The ketogenic (keto) diet is a type of low-carbohydrate diet that has grown in popularity over the last decade, alongside the vegan diet, due to its benefits for weight loss and overall health.
Generally, the keto diet involves consuming no more than 50 grams of carbohydrates, a high amount of fat, and a moderate amount of protein. The theory behind this low-carb diet is to encourage the body to switch from using glucose to burning fats for energy.
When your liver starts to break down the fats that are stored around your body, it produces compounds called ketones. These ketones are converted into a molecule called ATP, which can be used for energy when there is no glucose available (such as when you’re eating a low-carb diet).
When your body is burning fats and producing ketones, it’s in a state of ketosis. You reach this state after just a few days of following the keto diet and it’s after this point that you will begin to experience the many benefits of this low-carb diet.
Let’s cover these benefits in more detail.
Improved Heart Health
Decreasing your carbohydrate intake can boost your heart health by lowering your blood pressure and blood triglyceride levels.
Triglycerides are a type of cholesterol that circulates the body in the bloodstream. When the levels of certain triglycerides are high in the blood, it can increase the risk of heart disease.
Following the keto diet can decrease LDL levels and increase HDL levels. LDLs are often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol because they can increase the risk of atherosclerosis in the blood vessels.
HDLs are the ‘good’ cholesterol molecules that can lower the risk of atherosclerosis by reducing plaque formation in the blood vessels.
Increased Weight Loss
Perhaps the most popular reason why people go on the ketogenic diet is weight loss. Eating a low carbohydrate, high fat diet can force your body into a fat burning state.
As mentioned above, when the body is in ketosis, it is breaking down fat stores. Therefore, if you are trying to lose weight, being in the state of ketosis may accelerate your fat loss.
The keto diet enables you to achieve a fat burning state without having to restrict your caloric intake too much. This can make your weight loss journey much more enjoyable and less restrictive.
When you are forced to consume a lower number of carbohydrates, you will eat fewer refined carbs, such as processed snacks and grains. This in and of itself can be a great tool for weight loss.
Since the ketogenic diet is high in fat and contains a moderate number of proteins, you are also more likely to feel full throughout the day. Proteins and fats are generally more satiating than carbohydrates, so you may not feel as inclined to reach into the snack cupboard.
Better Regulation of Blood Glucose
The ketogenic diet is often used as part of the treatment plans for people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
When you eat a carbohydrate-rich diet, it can cause large spikes in blood glucose and blood insulin levels. This can be harmful to those with diabetes.
Low-carbohydrate diets can help to regulate blood sugar levels by reducing the severity of insulin spikes in the body. This makes it easier for those with diabetes to regulate their blood sugar levels and may reduce their dependence on exogenous insulin.
Improved Brain Function
When you are following a normal diet, the brain prefers to use glucose for energy. However, studies show that those following the ketogenic diet experience enhanced brain function.
The kittens that are produced as a by-product of fat breakdown can be converted to ATP, which can be used by the brain. There are several neurological conditions that are associated with severe cognitive decline.
When patients with these neurological disorders are switched on to a ketogenic diet, their symptoms reduce in severity. This was particularly true in those with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
The ketogenic diet has also proved beneficial for children with epilepsy. A low carbohydrate diet reduced the frequency and severity of seizures.
Many people who follow the ketogenic diet also say that they experience increased mental clarity. There are lots of studies and anecdotal stories that also claim the ketogenic diet can be great to increase focus, concentration, and memory.