Ketogenic Diet Benefits for Weight Loss, Fighting Disease & More
Unlike many fad diets that come and go with very limited rates of long-term success, the ketogenic diet (or keto diet) has been practiced for more than nine decades (since the 1920s) and is based upon a solid understanding of physiology and nutrition science.
Rather than relying on counting calories, limiting portion sizes, resorting to extreme exercise or requiring lots of willpower (even in the face of drastically low energy levels), the ketogenic diet takes an entirely different approach to weight loss and health improvement. It works because it changes the very “fuel source” that the body uses to stay energized — namely, from burning glucose (or sugar) for energy to dietary fat and, critically, your own body fat after the stage of “ketosis” is reached.
Meanwhile, beyond its outstanding potential to help people lose weight and burn off fat stores, research shows that the ketogenic diet helps to fight serious diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Table of Contents
- What Is Ketosis?
- How to Get Into Ketosis
- What Are the Stages of Ketosis?
- Does the Keto Diet Work for Women?
What Is the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet plan that was originally designed in the 1920s for patients with epilepsy by researchers working at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. (1) Researchers found that fasting — avoiding consumption of all foods for a brief period of time, including those that provide carbohydrates — helped reduce the amount of seizures patients suffered, in addition to having other positive effects on body fat, blood sugar, cholesterol and hunger levels. (4)
Unfortunately, long-term fasting is not a feasible option for more than a few days, therefore the ketogenic diet was developed to mimic the same beneficial effects of fasting. Essentially the keto diet works by “tricking” the body into thinking it is fasting, through a strict elimination of glucose that is found in carbohydrate foods. Today the standard ketogenic diet goes by several different names, including the “no-carb diet” or “very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet”(LCKD or VLCKD for short).
At the core of the ketogenic diet is severely restricting intake of all or most foods with sugar and starch (carbohydrates). These foods are broken down into sugar (insulin and glucose) in our blood once we eat them, and if these levels become too high, extra calories are much more easily stored as body fat and results in unwanted weight gain. However, when glucose levels are cut off due to low-carb dieting, the body starts to burn fat instead and produces ketones that can be measured in the blood.
Ketogenic diets, like most low carb diets, work through the elimination of glucose. Because most folks live on a high carb diet, our bodies normally run on glucose (or sugar) for energy. We cannot make glucose and only have about 24 hours’ worth stored in our muscle tissue and liver. Once glucose is no longer available from food sources, we begin to burn stored fat instead, or fat from our diets.
Therefore, when you’re following a ketogenic diet, your body is burning fat for energy rather than carbohydrates, so in the process most people lose weight and excess body fat rapidly, even when consuming lots of fat and adequate calories through their diet. Another major benefit of the keto diet is that there’s no need to count calories, feel hungry or attempt to burn loads of calories through hours of intense exercise.
In some ways, it’s similar to the Atkins diet, which similarly boosts the body’s fat-burning abilities through eating only low-carb foods, along with getting rid of foods high in carbs and sugar. Removing glucose from carbohydrate foods will cause the body to burn fat for energy instead. The major differences between the classic keto diet and the Atkins diet is ketogenic emphasizes healthier fats, less overall protein and no processed meat (such as bacon) while having more research to back up its efficacy.
What Is Ketosis?
Ketosis is the result of following the standard ketogenic diet, which is why it’s also sometimes called “the ketosis diet.” Ketosis takes place when glucose from carbohydrate foods (like grains, all sources of sugar or fruit, for example) is drastically reduced, which forces the body to find an alternative fuel source: fat. Although dietary fat (especially saturated fat) often gets a bad name, provoking fear of weight gain and heart disease, it’s also your body’s second preferred source of energy when carbohydrates are not easily accessible.
In the absence of glucose, which is normally used by cells as a quick source of energy, the body starts to burn fat and produces ketones instead. Once ketone levels in the blood rise to a certain point, you enter into a state of ketosis — which usually results in quick and consistent weight loss until you reach a healthy, stable body weight.
To sum up a complex process, ketosis happens when the the liver breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol, through a process called beta-oxidation. There are three primary types of ketone bodies that are water-soluble molecules produced in the liver: acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetone.
