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What is Keto?

What is Keto?

Thinking about ways to shed some unwanted weight? If so, there are many ways to do so. Some people opt for trendy diets while others commit to making small but sustained changes in their eating habits and exercising more.

One increasingly popular option for people looking to lose weight is the keto diet. This diet, which focuses primarily on eating full-fat foods like meat and cheese, has its lovers and its haters. But before you decide if this is a diet option for you, here’s some information about this eating plan.

What is the keto diet?

The ketogenic (keto) diet is a high fat, low carb diet. It consists of getting approximately 65-75% of your calories from fat, 10-30% from protein and 5-10% from carbs. This means focusing on foods like meat, eggs, dairy and low-carb vegetables and skipping foods like grains and sweets. By not consuming many carbohydrates, your body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis, which enables it to become very efficient at burning fat for energy.

A keto-friendly meal plan includes the following types of foods:

  • Meat (beef, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey)
  • Fish (especially “fatty” fish like salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel)
  • Eggs
  • Butter and cream
  • Cheese (unprocessed, like cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella)
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds)
  • Avocados and plant-based oils (extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil)
  • Low carb vegetables (like tomatoes, onions and peppers)
  • Seasonings (salt, pepper, herbs and spices)
  • Beverages (water, seltzer, unsweetened coffee and unsweetened green tea)

High-carb foods and drinks are off-limits on this diet, including sugary foods and drinks, bread, baked goods, grains, starches, alcohol and many condiments (like BBQ sauce and ketchup). Low-fat, “diet” and sugar-free foods are also discouraged.

Can you truly eat this way every day and lose weight?

The answer is yes, as long as you follow the dietary restrictions carefully and don’t overindulge. You can’t do keto “just a little” though—if you eat more carbs than the eating plan recommends, your body will not go into a state of ketosis and you may not lose weight. Also, although the keto diet is not based on counting calories, the amount of calories you consume has some impact on how much weight you lose.

One thing to keep in mind is that since the diet requires you to completely cut out entire food groups, it may be difficult to maintain over the long term. Additionally, the extremely low carb allowance makes it hard to eat many fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, which provide important nutrients and fiber. That’s why most health professionals and dietitians do not recommend fad diets such as keto but instead encourage lifestyle habits that are easier to sustain over the long run. This may include making small changes to eating habits, following a well-rounded diet focused primarily on whole foods and increasing the amount of physical activity you do.

Is the keto diet healthy?

Originally emerging as a therapy for epilepsy over 100 years ago, the keto diet may provide health benefits for a variety of conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Various studies show that the keto diet may be more effective at weight loss than a low-fat diet and that it may lead to greater reductions in blood pressure and triglyceride levels, lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity.

Of course, before you start the keto diet—or any other type of diet for that matter—it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor, especially if you have chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

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