.
But just over 15 years ago the ketogenic diet surfaced once again, gaining significant popularity in recent years. The diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates, forcing your body into a biological state called ketosis, during which you burn fat instead of glucose.
The ketogenic diet has multiple benefits and has proven to deliver results on several fronts. Ketogenic diets can lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar, and prevent or even reverse pre-diabetes/diabetes. It can also curb your appetite and assist in weight loss.
Following is a list of 5 Benefits of a Low Carb/Ketogenic diet.
Weight Loss: Research indicates that above-average weight loss can occur when people adopt a low carb/keto diet. Basically a ketogenic diet deprives the body of glucose, which is the main source of energy for all cells in the body. This energy is usually acquired by eating carbohydrates. On a ketogenic diet the body begins to use fat as its primary fuel. Weight loss will vary depending on total caloric intake, physical activity, and how low each person can restrict their carb consumption. If multiple tactics are observed such as cutting calories, reducing carbohydrates, increasing exercise, and eating the right foods they can expect multiple benefits, beginning with weight loss.
Reduced Appetite: A low carb/keto diet often results in changes to your overall appetite. There are different theories for this, however, and some of the research is inconsistent. Often, the keto diet causes a lack of appetite due to the increase in ketones, the chemical substances the body produces when restricting carbohydrate intake. Another hypothesis is since your body believes it’s in starvation mode, it’s preserving calories and purposely making you feel full. Finally, it could also be that protein is the most satiating macronutrient, and since you are consuming high levels of protein you feel satisfied for longer periods of time.
Lower and Balanced Blood Sugar: High-sugar, high-carb lifestyles can make weight loss almost impossible. When the body has all the fuel it can handle in the form of sugar and other carbohydrates, the possibility of burning fat for fuel is virtually non-existent. A Ketogenic diet delivers the obvious (weight loss) but also promotes more even blood sugar levels. It also aids in lowering insulin resistance. Reducing carbohydrates significantly lowers insulin resistance compared to a simple low-fat diet, another key benefit of the ketogenic diet.
Low Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is one of risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Lowering and keeping blood pressure low is a very important part of lowering risks. The low carb/ketogenic lifestyle can help keep blood pressure under control. The by-products of the keto diet – including weight loss and a diet filled with nutritious foods – innately lower blood pressure.
Improved Skin Complexion: A low-carb lifestyle could benefit overall complexion. For one, by eliminating simple carbohydrates you are lowering the body’s excess inflammation, a cause of acne. Secondly, increasing healthy fats in the diet (especially sources of omega-3s, such as flax, salmon, and walnuts) can help soothe dry, itchy skin. Cut carbs, make room for healthy fats, and a person’s skin is the winner.
Keto Diet: What to Eat and What to Avoid
Keto-friendly foods are very low in carbs. Here is a guideline for a ketogenic diet plan that includes lots of protein, dairy, fats, and vegetables:
- Animal proteins including seafood, eggs, meats, and poultry
- Diary including cheese, butter, cottage cheese, and unsweetened yogurt
- Non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, cucumber, celery, radishes, cauliflower, cabbage, avocado, broccoli, and zucchini
- Low-sugar fruit including berries, lemons, and limes
- Healthy fats including olive oil, ghee, avocado oil, almond oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil
- Nuts and seeds
Avoid bread, potatoes, rice, sweets, sugary fruit, processed snacks, and other foods that are high in carbs and sugar.
Possible Side Effects of the Ketogenic Diet
Although it seems like there are many health benefits to the keto diet, there could be some negative impacts as well. Short-term effects include what people call the “keto flu”, which lasts about a week as your body adjusts to the diet. Symptoms can include fatigue, nausea, headaches, and brain fog. Other effects of the keto diet can be mood fluctuations, constipation, and intense cravings. Not everyone experiences negative side effects, however.
Research on the Long-term effects of keto diet is limited, and the lack of certain foods in the diet most certainly could affect the body in some way. Health professionals warn that nutritional deficiencies are possible if you stay on the keto diet for a considerable length of time.
Timeline to Reap the Rewards of the Diet
To reap the benefits of a ketogenic diet, your body must enter a state called ketosis. The time it takes to enter ketosis varies from person to person, but generally it can take 2–4 days if you eat 20–50 grams of carbs per day. There are many variables, however, and it may take some people a week or longer to reach a state of ketosis.
Always consult your doctor before any major change in your diet. While many agree that the ketogenic diet is typically a healthy choice and has many benefits, keto isn’t necessarily for everyone.
edited by Maria Pietromonaco
Wheless JW. History of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia. 2008 Nov;49 Suppl 8:3-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01821.x. PMID: 19049574.
Gibson AA, Seimon RV, Lee CM, Ayre J, Franklin J, Markovic TP, Caterson ID, Sainsbury A. Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2015 Jan;16(1):64-76. doi: 10.1111/obr.12230. Epub 2014 Nov 17. PMID: 25402637.
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