The body then further breaks down these fatty acids into an energy-rich substance called ketones that circulate through the bloodstream. Fatty acid molecules are broken down through the process called ketogenesis, and a specific ketone body called acetoacetate is formed which supplies energy.
The end result is staying fueled off of circulating high ketones (which are also sometimes called ketone bodies) — which is what’s responsible for altering your metabolism in a way that some people like to say turns you into a “fat-burning machine.” Both in terms of how it feels physically and mentally, along with the impact it has on the body, being in ketosis is a very different than a “glycolytic state,” where blood glucose (sugar) serves as the body’s energy source. Many consider burning ketones to be a much “cleaner” way to stay energized compared to running on carbs and sugar day in and day out.
This state is not to be confused with ketoacidosis, which is a serious diabetes complication when the body produces excess ketones (or blood acids).
The goal of the ketogenic diet is to keep you in this fat-burning metabolic state of ketosis, in which you will lose weight until you reach your ideal set point.
How to Get Into Ketosis
So how exactly do you get into ketosis? Here’s how it works:
- Consumption of glucose from carbohydrate foods — grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, etc. — is cut way down.
- This forces your body to find an alternative fuel source: fat (think avocados, coconut oil, salmon).
- Meanwhile, in the absence of glucose, the body also starts to burn fat and produces ketones instead.
- Once ketone levels in the blood rise to a certain point, you enter into a state of ketosis.
- This state of high ketone levels results in quick and consistent weight loss until you reach a healthy, stable body weight.
Wondering how many carb foods you can eat and still be “in ketosis”? The traditional ketogenic diet created for those with epilepsy consisted of getting about 75 percent of calories from sources of fat (such as oils or fattier cuts of meat), 5 percent from carbohydrates and 20 percent from protein. For most people a less strict ketogenic diet (what I call a “modified keto diet”) can still help promote weight loss in a safe, and often very fast, way.
In order to transition and remain in ketosis, aiming for about 30–50 net grams is typically the recommended amount of total carbs to start with. This is considered a more moderate or flexible approach but can be less overwhelming to begin with. Once you’re more accustomed to this way of eating, you can choose to lower carbs even more if you’d like (perhaps only from time to time), down to about 20 grams of net carbs daily. This is considered the standard, “strict” amount that many keto dieters aim to adhere to for best results, but remember that everyone is a bit different.
What Are the Stages of Ketosis?
Once ketone levels in the blood rise to a certain point, you officially enter into a state of ketosis. This state results in fairly rapid and consistent weight loss until you reach a healthier (and stable) body weight. Overall, people enter into ketosis at different rates, usually after 3–4 days of fasting or following a very low-carbohydrate diet (20 grams of net carbs or less) that forces the need for an alternative energy source. (5)
Ketosis occurs when the liver breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol — a process called beta-oxidation. In particular, three primary types of ketone bodies that are water-soluble molecules are produced: acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetone.
Rather than drawing energy from glucose, a person in ketosis stays fueled off of these circulating ketones or ketone bodies — essentially, burning fat for fuel. This is the principal goal of the ketogenic diet, which can be achieved by adhering to a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet with only moderate amounts of protein.
Optimal ketosis is reached when they body stays in ketosis for at least a few weeks, when any type of side effects diminish greatly while the benefits are more pronounced with the body becoming a fat burner.
Does the Keto Diet Work for Women?
The answer is yes! Dr. Anna Cabeca, a double board-certified Ob-Gyn and Regenerative and Anti-Aging Medicine expert, has been using the keto diet to help treat women, especially those in perimenopause or menopause, and she’s hardly ever seen the diet fail to produce benefits. Her clients and patients have experienced weight loss, improved blood sugar control, better quality sleep and reduced menopause symptoms like hot flashes or night sweats.
