Myths and controversies are common in a popular diet. Take the ketogenic diet as an example. The term “ketogenic diet” gets over 1.5 million monthly searches which tell us that there should be something to it that’s worth paying attention to.
This blog post breaks down the ketogenic diet. What is keto and how does it work? What are its known health benefits? If you plan to follow the diet, you’ll find the information below helpful. Keep reading.
Defining the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic “keto” diet is an approach where you eat more fat, adequate protein, and very few carbohydrates. By drastically reducing your carbohydrates, your body enters a metabolic state called ketosis. The unavailability of carbs forces your body to produce an alternative fuel by burning fat. This fuel is called ketones.
Often, people make comparisons between keto and Atkins. While both diets limit carbohydrate intake, they’re different in many ways. One is that the keto diet makes your body run efficiently on its fat stores while the Atkins diet doesn’t. When it comes to the availability of research and known health advantages, keto scores higher.
Next, we dive into these health benefits.
Keto Diet Benefits
1. Banishes sugar cravings
We know that sugar is evil, but we have a hard time resisting it. Do you have a love-hate relationship with sugar? If so, keto helps to deal with sugar cravings by stabilizing your blood sugar.
Here’s the explanation: Whether you have diabetes or not, eating a sugar-laden meal spikes your blood glucose to abnormally high levels. After a few hours, it crashes to below-normal levels. When it does, you’ll crave for sugar again.
2. Increases satiety and reduces food intake
The keto diet emphasizes your need to need more healthy fat. Contrary to common knowledge, fat isn’t fattening. If you want to feel less hungry throughout the day, you need to starve your body of carbohydrates. That way, your cells become used to tapping into stored fat anytime it wants energy.
The keto diet also increases serum leptin concentrations. A study showed that a high-fat diet enhanced the plasma level of leptin in rats. Leptin is a hormone that tells your brain that you have enough energy and should, therefore, stop eating. It’s your satiety hormone.
3. Decreases blood glucose to a healthy level
Low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets are used by many type 2 diabetes patients to achieve blood glucose control. Eating high-carb, processed foods lead to abnormal increases in blood glucose. Keto keeps it simple: Lower your sugar intake to lower your blood glucose.
How would you know that you have high blood sugar? After eating something that’s carb-filled, you will feel fatigued, drowsy, and dizzy. If you get a reading with a glucose meter, it’ll show you a result of above 100 mg/dL.
4. You lose lower belly fat
Belly fat. It’s the excess fat that surrounds the organs in your abdominal area. Belly fat poses a risk to your health. Too much of it increases your risk of getting cardiovascular disease. Not just that, belly fat affects your hormones -- insulin, leptin, and cortisol.
The keto diet helps you cut down on sugars and complex carbohydrates which all contribute to belly fat. Yes, these carbs include starchy vegetables and even whole grains.
5. Contributes to brain health
There is ongoing research on the ketogenic diet and brain health. If you didn’t know, keto was introduced in the 1920s to control epileptic seizures in patients who haven’t responded to medications.
This is how keto works on the brain: It allows it to derive energy from ketones. Recall that ketones are an alternative fuel source when glucose is deficient. The positive part is that ketones are more efficient in producing energy per oxygen used. The number of mitochondria in your brain cells increases.
6. Triglyceride levels drop
There’s a misconception that worries most people. It’s that a high-fat diet is bad for one’s cholesterol. The truth is that not all fats are created equal.
On keto, you should eat more high-quality saturated and monounsaturated fats. Examples of these healthy fats include fattier meat cuts, avocados, eggs, and seafood. Healthy fats decrease triglycerides -- a type of lipid that contributes to heart disease.
7. HDL levels increase
A study was conducted on 83 obese patients. These patients were given the keto diet for 24 weeks. Results showed that their HDL (good cholesterol) levels increased while LDL (bad cholesterol) levels decreased.
HDL or high-density lipoprotein acts like a scavenger in that it removes excess cholesterol from the cells and returns it to the liver. A good HDL reading should be 60 mg/dL and above.
8. Helps with inflammatory acne
Many women find themselves overwhelmed with inflammatory acne. Certain factors cause acne breakouts such as PCOS, pregnancy, and stress. If you want to decrease acne, you can start by making dietary changes.
Cutting back on sugar and filling up on healthy fats lower inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish reduce the inflammatory response.
9. Helps with your mood
A healthy gut contributes to a healthy mind. Nutritional psychiatry tells us that the kind of fuel you get from the foods you eat helps regulate your mental outlook.
Ketosis may have the ability to stabilize people’s moods. This is especially true if you prioritize nutrient-dense, whole foods like eggs, broccoli, spinach, wild salmon, and avocados.
10. Increases physical performance
Being fat-adapted allows you to go longer on exercise than when you’re carb-adapted. Imagine having to exercise for an hour on an empty stomach. Once your body uses up its glycogen stores, it runs out of energy.
Many athletes, especially endurance athletes, desire keto since they know that they won’t run out of fuel. However, when you’re just starting out on keto, expect that your energy levels are lower because your body is still making the transition.
11. May benefit cancer patients
If you haven’t heard of “Warburg Effect,” it’s a phenomenon in which cancer cells produce energy by increasing the rate of glycolysis. Glycolysis means “to break down sugar.”
A study shows that a low-carbohydrate diet inhibits glycolysis by starving cancer cells of energy from glucose. Meanwhile, normal cells get energy from ketones. Furthermore, it tells us that the keto diet’s safety and effectiveness depend on the tumor entity and its genotype.
You will get amazed by the ways the keto diet improves your health. While it’s not the ultimate cure for everything, it helps with blood glucose control, weight loss, cardiovascular health, appearance, and cancer management. Effects vary among individuals. If you think of starting keto today and you have an existing health condition, be sure to inform your doctor.