Published On By Dimitar Marinov [MD, PhD]

All About Keto Diet

The ketogenic diet has achieved popularity in recent years as a natural approach to target weight loss and improve health. It is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan that intends to shift the body into a state of fat-burning called ketosis.

In ketosis, the body utilizes and converts stored fat to produce energy instead of carbohydrates. The metabolic shift could offer numerous health benefits, such as accelerated weight loss, improved energy levels, and enhanced mental clarity.

This article will explore the keto diet, including its benefits, potential risks, types, and foods that could be eaten in the keto diet. It will help answer the important questions beginners need to know before starting the ketogenic diet.

What Is A Keto Diet?

The keto diet involves eating mostly fats, with very few carbohydrates and a moderate amount of protein. Specifically, your meals will be made up of about 70% fat, 10% carbohydrates, and 20% protein. The goal is to change how your body gets energy, making it rely more on fats.

It aims to significantly reduce carbohydrate intake and replace it with healthy fats to enter a state called ketosis. In ketosis, the body burns stored fat cells to produce energy instead of carbs, leading to potential weight loss.

Following the keto diet could improve blood sugar levels, boost energy, support healthy cognitive function, and promote heart health.

Sustaining the keto diet over the long term may be challenging. It requires careful observation of macronutrient intake and could be restrictive regarding food choices. You may also experience side effects like fatigue, constipation, or headaches on a keto diet.

Types Of Keto Diet

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): It is the most common type, characterized by minimal carb intake, low protein consumption, and high-fat content, typically around 70% of total calories.
  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: It involves cycling between low-carb days and higher-carb days, often practiced cyclically throughout the week. The approach might be beneficial for those engaging in intense physical activities.
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet: Allows for the intake of some carbohydrates, particularly around high-energy activities like workouts. Athletes and bodybuilders favor the targeted ketogenic diet for restoring energy levels.
  • High Protein Ketogenic Diet: It maintains a similar ratio of fats, proteins, and carbs as the standard diet but focuses on a higher protein intake. It may be suitable for those looking to retain muscle mass while on a ketogenic diet.

Benefits Of The Keto Diet

Benefit Description Evidence
Weight Loss Boosts metabolism, reduces appetite, and promotes fat burning, leading to potential weight loss. Studies show significant weight loss in people following a ketogenic diet.
Improved Brain Function Ketones provide neuroprotective benefits, enhancing cognitive function and increasing focus. Research suggests ketones may improve brain health and cognitive performance.
Better Heart Health Choosing healthy fats and reducing cholesterol levels may improve heart health outcomes. Studies show a decrease in cholesterol levels and improved heart health markers on a keto diet.
Enhanced Energy Levels Ketosis can increase energy levels and provide a steady source of fuel for the body and brain. Many people observe feeling more energetic and focused when following a ketogenic diet.
Reduced Risk of Diseases May reduce the risk of certain cancers, improve insulin sensitivity, and manage type 2 diabetes. Research indicates the potential benefits of the keto diet in subsiding the risk of chronic diseases.
  1. Promote Weight Loss

    Keto diet may shift the body’s primary energy source from carbohydrates to fats. It could stimulate the metabolism to burn stored fat for energy production, leading to weight loss.

    Ketogenic diets are rich in fats and proteins that could promote satiety and reduce hunger levels. Such effects make it easier for you to consume fewer calories and keep a calorie deficit for weight loss.

    The keto diet may help balance hunger-stimulating hormones, such as ghrelin. Such a mechanism could lead to decreased cravings and overall reduced caloric intake.

    Ketosis, the metabolic state triggered by the keto diet, may accelerate fat-burning processes in the body. It may particularly target stubborn fat stores like abdominal fat, contributing to weight loss.

  2. Improve Heart Health

    The keto diet may positively impact heart health by reducing cholesterol levels. It could ultimately decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

    A research study indicated significant improvements in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels in those following a ketogenic diet.

  3. Protect Brain Function

    Ketones produced on the keto diet may offer neuroprotective benefits. The ketones may help strengthen and protect the brain and nerve cells, potentially reducing the risk of developing neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

    They may improve mitochondrial function by increasing the number of mitochondria in brain cells. The boost in energy production helps maintain healthy brain cells and improves overall brain function.

    However, more research is needed to understand the effects of the keto diet on cognitive function and brain health.

  4. Improve PCOS Symptoms

    PCOS is a hormonal disorder in women that may cause excess male hormone production, ovulatory dysfunction, and cysts in the ovaries.

    One pilot study from 2005 observed positive outcomes of the keto diet in women with PCOS over 24 weeks. The study observed improvements in the following PCOS markers:

    • Weight loss
    • Hormone balance
    • Ratios of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
    • Levels of fasting insulin

    These findings hint that the keto diet may positively influence PCOS symptoms by tackling weight management, hormonal balance, and insulin levels. However, further research is required to establish such claims fully.

  5. Improve Acne

    Factors like diet and blood sugar levels may contribute to the development of acne. Consuming a diet rich in refined carbs and processed foods may disrupt gut bacteria balance and cause blood sugar fluctuations, exacerbating acne.

