Q: I have friends who have lost a bunch of weight on the Keto Diet. What is it exactly and how does it work?
The ketogenic, or "keto" diet is a very low-carb and high-fat diet that has gained popularity because of its quick and often drastic weight-loss results. The diet was originally developed to treat severe epilepsy in children under medical supervision.
The ketogenic diet essentially makes the body reduce insulin secretion and the liver switches to primarily burning fat for fuel. The brain and other tissues are able to use ketones for energy.
People on the keto diet must follow a strict high fat, moderate protein, and very low carb meal plan in order to put their body into ketosis. Carbohydrates are commonly restricted to 20-30 grams a day, mostly from non-starchy vegetables. Protein is limited because some amino acids can be converted to glucose. Fat is typically 70-75% of total calories.
Regularly measuring ketones is an important way for monitoring and evaluating the balance of nutrients. Most people are following a modified ketogenic diet or more of a modified Atkins diet (higher protein).
There is some controversy around the diet. Ketogenic diets not only eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates, they also severely restrict whole grains, fruit, beans and other starchy vegetables that contribute vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber. So, what does this mean for you? If you're considering trying the keto diet out for yourself, one thing is for sure—always consult with a medical professional before starting any drastic change in your diet and nutrition habits. Each individual has unique needs, therefore what works well for one person may not be the best for the next.