The ketogenic diet—or keto diet—is a very-low-carbohydrate, high-fat style of eating in which you eliminate almost all quick-digesting carbs. That means cutting out all sugars, sweetened beverages, white bread, baked goods, starchy vegetables, and most fruits. Your daily carb limit will be around 50 grams, far less than the 200 to 300 grams most Americans consume in a day.
The keto diet is so popular because it tends to work quickly. Many people experience a rapid weight loss of 5 to 10 pounds in the first few weeks. A meta-analysis of studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that patients following a keto-style very-low-carbohydrate diet had about 2.2 times greater weight loss compared with people following a low-fat diet over the same period.
When you consume very little carbohydrate (less than 50 grams a day, which is less than the amount in a regular bagel) for three or four days in a row, your body runs out of sugar (glucose). Your body will first pull stored glucose from the liver, and when that’s gone it will start tapping protein and fat for energy.
When your body starts burning fat for fuel, you’ve reached a metabolic state called ketosis. The term comes from ketones, a type of acid that your liver makes in breaking down fats as an alternative form of energy to power your brain. Without the need for the hormone insulin to manage blood sugar spikes from carbs, your body gains huge metabolic benefits.
Some researchers believe one of the key reasons a keto diet promotes weight loss is because high fat consumption is so satiating; it reduces food cravings.
Scientists have also begun to explore the ultra-low-carb diet’s potential for preventing brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. But the keto diet is not recommended for everyone (See page 8).
The rules are easy to remember, but they can be challenging to adhere to long-term. It takes discipline to cut carbohydrates so dramatically from your meals; carbs, after all, are our body’s preferred fuel, and they make up at least 50 percent of the average American’s diet.
But our beginner’s guide will give you the best jump-start into this popular weightloss program. In this special issue of Eat This, Not That!, you’ll find tips and helpful advice, a shopper’s guide to keto-diet-friendly foods, FAQs, and dozens of recipes that’ll keep you burning fat while truly enjoying every savory bite.
IT’S NOT UNCOMMON TO EXPERIENCE AN INITIAL WEIGHT LOSS OF 10 POUNDS WITHIN A FEW WEEKS OF STARTING THE KETO DIET. SOME OF THAT LOSS MAY BE WATER WEIGHT.
Fewer cravings; it may suppress the “hunger hormone” ghrelin.
Belly fat loss
Lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Lower blood levels of triglycerides
Higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol
A high-fat, very-low-carb, moderate-protein plan, with a typical macronutrient ratio of about 75% fats, 20% proteins, and 5% carbohydrates.
People who want to lose weight fast.
Harder to follow.
Keto cycling means you cycle in and out of ketosis by following the Standard Ketogenic Diet for five or six days, and then enjoy a day or two of eating more carbs.
People who have trouble maintaining the ultra-strict standard plan.
More difficult to achieve and maintain ketosis.
Sometimes referred to as “modified Atkins,” this version allows more protein—up to 35% of calories.
People who want to eat more protein and less fat, and those concerned about maintaining muscle mass.
More difficult to achieve ketosis.