Dr. Cabeca came up with the concept of combining an alkaline diet with a keto diet after weighing the benefits of very low-carb eating on one hand, with some of the negative feedback she was receiving from clients on the other. Although many of her clients experienced weight loss quickly and reliably while reducing their intake of total carbs, many also reported dealing with side effects like nausea, fatigue and constipation due to the keto diet. It became clear that something else had to be adjusted in order to prevent the side effects associated with the keto diet. This is when she came up with the idea to focus on restoring alkalinity first and foremost.
Traditional ketogenic diets usually miss the important factor of restoring alkalinity. For many patients the key is to reach an alkaline pH first before beginning keto in order to prevent feeling agitated, anxious, uncomfortable or overly hungry.
Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
1. Weight loss
On a keto diet, weight loss can often be substantial and happen quickly (especially for those who start the diet very overweight or obese). The 2013 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those following a keto diet “achieved better long-term body weight and cardiovascular risk factor management when compared with individuals assigned to a conventional low-fat diet (i.e. a restricted-energy diet with less than 30 percent of energy from fat).” (2)
A 2014 review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health states:
One of the most studied strategies in the recent years for weight loss is the ketogenic diet. Many studies have shown that this kind of nutritional approach has a solid physiological and biochemical basis and is able to induce effective weight loss along with improvement in several cardiovascular risk parameters. (3)
High-fat, low-carb diets can help diminish hunger and also boost weight loss through their hormonal effects. As described above, when we eat very little foods that supply us with carbohydrates, we release less insulin. With lower insulin levels, the body doesn’t store extra energy in the form of fat for later use, and instead is able to reach into existing fat stores for energy.
Diets high in healthy fats and protein also tend to be very filling, which can help reduce overeating of empty calories, sweets and junk foods. (4) For most people eating a healthy low-carb diet, it’s easy to consume an appropriate amount of calories, but not too many, since things like sugary drinks, cookies, bread, cereals, ice cream or other desserts and snack bars are off-limits.
2. Reduce Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
This process of burning fat provides more benefits than simply helping us to shed extra weight — it also helps control the release of hormones like insulin, which plays a role in development of diabetes and other health problems. When we eat carbohydrates, insulin is released as a reaction to elevated blood glucose (an increase in sugar circulating in our blood) and insulin levels rise. Insulin is a “storage hormone” that signals cells to store as much available energy as possible, initially as glycogen (aka stored carbohydrates in our muscles) and then as body fat.
The ketogenic diet works by eliminating carbohydrates from the diet and keeping the body’s carbohydrate stores almost empty, therefore preventing too much insulin from being released following food consumption and creating normal blood sugar levels. This can help reverse “insulin resistance,” which is the underlying problem contributing to diabetes symptoms. In studies, low-carb diets have shown benefits for improving blood pressure, postprandial glycemia and insulin secretion. (5) Therefore, diabetics on insulin should contact their medical provider prior to starting a ketogenic diet, however, as insulin dosages may need to be adjusted.
3. Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
The keto diet can reduce the risk of heart disease markers, including high cholesterol and triglycerides. (6) In fact, the keto diet is unlikely to negatively impact your cholesterol levels despite being so high in fat. Moreover, it’s capable of lowering cardiovascular disease risk factors, especially in those who are obese. (7)
One study, for example, found that adhering to the ketogenic diet and keto diet food list for 24 weeks resulted in decreased levels of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose in a significant percentage of patients, while at the same time increasing the level of HDL cholesterol. (8)
4. Help Protect Against Cancer
Certain studies suggest that ketogenic diets may “starve” cancer cells. A highly processed, pro-inflammatory, low-nutrient diet can feed cancer cells causing them to proliferate. What’s the connection between a high-sugar diet and cancer? The regular cells found in our bodies are able to use fat for energy, but it’s believed that cancer cells cannot metabolically shift to use fat rather than glucose. (9)
There are several medical studies — such as two conducted by the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center for the University of Iowa, and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, for example — that show the ketogenic diet is an effective treatment for cancer and other serious health problems. (10)
Therefore, a diet that eliminates excess refined sugar and other processed carbohydrates may be effective in reducing or fighting cancer. It’s not a coincidence that some of the best cancer-fighting foods are on the keto diet food list.
