The Keto Diet

Our guide introduces you to the ketogenic diet, a high-fat, low-carb plan that aids in weight loss and improves health. We explain how it works, its benefits, and the challenges you might face.

The ketogenic (keto) diet is a popular way to lose weight, but it can be tricky to get started. A high-fat, low-carb diet, it’s a big move away from the usual high-carb Australian diet. Plus, it’s more than just loading up on fats – it’s about choosing the right ones.

Thinking about giving keto a go? There’s a fair bit to wrap your head around. This article cuts through the noise, laying out the good, the not-so-good, and the need-to-know risks of the keto diet. Plus, we’ve thrown in some beginner tips to kick-start your journey.

What is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet with a moderate protein intake.

There is no universally-adopted ratio of carbs, fats, and proteins defining the keto diet. In general, however, the macronutrient ratio for a keto diet is as follows: 

  • Fat: 55% to 60% of total daily calories
  • Protein: 30% to 35% of total daily calories
  • Carbs: 5% to 10% of total daily calories


Of course, this can vary widely depending on your body’s needs. Some people find that they only achieve ketosis when 80% of their daily calorie intake is derived from fats and 5% from carbs.

In general, your daily carbs should not exceed 50 grams. As such, the keto diet can be considered quite a restrictive diet, and might be challenging to sustain in the long run.

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

The keto diet is all about getting your body to switch up how it gets energy. Normally, your body uses carbs for energy. But on a keto diet, you eat way fewer carbs, so your body can’t rely on them as much. To make up for this, your body starts burning fat instead.

Two key things are happening in your body when you’re on a keto diet: gluconeogenesis and ketogenesis (sounds complicated, but let’s simplify it).

  • Gluconeogenesis is when your body makes its own glucose (a type of sugar you get from carbs). This usually happens in the liver. But when you’re eating very few carbs, your body can’t make enough glucose to meet all its energy needs.
  • That’s where ketogenesis comes in. It’s a process where your body breaks down fats into ketones, which are like a backup energy source. When your body doesn’t have enough glucose, it uses these ketones for energy instead.

As you stick with the keto diet, your body builds up these ketone bodies, and this is what puts you in a state called ketosis. When in ketosis, your body becomes really good at burning fat for fuel, which can lead to benefits like weight loss.


The Science-Backed Benefits of a Keto Diet

Let’s explore what research says about the possible benefits of a keto diet.

Weight Loss

There’s a lot of evidence supporting the keto diet for weight loss, but the exact reasons why it works are still a bit of a mystery.

Some research suggests it’s because you eat more protein on a keto diet, which can help you feel full and control your appetite (source).

Another reason might be that being in ketosis naturally reduces hunger. Also, the keto diet could make your body better at burning fat (source).

However, there’s some debate about whether keto is better for weight loss compared to other diets. Some studies show that low-fat or plant-based diets might be more effective for losing body fat. Overall, it’s not clear if the benefits of keto outweigh its strictness and risks (source).

Better Blood Sugar Management

For people with Type 2 diabetes, the keto diet has been shown to lower blood sugar levels, aid in weight loss, and improve cholesterol. It might also reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease in people with diabetes (source).

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Some studies indicate that keto can improve cholesterol by increasing “good” HDL cholesterol and might also lower blood pressure (source). But, these studies are mostly short-term, so more research is needed for the long haul.

Epilepsy Control

For those with refractory epilepsy, which doesn’t respond well to medication, the keto diet has been found to be helpful. The reasons aren’t completely understood, but it might have to do with the increase in ketone bodies and decrease in glucose, which could affect seizures (source).

Potential Downsides and Risks of a Keto Diet

Like any other dietary trend, the keto diet may come tied to some side effects and downsides. The possible cons of this diet include the following:

  • Constipation: Since the keto diet is low in carbs, it often means you’re not getting enough fiber, leading to constipation, a common side effect.
  • Hard to Sustain Long-Term: The keto diet is quite restrictive, which can make it tough to stick to over time, especially if you’re prepping all your meals yourself. Also, most of the benefits seen in studies are short-term; there’s not much research on long-term effects.
  • Risk of Nutrient Deficiencies: Restrictive diets can lead to missing out on essential nutrients. The keto diet often lacks minerals and vitamins like calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and magnesium. Eating a variety of nutritious, low-carb foods can help meet these needs.
  • Increased Stress on Kidneys: There’s a risk that the keto diet could increase your chances of chronic kidney disease or kidney stones. If you already have kidney issues, keto could make them worse.
  • Keto Flu: As your body adjusts to ketosis, you might feel symptoms like headaches, tiredness, dizziness, nausea, brain fog, stomach discomfort, weakness, low energy, and changes in heartbeat. This is called the “keto flu.” It’s caused by the big drop in carbs and not everyone will experience it.