    A ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates and helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which may potentially result in reduced acne symptoms.

    Reduced carb intake on a keto diet may lower risk factors that may trigger skin inflammation, like insulin levels and sebum production.

    The consumption of healthy fats and nutrient-dense foods on the ketogenic diet may improve skin health and reduce the risks of acne flare-ups. However, you should consult a doctor or dermatologist before making significant dietary changes.

  6. It Might Reduce the Risk Of Cancer

    Research indicates that the ketogenic diet might help reduce the risk of certain cancer types by causing oxidative stress in cancer cells. The process may lead to the death of cancer cells while not affecting healthy cells.

    Following the ketogenic diet may be a safer complementary approach alongside chemotherapy and radiation therapy for certain cancers. However, the keto diet’s impact on cancer prevention and treatment warrants further research.

    Chronic inflammation is associated with cancer development. The keto diet has anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce cancer risk by decreasing inflammation in the body.

    The benefits of the keto diet for reducing cancer risk might vary based on the type of cancer and the person’s overall health status.

  7. Reduces Seizures

    Research suggests that a ketogenic diet could help reduce seizures, especially in people with epilepsy, including children with focal seizures. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness of the keto diet in managing seizures. The keto diet might help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures, especially in people with epilepsy.

Risks Associated With Keto Diet

  1. Diarrhea

    People following a ketogenic diet may experience diarrhea, especially beginners. One potential reason may be the sudden shift in dietary habits, particularly the significant reduction in carbohydrate intake.

    Dietary changes may change the composition of gut bacteria, leading to digestive issues like diarrhea. The high intake of fats on the keto diet may sometimes be hard for the digestive system to process, further contributing to diarrhea.

    You may prevent or manage diarrhea while on a ketogenic diet by:

    • Drinking enough water to prevent dehydration
    • Gradually introducing high-fat foods into the keto diet
    • Monitoring the intake of sugar alcohols, common in many keto-friendly products

    If diarrhea persists or becomes severe, you should consult a doctor to eliminate any underlying conditions and receive appropriate medical guidance.

  2. Stomach Pain

    The sudden shift from a carbohydrate-heavy diet to a ketogenic one might lead to digestive discomfort. It could manifest as stomach discomfort or pain as the body adapts to processing different macronutrients.

    Reduced consumption of high-fiber foods during a keto diet, like fruits, whole grains, and legumes, may result in constipation and stomach cramps. Increased fat intake on a keto diet may cause gastrointestinal distress and stomach pain in some people.

    The keto diet often causes an initial diuretic effect, leading to dehydration if fluid intake is not adequately increased. It could potentially result in stomach pain.

    If experiencing stomach pain on the keto diet, you should:

    • Gradually increase fiber intake from low-carb sources
    • Stay adequately hydrated
    • Monitor digestive responses to different foods
    • Add sources of healthy fats to meals
  3. Dizziness

    Reduced carbohydrate intake may decrease insulin levels, causing the kidneys to excrete more sodium. Such a mechanism might disrupt the balance of electrolytes in the body, potentially causing dizziness.

    As the body transitions to using ketones for energy instead of glucose, blood sugar levels may fluctuate. It may potentially cause episodes of low blood sugar and dizziness.

    Some people may experience a drop in blood pressure upon standing up, known as orthostatic hypotension. A ketogenic diet may exacerbate the condition, which could manifest as dizziness.

    If dizziness persists or becomes severe, you should consult a doctor for appropriate guidance and support.

  4. Weakness

    You might experience weakness when starting a keto diet, possibly due to your body’s adaptation to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat eating pattern. As the body transitions its energy source from carbohydrates to fats, you could encounter initial weakness.

    Factors like electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, inadequate calorie intake, and insufficient nutrient consumption may cause the sensation of weakness.

    The following strategies could help you combat weakness on the ketogenic diet:

    Strategy Description
    Increase Electrolyte Intake Consume foods rich in potassium, magnesium, and sodium, or consider electrolyte formulas.
    Ensure Sufficient Hydration Drink an adequate amount of water daily to prevent dehydration, which is especially vital in ketosis.
    Adjust Caloric Intake Monitor your calorie consumption to ensure you are meeting your body’s energy needs while in ketosis.
  5. Constipation

    Switching to a keto diet may shock your digestive system as it adjusts to processing higher amounts of fats and fewer carbs. Such shifts may temporarily lead to constipation.

    The keto diet limits many high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, and certain vegetables. It may lead to a lack of fiber, which is essential for regular bowel movements.

    Here are some strategies to help alleviate constipation on the keto diet:

    • Increase Fiber Intake: Consume low-carb, fiber-rich foods like non-starchy vegetables, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and avocados to promote bowel regularity.
    • Stay Hydrated: Adequate water intake helps maintain proper digestion and prevent constipation. Aim to drink enough water throughout the day.
    • Consider Magnesium Supplements: Magnesium may act as a natural laxative that could help ease constipation. Consult a doctor before adding magnesium supplements.
    • Monitor Electrolyte Levels: Imbalances in electrolytes, such as magnesium, sodium, and potassium, may contribute to constipation.
  6. Fatigue

    You may experience fatigue when following the keto diet. Factors like the body’s adjustment to utilizing fat for energy and electrolyte imbalances may contribute to fatigue.