5. Fight Brain Disease & Neurological Disorders
Over the past century, ketogenic diets have also been used to treat and even help reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairments, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s symptoms. Research shows that cutting off glucose levels with a very low-carb diet makes your body produce ketones for fuel. This change can help to reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairment. The brain is able to use this alternative source of energy instead of the cellular energy pathways that aren’t functioning normally in patients with brain disorders.
For example, clinical improvement was observed in Alzheimer’s patients fed a ketogenic diet, and this was marked by improved mitochondrial function. (10b) In fact, a European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study pointed to emerging data that suggested the therapeutic use of ketogenic diets for multiple neurological disorders beyond epilepsy and Alzheimer’s, including headaches, neurotrauma, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disorders, brain cancer, autism and multiple sclerosis. (11)
The report goes on to say that while these various diseases are clearly different from each other, the ketogenic diet appears to be so effective for neurological problems because of its “neuroprotective effect” — as the keto appears to correct abnormalities in cellular energy usage, which is a common characteristic in many neurological disorders.
Researchers believe that the ketogenic diet can also help patients with schizophrenia to normalize the pathophysiological processes that are causing symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, lack of restraint and unpredictable behavior. One study found that the ketogenic diet lead to elevated concentrations of kynurenic acid (KYNA) in the hippocampus and striatum, which promotes neuroactive activity. Some studies even point to the elimination of gluten under the ketogenic diet as a possible reason for improved symptoms, as researchers observed that patients with schizophrenia tended to eat more carbohydrates immediately before a psychotic episode. (2)
Although the exact role of the ketogenic diet in mental and brain disorders is unclear, there has been proof of its efficacy in patients with schizophrenia. And, to boot, the ketogenic diet works to reverse many conditions that develop as a side effect of conventional medications for brain disorders, like weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risks. More research is needed to understand the role of the ketogenic diet in treating or improving schizophrenia, as the current available studies are either animal studies or case studies, but the benefits of a high fat, low carbohydrate diet in neurology is promising.
6. Live Longer
Now, there’s even evidence that a low-carb, high-fat diet helps you live longer, compared to a low-fat diet. In a study by the medical journal The Lancet that studied more than 135,000 adults from 18 countries, high carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction or cardiovascular disease mortality.
In fact, saturated fat intake had an inverse association with the risk for suffering from a stroke, meaning the more saturated fat included in someone’s diet, the more protection against having a stroke they seemed to have. (12)
What Is the Ketogenic Diet Plan?
Historically, ketogenic diets have consisted of limiting carbohydrate intake to just 20–30 net grams per day. “Net carbs” is the amount of carbs remaining once dietary fiber is taken into account. Because fiber is indigestible once eaten, most people don’t count grams of fiber toward their daily carb allotment. In other words, total carb grams – grams of fiber = net carbs.
The exact ratio of recommended macronutrients (or “macros”) in your diet (grams of carbs vs. fat vs. protein) will differ depending on your specific goals and current state of health. Your age, gender, level of activity and current body composition can also play a role in determining your ideal macros, including your carb versus fat intake.
Standard Keto Diet Plan
On a “strict” (standard) keto diet, fats typically provides about 70 percent to 80 percent of total daily calories, protein about 15 percent to 20 percent, and carbohydrates just around 5 percent. However, a more “moderate” approach to the keto diet is also a good option for many people that can allow for an easier transition into very low-carb eating and more flexibility (more on this type of plan below).
Something that makes the keto diet different from other low-carb diets is that it does not “protein-load.” Protein is not as big a part of the diet as fat is. Reason being: In small amounts, the body can change protein to glucose, which means if you eat too much of it, especially while in the beginning stages of the keto diet, it will slow down your body’s transition into ketosis.
Protein intake should be between one and 1.5 grams per kilogram of your ideal body weight. To convert pounds to kilograms, divide your ideal weight by 2.2. For example, a woman who weighs 150 pounds (68 kilograms) should get about 68–102 grams of protein daily.
It’s important to also drink lots of water. Getting enough water helps keep you from feeling fatigued, is important for digestion and aids in hunger suppression. It’s also needed for detoxification. Aim to drink 10–12 eight-ounce glasses a day.
