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You’ve probably heard “Keto” thrown around in casual conversation, seen keto food ads in your social media feed, or know a friend who lost oodles of weight and swears by keto. But what exactly is keto?
Most of us function on the glucose generated from a carbohydrate-rich diet. “Keto” in popular culture is an umbrella term for an extremely low-carb diet that shifts the body into a state of running on its own stored fat. When daily carbohydrate intake is 50 grams or lower, the liver produces “ketone bodies,” an alternative source of fuel. In a nutshell, the keto diet comprises high fat, moderate protein, and a paltry amount of carb.
Thinking of going keto?
Going keto requires deep commitment to this significant lifestyle change, and throwing a lot of what you have learned about “a balanced diet” out of the window. Intrigued? Understand the cardinal rules of transitioning to a ketogenic diet:
- In keto, you “eat fat to burn fat.”
Take a moment to wrap your head around that. Now, the bulk of your calories will come from fat, so it is imperative to choose healthy sources of fat such as coconut oil, full-fat cream, ghee, avocado, fish oil, fatty cuts of meat or fatty fish like salmon. Totally avoid hydrogenated oils and focus on cold-pressed oils. You can consume fatty nut butters like peanut or macadamia nut. If you must eat dairy, go for full-fat, or full-cream products like cheese.
- 50 grams of carbohydrates.
Most of our body parts can function on ketone bodies. However, it is thought that the brain needs a bit of glucose, hence the recommended 50 grams of good carbohydrates.
- Avoid sugar and empty carbs.
You can have your tea or coffee but without sugar. You may opt for natural sweeteners like Stevia. Drink a lot of water! No starchy foods like white rice or easy carbs like bread or pasta.
- Consume fresh, lean meats.
Opt for “dark cuts” of meat, for example, thigh meat in chicken or duck. Eat “meaty fish,” wild-caught, whenever available. Lamb or grass-fed beef or pork is another great option. You can even have “organ meats” such as liver or brain.
- Whenever possible, go with low-carb fruit and “above ground” vegetables.
Like berries over banana. Cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, collard greens, green beans, kale, squash, and cucumbers all work in keto.
In addition to these dietary modifications, your body will immensely benefit from doing physical activities in the “aerobic heart rate zone” which is 180 minus your age, for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. Walking, light running, swimming, and trekking are all great activities that prompt your body to speed up stored fat utilization, thus paving the way for it to adapt to the keto shift you are attempting through diet.
Basically, the keto diet is targeted at convincing your body that glucose is now scarce, and to survive by burning the next available fuel — your own fat!