    Ensure an adequate supply of electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium. These electrolytes could help maintain steady energy levels and prevent fatigue.

    Dehydration or inadequate calorie intake may also cause fatigue while on the keto diet. Gradually increasing fat intake and allowing the body time to adjust to using fats for fuel may help reduce fatigue over time.

  7. Nausea

    You might experience nausea during the initial stages of the keto diet as the body adapts to the ketosis transition.

    Changes in gut microbiota and the composition of foods consumed on the keto diet may also contribute to feelings of nausea. Monitoring food choices and their impact is essential when following a keto diet.

    Inadequate fluid intake may result in dehydration, causing nausea. It is important to increase your water intake, especially during the keto diet.

  8. Increased Risk of Deficiencies and Low Sustainability

    You may be at a higher risk of some deficiencies such as magnesium when on a strict keto diet. Moreover, the high levels of restrictions can make the diet hard to maintain in the long-term, creating problems with the sustainability of the results such as weight loss.

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Foods That You May Eat In Keto Diet

  1. Animal Proteins

    • Seafood: Fish and shellfish, like salmon and shrimp, are rich in protein and healthy fats. It makes them a suitable choice for a keto-friendly diet.
    • Eggs: With less than one gram of carbohydrate per egg and a significant protein content of up to 6 grams, eggs may be a nutritious option for a ketogenic diet.
    • Meat: High-quality meats like poultry, beef, and pork are zero-carb sources of protein that may offer essential minerals and vitamins vital for overall health.
    • Dairy: Some dairy sources, like cheese and Greek yogurt, may provide a good amount of protein with minimal carbs.

    Remember to prioritize quality and opt for lean cuts of meat and wild-caught seafood whenever possible for optimal health benefits.

  2. Dairy Products

    • Cheese: It offers a rich source of fats and minimal carbohydrates, making it a staple for those following the keto diet.
    • Yogurt: When consumed in moderation, yogurt may provide a balance of low carbs and high protein, fitting well within the dietary guidelines of the keto diet.
    • Butter and cream: They are abundant in fats and low in carbs. These dairy products are commonly used in keto recipes to enhance flavors and textures.

    However, you should choose full-fat versions of these dairy products to align with the high-fat content required in the ketogenic diet.

  3. Vegetables

    Vegetables help provide essential minerals and vitamins, fulfilling your fiber requirements while keeping carbohydrate levels in check.

    • Spinach: It is a powerhouse of nutrients, offering vitamins C, A, and K, as well as minerals like iron and magnesium, all while being low in carbohydrates.
    • Cabbage: Cabbage is a nutritious veggie that is low in carbs and high in fiber, making it a suitable choice for adding volume and crunch to meals.
    • Green Beans: With a moderate carbohydrate content, green beans are a good source of antioxidants. You could include green beans in moderation to add variety to your keto diet.
    • Avocados and Olives: Technically classified as fruits, avocados, and olives are rich in heart-healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats. They could help you meet your fat intake goals on a keto diet.

Foods To Avoid In Keto Diet

  • Avoid consuming sugar-laden items like soda, fruit juices, and candies on a keto diet. These sugar-heavy foods have a high carbohydrate content, which is not conducive to ketosis.
  • Grains like rice, wheat, and pasta should be restricted due to their carb content. Also, refrain from consuming fruits (except for small portions of berries).
  • Legumes like beans and lentils, root vegetables like potatoes, and low-fat products should be minimized.
  • You should also avoid condiments with added sugars, unhealthy fats like processed vegetable oils, and alcohol during a keto diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can the Keto Diet Be Followed With a History of Heart Disease?
    You should consult a doctor before starting the keto diet, especially if you have a previous history of heart disease. Factors like cholesterol levels and heart health need consideration. Medical guidance may ensure your safety and tailor dietary recommendations to support heart health.
  2. Is It Safe to Do Intense Workouts While on the Keto Diet?
    Engaging in intense workouts on the keto diet may be safe for some people. However, it is vital to monitor energy levels, hydration, and overall performance.
  3. How Does Alcohol Consumption Fit Into the Keto Diet?
    Alcohol consumption on the keto diet may hinder weight loss as it pauses ketosis. Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories and may spike blood sugar levels, derailing the metabolic state essential for fat burning.


The keto diet may offer a promising approach to weight loss and improved health. It has a unique macronutrient composition of high fats, moderate proteins, and low carbohydrates that help induce ketosis and accelerate fat-burning.

Beginners to the keto diet may face temporary side effects, which may arise due to the body’s transition into ketosis. These side effects may include headaches, nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, fever, or constipation.

The keto diet’s effectiveness and suitability may vary from person to person. Understanding its benefits and potential drawbacks could help you make an informed decision about your health and well-being.

  • This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • Consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before following health tips or instructions.

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