Modified Keto Diet
You might be thinking that the ketogenic diet seems very difficult to get started with or restrictive, but remember that a diet consisting of 75 percent fat and 20 percent protein diet may not be necessary for the majority of adults to reap the benefits of this diet.
Most adults find weight loss success with a more moderate approach to the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, simply by focusing on eliminating carbohydrates and increasing calories from healthy fats and protein. (In fact, many will experience weight loss by just reducing carbohydrates to 30 percent of their total calorie intake, while increasing fat and protein to 40 percent and 30 percent respectively. This is similar to the modified Atkins diet, when you reintroduce select carbohydrates while monitoring your weight.)
If you find it difficult to stick to a very low-carb diet every day, especially for months on end, you might want to consider a carb-cycling diet instead. Carb cycling increases carbohydrate intake (and sometimes calories in general) only at the right time and in the right amounts, usually about 2–3 times per week.
Alternating days of higher vs. lower carb intake, especially when timed around workouts if you’re active, is beneficial for cutting your body fat percentage down while still not sacrificing your muscle mass. How many carbs should you aim for if you go with approach? Higher-carb days might include 100 grams of net carbohydrates, while lower-carb days should stay closer to 20–30 grams of net carbs. Exact numbers will differ, with men who are bigger and more active requiring more of both calories and carbs than smaller, less active women.
Remember that carbs are not the enemy — they actually have many important roles in the body! Eating enough carbohydrates at the right time can help “reset your metabolic thermostat” and signal your body to create enough beneficial hormones (like leptin and thyroid hormones) that keep you at a healthy weight, feeling energized and mentally remaining satisfied with your diet overall. Eating a very low-carb diet nonstop can lead some to feel overly restricted, tired and demotivated — but for many adding in carbs at certain times makes it easier to follow a healthy way of eating long-term that won’t cause weight regain or strong carb cravings.
Finally, consuming at least moderate carbohydrates also enables you to eat enough plant foods and to get enough fiber. Carbs are the primary type of macronutrient found in most plant foods, although exactly how many carbs a plant food has depends on the specific type. Some of the healthiest foods in the world — such as leafy green veggies, cruciferous veggies, artichokes, asparagus, sea veggies, herbs and spices, for example — are actually pretty low in carbohydrates and, therefore, suitable on the ketogenic diet or even on “low-carb days” if you’re carb cycling. Whole foods that are higher in carbs — such as sweet potatoes and other root veggies, beans/legumes, and fruit — are often encouraged on “higher-carb days” when carb cycling, or if you’re very active. A bonus of eating these foods is that they contain plenty of dietary fiber and antioxidants, helping with things like digestion, heart health and more.
Intermittent Fasting and the Keto Diet
Whether you go strict keto or modified keto, I highly recommend you start keto by also trying intermittent fasting (IMF) to double-down on the fat-burning benefits of the keto diet. Simply put, intermittent fasting is going a period of time without food but usually less than a day, such as going without breakfast. (Intermittent fasting for women? I still recommend but keep close tabs on how you’re feeling. Significant hunger pangs, mood swings or fatigue could indicate hormone changes — so fast 2–3 nonconsecutive days per week instead.)
A common type of intermittent fasting is alternate-day fasting that entails eating only every other day. On fast days, some eat no food at all and others eat a very small amount, typically around 500 calories. Another type is called “16/8 Fasting,”where you fast for 16 hours a day and limit your eating to eight hours. Most often, this simply involves not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast the next morning.
Intermittent fasting mirrors the keto diet perfectly for both weight loss as well as overall health promotion, in significant ways. Like keto, IMF forces your body to use up fat stores as fuel. IMF also helps reduce blood sugar levels, improves good HDL cholesterol, decreases bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduces inflammation, improves cognitive function and decreases hunger — similar benefits that the keto diet provides.
