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What is the Keto diet?

What is the Keto diet?

Although this is not another express miracle diet, it is not the definitive panacea for losing weight either. It is true that numerous studies confirm that a ketogenic diet can help you lose weight, but it is not recommended for everyone or to maintain it in the long term. Before jumping into a keto diet like crazy, it's a good idea to know exactly what it is to practice it well and what its consequences are.

What is a keto or ketogenic diet: understanding ketosis

The popular term "keto diet" today is the adaptation of ketogenic diet, that is, ketogenic diet. The name refers to the fact that it is a diet model whose objective is the creation of ketone bodies. These ketone bodies are metabolic compounds generated in the body in response to a lack of energy reserves.

We already know that food provides us with the nutrients and energy necessary for our body to function properly; the "gasoline" of our body's machinery. Carbohydrates are the first source of that energy: the muscles first resort to the concentration of glucose in the blood.

When the necessary glucose is lacking, that is, if we have low blood glucose levels, the muscles will seek energy in glycogen reserves, which are carbohydrates accumulated in the body. What if those reserves run out? That's when ketosis occurs.

Broadly speaking, when you enter a state of ketosis, fatty acids are transformed in the liver in a metabolic process that seeks to obtain energy quickly. This is when ketone bodies are released, molecules that the body will now use as an energy source, as if it were glucose.

In short, ketosis is a state in which the body has run out of energy reserves and has to turn to fats to use as immediate fuel, especially for muscle function.

Why the ketogenic diet can help you lose weight

Scientific evidence confirms that a keto diet can help in weight loss diets based mainly on three premises:

  • The body has to resort to fat to produce energy. But the ketosis process is not as efficient as when it uses glucose; we need more fatty acids to obtain less energy. Greater energy expenditure also contributes to greater weight loss.
  • By limiting or eliminating carbohydrates, they do not accumulate, therefore preventing them from concentrating in the form of fat. One of the main causes of obesity or overweight is precisely the excess of carbohydrates or sugars in the diet, consuming many more than the body needs and which end up accumulating in the form of fat.
  • Increases satiety and decreases appetite. According to various studies, a diet based on the parameters of the ketogenic diet - fats and proteins - helps control hunger as it helps us feel more satiated for longer.

Who can follow a keto diet and in which cases it is not recommended

Ketosis is a state in which we are forcing the body to act in an exceptional emergency situation. If a healthy diet consists of consuming a good variety of foods in a balanced way, prioritizing vegetables, fruits and legumes, it seems obvious that the keto diet has its risks and is not valid for everyone.

The entire body needs energy, including the heart and brain, which also need it constantly and uninterrupted. When the brain cannot obtain its normal fuel, glucose, it is also forced to turn to ketone bodies exceptionally, which cannot fail.

Furthermore, in extreme situations of ketosis, ketoacidosis can occur: ketone bodies - acids - lower the pH level of the blood, causing it to be more acidic. And this negatively affects the organs, with consequences of varying severity: bad breath, headaches, kidney problems, nausea, dizziness, cramps and muscle weakness, even cerebral edema.

The keto diet is not recommended for people with metabolic diseases, thyroid, kidney, liver or pancreas problems, diabetics or patients with EDs. Likewise, it is not recommended to follow this diet in the long term, since it is very unbalanced. Since it is not possible to achieve adherence, it would not be an appropriate diet to maintain weight, and it may cause a rebound effect.

A strict ketogenic diet should only be used for specific purposes under certain circumstances and, if possible, always supervised by a professional. Depending on those objectives - lose weight, lose fat or define muscle - it could be adapted to the specific circumstances of each individual.

What foods can and cannot be consumed on a ketogenic diet

To reach the state of ketosis on a keto diet, simple and complex carbohydrates are reduced as much as possible. Depending on each person, their physical condition and exercise level, the maximum limit of daily carbohydrates is usually established between 20-50 g. The approximate proportion of daily calorie intake would be as follows:

  • 60-75% fat.
  • 25-30% protein.
  • 5-10% carbohydrates.

Therefore, we are not in the same parameters as the paleo diet, in which a greater consumption of carbohydrates such as certain fruits and vegetables is allowed. A ketogenic diet consists, above all, of obtaining calories from fatty foods and some proteins. Among the most consumed foods are:

  • All types of meat, including red meat.
  • Fish and shellfish, especially blue.
  • Eggs, including the yolk.
  • Whole dairy products, preferring the fattest ones (cream, cream, cured cheeses) and limiting milk.
  • Cocoa and pure sugar-free chocolate.
  • Avocado.
  • Nuts rich in fats.
  • Coconut and its derivatives (milk, oil, flour).
  • Vegetable oils (olive, rapeseed, sunflower, seed...).
  • Whole or ground seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, poppy, sesame...).
  • Vegetable creams and pâtés made from nuts (peanut butter, almond butter, tahini...).

To achieve and maintain ketosis, you must restrict the consumption of any type of cereal, whether it has gluten or not, in all its forms (grain, bread, flour, pasta), legumes, fruits, vegetables and greens, especially those that have a higher carbohydrate content (which tend to be the sweetest). Of course, the consumption of added sugars is practically completely eliminated.

Low-carb keto recipes for a keto diet

To avoid falling into monotony when trying to enter ketosis, it is best to vary the protein source and its presentation, taking advantage, above all, of the versatility of eggs. Many common recipes in our diet are suitable for a keto diet, with small variations.

For example, when making a tuna omelette or a scrambled egg with ham, we can eliminate the typical onion from the stir-fry, or fill a roast chicken with nuts and cheese instead of potatoes and vegetables. Dried or dried fruits, such as dates, dried apricots and raisins, must also be eliminated, as they also contain much more sugar than the fresh version, and are not comparable to dried fruits.

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