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All food & nutrition diet What is the keto diet?

What is the keto diet?

A healthy keto breakfast of avocado, cheese, eggs and bacon

16 September 2021

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2 min read

Thinking of going keto? Let’s dive into the details and look at the different aspects of the diet. This, along with consulting a health professional may provide some insightful information whether this is something you should be trying. 

What is keto? 

The term “keto” stands for ketogenesis, which essentially means ketone body production. 

A ketone is the byproduct of the body breaking down fat for energy. That is, when the body moves away from burning carbohydrates for energy and instead mostly uses fat. 

By doing so, dietary carbohydrate intake becomes so low that the body is forced to generate ketone bodies from fat as an alternative energy source to glucose (carbohydrates). 

This is called ketosis and it’s where ketone production has increased, supplying the body with its daily energy. It takes three to four (consecutive) days of very low carbohydrate intake to reach ketosis.

Pie chart graphic of the keto diet as dinner plate with the split of fats, carbohydrates and protein

The keto diet primarily consists of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate foods.

What can you actually eat when you’re on a keto diet? 

The keto diet primarily consists of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate foods. The overall goal of the diet is to ensure that the body is receiving less than 10% of its total energy from carbohydrates, 20-25% from protein and 65%-75% from fat. 

You are, therefore, limited to what you can eat if you are following this type of diet. Foods such as fruit, starchy vegetables, grains and legumes aren’t considered keto-friendly and are restricted. This makes it more difficult to meet your daily nutritional needs, and you’ll need to monitor this if you do decide to try a keto diet. 

Keto foods include meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, cream, non-starchy vegetables (such as lettuce, tomato, avocado, cucumber), nuts and seeds, and a selection of fruit are all permitted given their limited carbohydrate content. 

What are the benefits of going keto? 

The keto diet has been recognised for a number of years as a treatment option for children with epilepsy who are not responding to medication. There were some promising results in some trials but overall, less than 50% of children found it helped. 

There is also some research on keto as a therapeutic diet that may help brain disorders. Promising results were seen in some cognitive conditions, however, more research is needed in this emerging area.

Beyond its possible therapeutic implications, the keto diet has been popular among dieters to help them lose weight. 

For short term weight loss results, there may be some success with an overall reduction in kilojoules consumed and a reduction in appetite. 

And, because the diet restricts processed, sugary foods such as cakes, sweets, biscuits, and desserts, you could expect to see an initial positive outcome when it comes to a healthy weight.

However, because the keto diet is so restrictive, it can be difficult to follow long term and, clinical long term results relating to weight loss are a little less than promising. 

What are some possible side effects if you’re following a keto diet? 

It’s important to understand the possible side effects of following a keto diet. Because many food groups are restricted, the overall fibre intake of the diet is limited. 

A reduction in fibre intake, including important phytochemicals, prebiotics and probiotics, will have a negative impact on gut bacteria balances as well as slow gastrointestinal transit time. Constipation is a common side effect of a keto diet as is gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Other common side effects may include nausea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue. 

A ketogenic diet should always be followed in consultation with your doctor or an accredited practising dietitian, to ensure that you get the right amount and types of macro and micronutrients. 

Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board September 2021

This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health you should consult with a health professional.