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The Keto Diet, Simplified (Plus, How It Works)

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Keto diet simplified - Dr. Axe

The keto diet is one of the most popular eating plans to emerge within the past few years. However, many people are unsure exactly what it is, what it entails and how to get started. Trying to get the keto diet explained can also be pretty challenging, especially when technical terms are thrown into the mix along with complicated calculations, ratios and percentages.

Fortunately, deciphering the diet is actually pretty simple and it can be easy to follow once you get going. Here’s what you need to know about the keto diet explained in simple terms without the jargon, plus how you can get started.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to the “Keto” Diet


What Is the Keto Diet?

So what is the ketogenic diet and how can it impact your health? The ketogenic diet is an eating pattern that has been around since the 1920s and was originally developed as an innovative new treatment for pediatric epilepsy. It involves severely cutting carb consumption while ramping up fat intake to switch the body into ketosis, a metabolic state in which the body burns fat for fuel instead of carbs.

In recent years, research has continued to unearth even more benefits of the ketogenic diet, many of which extend far beyond epilepsy. In fact, studies show that the ketogenic diet could help boost weight loss, bump up fat-burning, enhance heart health, stabilize blood sugar levels and more. Plus, it’s easy to follow and high in healthy fats, which help support satiety, decrease appetite and keep you from feeling hungry or deprived.

So how exactly does the ketogenic diet work? Let’s dive right in and take a closer look at the keto diet explained.


How the Keto Diet Works

The carbohydrates found in foods like fruits, starches and sugary snacks are broken down into glucose, which is the main source of energy in the body. It also increases the production of insulin, a hormone that is used to shuttle glucose from the bloodstream to the cells where it can be used as fuel.

On the ketogenic diet, carb intake is extremely limited, often to around 30–50 grams of net carbs per day. This forces the body to search for other sources of energy to help power the cells, which is where healthy fats like avocado, olive oil and grass-fed butter come into the picture. These fats can be broken down for fuel, resulting in the production of ketone bodies in the blood and causing your body to enter a state of ketosis.

Like sugar, ketones serve as a form of energy to help maintain the function of the tissues and cells to support overall health. However, ketones are often considered a more efficient energy source than sugar, providing a higher amount of energy for each unit of oxygen utilized. Not only that, but maintaining optimal levels of ketones in the blood can also be beneficial for brain health, gut function, hormone balance and energy levels. Switching into a state of ketosis can also turn your body from a sugar-burner into a fat-burning machine to crank up weight loss and maximize your results at the gym.

Getting started on the keto diet requires just a few simple swaps. Start by cutting down on carbs and limiting your intake to just 30–50 grams of net carbs per day, which is calculated by subtracting the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates in a food. Stick to high-fiber, low-carb options such as non-starchy vegetables, keto fruit and certain nuts and seeds to minimize carb count and kickstart ketosis.

Next, start increasing your intake of heart-healthy fats such as avocado, coconut oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, fatty fish and olive oil. These foods help support satiety and provide your body with an alternative source of fuel. Ideally, about 75 percent of your daily calories should come from fat over the course of the day.

Finally, be sure to include a moderate amount of protein in your diet, which is essential for immune function, tissue repair and muscle growth. However, note that high amounts of protein can be converted into glucose, which can stall ketosis and prevent you from making progress.

Therefore, it’s best to limit your protein intake to about 15–20 percent of your total daily calories. High-quality protein foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and eggs are all great options to ensure you’re getting plenty of nutrients in your diet while also supplying your body with the protein it needs.

Keep in mind that the more you restrict your carb intake, the quicker you’ll enter ketosis, and temporarily decreasing down to just 15 grams of carbs per day is often recommended to help speed up this process and minimize keto flu symptoms. Within just a matter of days, symptoms like hunger, fatigue and low energy typically subside as the body transitions to ketosis and begins burning fat instead of sugar.

Read Next: Keto Diet Food List, Including Best Keto Foods vs. Worst


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