The removal of many grains and fruits with such a large emphasis on fats can bring about its own set of side effects. “If not done properly — with most of your carbohydrates coming from fiber-rich vegetables — you may not be getting enough fiber, which can lead to constipation,” says Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, a sports dietitian based in Louisville, Kentucky, and co-owner of MohrResults.com. (5)
The hallmark of a ketogenic diet is being in ketosis for extended periods of time, and is achieved by carbohydrate restriction. While there isn’t a strict prohibition of artificial sweeteners, grains, and manufactured foods, there is a strong preference in the community to lean towards natural, whole foods. Keto is for overall health, and weight loss is a welcome side effect for many people.
This means that if you have risk factors for heart disease — such as elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure (hypertension), or a strong family history of the disease — you should use caution when following this diet. The diet's heavy reliance on fat, especially saturated fat, can elevate cholesterol levels, further increasing your chances of developing heart disease in the future. (7)
If you’d like to try intermittent fasting, it’s best to start by gradually decreasing your feeding window. Start with not eating for a 12 hour stretch, including the time that you’re sleeping. For example, you could stop eating at 8 in the evening, then have breakfast at 8 in the morning. Ultimately, you’ll want to be mostly done with digestion by the time you go to bed, and not be hungry until late morning, so for most people a feeding window of 10am to 6pm would be a good goal.
Fats are great if you want to add flavor and texture to your meals, and will help you feel full. Some people believe swear by coconut oil, and whether or not the claimed health benefits are actually present, it’s one of the fats that you might want to add to your diet. Butter is an excellent choice, as is ghee (Indian clarified butter). Duck fat is highly prized. Avocado oil is a great choice when making dressings or sauces, as it’s liquid at room temperature and has a mild flavor. The fats and oils listed here are primarily saturated, and they are the least likely to go rancid and produce free radicals and inflammation in the body (5, 6).
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Anecdotally speaking, people do lose weight on the keto diet. Heather Wharton, a 35-year-old business relationship manager from Tampa, Florida, lost 140 pounds since starting the keto diet in January 2016: “I plan on being on the keto diet for the rest of my life,” says Wharton. “My husband and I consider ourselves to be food addicts, and the keto diet is what we use as a form of abstinence from trigger foods that have sugar and other carbohydrates." A typical day of eating for Wharton includes coffee with a protein supplement, a cup of unsweetened cashew milk, cauliflower rice with ground turkey and liquid aminos (a carb-free substitute for soy sauce), spinach, six slices of turkey bacon, six eggs, and a little salsa.
In addition to helping with weight loss, the Keto Diet has been used to treat epilepsy, help with Type II diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome , acne , potential improvement in neurological diseases (Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis), certain types of cancer, and reduces the risk factors in both respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Emerging studies are digging into its effects on Alzheimer’s and other conditions as well.
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