Keto Diet Food List and Recipes
If you’re new to the keto diet and ready to start keto, your biggest questions probably revolve around figuring out just what high-fat, low-carb foods you can eat on such a low-carb diet. Overall, remember that the bulk of calories on the keto diet are from foods that are high in natural fats along with a moderate amount of foods with protein. Those that are severely restricted are all foods that provide lots of carbs, even kinds that are normally thought of as “healthy,” like whole grains, for example.
I’ve laid out my exact food recommendations below for following the ketogenic diet to reduce blood glucose, burn fat and reverse disease in your body. First and foremost, consider that the type of fats you consume are very important— as not all fats are created equally. To get enough healthy fats in your diet, I recommend eating mostly: coconut or coconut oil, avocado, chia seeds or flax seeds, non-starchy vegetables, sprouted nuts, organic grass-fed meat and raw dairy products.
In particular, I recommend consuming a large amount of MCFA’s (Medium Chain Fatty Acids) from sources like unrefined coconut oil and MCT oil since this is probably the easiest type of fat for your body to metabolize properly and burn as fuel. In addition to MCFA’s, consume a moderate amount of saturated fat from sources like grass-fed beef or raw dairy products. Finally, other sources of fat, like polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, should come from healthy, whole foods like nuts, seeds and wild-caught fish.
What Can You Eat On a Keto Diet?
When game planning your keto meal plans, here are some examples of high fat low carb foods on the keto diet food list you can expect to eat lots of if you’re following the ketogenic diet:
- High amounts of healthy fats (up to 80 percent of your total calories!), such as olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, palm oil, and some nuts and seeds. Fats are a critical part of every ketogenic recipe because fat is what provides energy and prevents hunger, weakness and fatigue.
- All sorts of unsweetened, non-starchy vegetables. What vegetables can you eat on a ketogenic diet without worrying about increasing your carb intake too much? Some of the most popular choices include broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, all types of leafy greens, asparagus, cucumber, and zucchini.
- In more moderate amounts, foods that are high in protein but low- or no-carb, including grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, cage-free eggs, bone broth, wild-caught fish, organ meats and some full-fat (ideally raw) dairy products.
On the other hand, the types of unsweetened foods you’ll avoid eating on the keto diet are likely the same ones you are, or previously were, accustomed to getting lots of your daily calories from before starting this way of eating. This includes things like fruit, processed foods or drinks high in sugar, those made with any grains or white/wheat flour, conventional dairy products, desserts, and many other high-carb foods (especially those that are sources of “empty calories”). When your brain craves that sweet taste, opt for a no-carb sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
Foods to Limit On a Keto Diet
There are some select foods that may be lower carb but can still push you over the 20–30 net carbs per day threshold, so these are the foods that you need to limit when going on a keto diet:
- Full-fat dairy (opt for unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk instead)
- Medium-starchy veggies like sweet peas, carrots, beets and any kind of potatoes
- Legumes and beans
- Nuts and seeds
Foods to Avoid On a Keto Diet
Again, consult my keto diet food list for a thorough list, but you should know that these foods must be avoided when compiling your meal plans:
- Any type of sugar, including natural sugars like raw honey or maple syrup (sorry!)
- Any and all grains, including oats, rice, quinoa, pasta and corn
- Nearly all processed foods, including crackers, candy, cookies, ice cream, snack bars and canned soup
- Sweetened and caloric beverages, including alcohol and milk
Eating keto doesn’t mean eating just any kind of fat or stuffing your face with cheese. Instead, it’s about mindfully choosing keto-friendly foods that are high in healthy fats and very low in carbs. Some protein is welcome but don’t mistake keto recipes with Paleo recipes that tend to be higher in protein. With keto, it’s all about the healthy fats that you will learn to work into each meal, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. See 25 of the best keto recipes here, where we’ve either whipped them up at Dr. Axe and found some delicious ones from around the web.