Not everyone who goes on a keto diet will experience these symptoms, and their severity can vary from one person to another.

The Different Variations of the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet comes in different styles, each with its own approach:

  • Standard Keto Diet: This is the most common form. Here, about 55-75% of your calories come from fat, with 15-35% from proteins and 5-10% from carbs.
  • Strict Keto Diet: This traditional version is very high in fats (80-90% of your daily calories) and extremely restrictive. It’s usually used for therapeutic purposes.
  • Cyclical Keto Diet (Keto Cycling): Ideal for athletes or those who struggle with the standard keto, this version involves 5-6 days of low-carb intake followed by 1-2 high-carb days. On high-carb days, you up your carb intake and reduce fat.
  • High-Protein Keto Diet (Modified Atkins): In this variation, protein intake is higher (30-35%), while carbs stay below 10%, and fats cover the rest. It’s designed for those looking to protect or build muscle mass.

What Foods Can You Eat on a Keto Diet?

There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule on what you can and can’t eat on a keto diet. However, it’s best to focus on low-carbohydrate foods that deliver a decent amount of proteins and healthy fats, such as:

  • Seafood, eggs, poultry, and meat
  • Greek yoghurt and lower-carb cheeses like cottage cheese
  • Non-starchy veggies, including leafy greens, bell peppers, and zucchini
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Berries, including strawberries and raspberries
  • Fats and oils, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and butter

Keto Diet Beginner’s Tips

Starting the keto diet can be a bit daunting, but here’s a beginner-friendly guide to help you ease into it:

  • Calculating Carbs: Aim for 15-30 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) daily. To ease into ketosis, start by reducing your daily carbs to under 100 grams, then gradually lower to 20-30 net carbs.
  • Protein and Fat Intake: Consume a moderate amount of protein, about 1.0-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. For fats, which are crucial in keto, target 70-80% of your daily calories. Choose high-quality fat sources like avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil.

Simple Tips for Beginners

  • Meal Planning: Start by selecting a protein source, add a low-carb veggie, and include healthy fats like avocados or olive oil.
  • Food Choices: Cut down on sugary foods, high-sugar fruits, grains, and starchy vegetables.
  • Sweeteners: If you crave sweets, opt for keto-friendly options like stevia or erythritol.
  • Tracking Progress: Check your ketone levels using tests for urine, breath, or blood. Also, keep an eye on your macros and calorie intake.
  • Handling Keto Flu: Stay hydrated and increase electrolyte-rich foods to counter keto flu symptoms in the first week.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Ensure good quality sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a restful environment.
  • Meal Services: If daily meal prep is overwhelming, consider keto-friendly meal services for convenient options.

Remember, before making significant diet changes, especially if you’re on medication, have a medical condition, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider.

Long-Term Effects of the Keto Diet

While the keto diet is often praised for its short-term weight loss benefits, its long-term effects are less clear. Over time, maintaining such a low carb intake can be challenging and may lead to nutrient deficiencies if not managed properly.

Additionally, there’s ongoing debate among health professionals about the potential impact on heart health due to the high fat intake, especially if it includes unhealthy fats. It’s also worth noting that for some, the diet can lead to a more sustainable lifestyle change, leading to prolonged weight management and improved metabolic health.

However, individual experiences can vary greatly, and it’s important to monitor your health and consult with healthcare professionals if considering the keto diet for the long haul.

Sustainability Tips for the Keto Diet

Maintaining the keto diet long-term requires a thoughtful approach. Here are some tips to help:

  • Start by incorporating a variety of nutrient-rich, low-carb foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
  • Planning your meals and prepping in bulk can simplify your daily routine.
  • Finding a community, whether online or in-person, can provide support and motivation.
  • Don’t forget to allow some flexibility in your diet; strict adherence can sometimes lead to burnout.
  • Lastly, regular check-ins with a healthcare professional can help ensure that the diet continues to meet your health and wellness goals, and adjustments can be made as necessary

The keto diet might not be the right fit for everyone. It’s quite restrictive and can be tough to stick with over time. However, it’s often effective for short-term weight loss.

The key to success on a keto diet is your food choices, as they determine whether your body stays in ketosis. If you find planning and preparing keto-friendly meals too time-consuming or challenging, meal service providers can be a lifesaver.

They deliver keto-friendly meals right to your door, making it easier for you to enjoy the benefits of a keto diet without the hassle of constant meal planning!

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