If you haven’t heard about the keto diet yet, then maybe you just need to spend more time eavesdropping in the line at Woolworths. Although it’s not a new concept (keto is essentially a low-carb diet), Google searches for the keto diet (full name, the ketogenic diet) have blown up in the past few months, with celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian and Halle Berry swearing by it.
The Keto Diet: Everything You Need to Know
What is the keto diet?
There are lots of low-carb diets around already (think paleo and Atkins) which we all know work, so the keto diet probably isn’t just some weird fad that will waste your time. Your body can run on two things for ‘fuel’: sugar and fats. Many people get their energy from sugar found in foods such as bread, pasta and cereals. When you’re on the keto diet, you drastically decrease your carb intake while increasing your fats, which makes your body start using fats as a form of energy instead. Protein intake is also restricted, which is what makes it slightly different from the paleo or banting diet.
After just a few days of switching to this way of eating, your body enters a state of ketosis (hence the name ‘keto’ diet), which is when it realises it doesn’t have any carbs to use for energy. Instead, it produces ketones, which indicates that your body has begun to burn fat for energy. Fasting can also put your body into a state of ketosis, however, this is obviously not a long-term diet plan. The keto diet puts your body into this state without starving yourself, and The Diet Doctor describes keto dieting as turning your body into a ‘fat-burning machine’, even while you’re sleeping.
People love this diet because one of the main side effects is that you never feel hungry. Besides significant weight loss, keto fans also report feeling more clearheaded and full of energy.
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Who is it for?
It is not recommended for women who are breast-feeding or people taking medication for high blood pressure or diabetes. Other than that, this diet, when done properly, is considered ‘safe’.
The benefits of going keto
Weight loss is the main benefit, with some people reporting to lose about half a kilogram a week or more. It’s likely you will feel less hungry, meaning you could actually save money while going keto, as it’s not uncommon to only want to eat two meals a day. Other reported benefits include feeling way more energised, and a reduction in stomach issues (such as cramping or gas), acne and heartburn.
There are multiple studies that show a keto diet could be good for your brain, too. It it said to help with memory loss, help people with serious health issues such as Parkinson’s or epilepsy, reduce migraines and improve brain function in general.
What you can eat on a keto diet
- Natural fats (such as butter, oil or cream)
- Vegetables that grow above ground (such as broccoli, cauliflower and eggplant)
- Meat and seafood
- Eggs, lots of eggs
- Cheese (mmm, cheese)
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Foods to stay away from
It’s pretty easy to remember what foods you can’t eat on the keto diet because it’s all the most delicious and binge-worthy foods you love. No bread, pasta, sweets, chips, sugar or fruit are allowed, but keto lovers assure you that the cravings go away and soon you’ll even find a banana to be too sweet. We’ll believe it when we see it, TBH.
5 foods that are surprisingly keto-friendly:
- Dark chocolate: As long as it’s 70% or higher, you can have a square every now and then. It may take a while but eventually, you will enjoy this bitter stuff as much as a Kit-Kat Chunky. Allegedly.
- Champagne: That’s a food, right? The drier the champagne, the more keto-friendly it is. Just be warned that while on the keto diet, your body will have a stronger reaction to alcohol.
- Pizza: Kinda. As long as it’s got a cauliflower base, then you’re good to go. And thanks to Tim Noakes, those are not too hard to come by in South Africa.
- Bacon: Because it’s low-carb, you can eat bacon for breakfast every day and still see weight-loss benefits. Whaaat?
- Heavy cream: Just because you’re going keto doesn’t mean you don’t deserve delicious meals, and creamy sauces are always delish.
Are there any negative side effects?
After starting the keto diet you might feel tired and irritable, have a headache and a brain that feels foggy. This is called the ‘keto flu’ and it’s pretty common. Most will experience this in the first week, particularly days three to five. This is only temporary and can be fought by increasing your salt and water intake. When the symptoms appear, drink a glass of water with half a teaspoon of salt stirred in, or a cup of bone broth or vegetable stock.
The signs that your body is in a state of ketosis can also be unpleasant – like breath that smells like rotten fruit (a cruel twist of irony for someone on a diet where you’re not even allowed to eat fruit), a metallic taste in your mouth, a constant dry mouth and needing to urinate more often.
The success stories make trying out the keto diet pretty tempting. It may be less tempting, however, if you’re not willing to give up everything that is good about life (for example, carbs). Check out some meal plans here to see if you have it in you to try it out.
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