Whether you’re looking for a keto meal or snack or dessert, you’ll see that a tasty variety of recipes still exists:
- Avocado and Eggs Fat Bombs
- Cauliflower Crusted Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- Crustless Spinach Quiche
- Easy Crockpot Chicken Stew
- Chocolate Fat Bombs
While our bodies love healthy fats like avocados and coconut oil, a keto diet doesn’t mean just eating anything that’s high in fat — you still want good-for-you foods. My compilation keto diet snacks are just what you need when you find yourself hungry between meals. (For the full list, check out my keto snacks article.) You’ll find snacks like these:
- Avocado Deviled Eggs
- Buffalo Keto Chicken Tenders
- Fat Head Nachos
- Coconut Boosters
Keto Side Effects and the Keto Flu
Remember, the ketogenic diet will actually change your metabolism, put you into ketosis and turn you from a sugar burner to a fat burner. Those are significant changes for your body, and you’re bound to notice some symptoms such as the so-called keto flu.
For adults who are relatively healthy, it’s usually safe to follow a very low carb diet while not being monitored as closely, as long as they’re watching out for any unusual warning signs of a negative reaction (such as lots of fatigue or brain fog that lasts for more than about a week).
However, be aware that it’s not uncommon to experience some negative reactions and common side effects when transitioning into this way of eating.
What Is the Keto Flu & Other Common Side Effects?
Although not everyone, some people will experience the following “keto flu” symptoms, which usually subside within 1–2 weeks:
- Bad breath
- Fatigue/lack of energy
- Muscle weakness or pains
- Poor sleep
- Constipation, nausea or upset stomach
- Brain fog
- No libido
Overall, symptoms usually go away as your body adjusts to being in ketosis. To help you overcome these symptoms, here are several steps to try taking:
- Most importantly, to combat nausea, fatigue and constipation due to the low-carb keto diet, adopt alkaline diet principles.
- Add bone broth to your diet, which can help restore electrolytes that are lost during ketosis. When you follow a keto diet, even if you’re drinking a lot of water, you will lose a lot of water weight and also flush essential electrolytes out of our system, including magnesium, potassium or sodium. Adding bone broth is a great way to replenish these naturally, in addition to getting other nutrients and amino acids.
- Foods to eat more of that can also help increase electrolyte intake are nuts, avocados, mushrooms, salmon and other fish, spinach, artichokes, and leafy greens.
- Reduce your exercise load temporary.
- Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and also consuming enough salt/sodium.
- Consume even more fat if you’re hungry.
- Avoid eating synthetic ingredients in processed foods. Also try to limit “low-carb foods” that are still unhealthy and difficult to digest, even those that many ketogenic diet programs might recommend or include. These include cold cuts, processed meats (especially pork) or cured meats, bacon, and processed cheeses.
Keep in mind that if a strict ketogenic diet is being followed, experts recommend that children following the diet be closely monitored, in addition to those who have who are taking medications or existing conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.
If you’re very active, consider trying carb cycling or at least eating a modified keto diet that does not severely restrict carb intake. Reason being: post-workout you have what’s known as an “anabolic window.” (10) Carbs help restore your energy and provide muscles with glucose for rebuilding, or glycogen to be stored for future energy. Consuming at least some healthy carbs can keep you feeling energized and strong if you’re prone to fatigue and weakness when eating low carb.
Precautions Regarding the Keto Diet for Women
One problem with the keto diet, however, is that to date, research studies aimed at investigating its efficacy and safety have involved only men or animals (mainly mice). Therefore, some are skeptical that the keto diet can work equally well for women. Others question whether it’s necessarily a good idea for women to even try keto given the fact that women’s hormones tend to be more sensitive to most dietary and lifestyle changes.
So while the keto diet can result in weight loss, it can also cause nausea, fatigue and constipation. The top way to combat such side effects for women is to try an alkaline ketogenic diet. For some women (and men), the key is to reach an alkaline pH first before beginning keto in order to prevent feeling agitated, anxious, uncomfortable or overly hungry.
Indeed, a common finding is that focusing on eating an alkaline diet in addition to a low-carb keto diet will dramatically help curb side effects for many women (and men too!). The reason is because of high nutrient intake and enhanced detoxification alongside a reduced reliance on “uppers” like caffeine and sugar for energy. Check out my article on the keto diet for women, including my interview of Dr. Anna Cabeca, an Ob-Gyn and Regenerative and Anti-Aging Medicine expert, for more information.
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