We’ve all heard the buzz about keto, but just what is it?
To answer that question we first need to understand what keto is supposed to mean. Keto is short for ketosis, which is something that happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and makes things called ketones, which your body can also use for fuel. This is a neat little trick that your body has that allows it to access your body’s energy stores - i.e. body fat - when food is scarce.
So what is a keto diet, then?
A keto diet tries to trick your body into entering a ketogenic state, so that it produces ketones from fat to fuel your body, instead of using carbohydrates. It’s been used to treat epilepsy in children and has shown some positive results treating diabetic patients. It’s popular as a weight loss program because it helps you burn fat, makes you feel less hungry and helps maintain muscle mass.
A typical keto diet usually has at least 70 percent of calories coming from fat and less than 10 percent coming from carbohydrates; the balance comes from protein. This compares to the 90 percent used to treat epileptic children. It usually takes three or four days of eating less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day for ketosis to kick in, assuming you're a healthy adult. You could also try fasting as well.
It’s really tricky to stay under that threshold, which isn’t surprising when you consider that a thick slice of bread adds 21 g carbohydrates and a medium apple 25 g. So dieters have to be on high alert for hidden carbs, which can be concealed deep in ingredient lists.
Is this that bacon-only diet I heard about?
No, not really. Protein is part of it and most keto diets don’t usually discriminate between lean cuts of meat and a big slab of bacon.
Typical keto diets can include nuts, avocados or tofu, as well as coconut and palm oil, lard and butter (usually lots of these). Most fruits are out, except for some berries in small amounts, and vegetables are restricted to mostly leafy greens, like kale and spinach.
Adopting a keto diet can have side effects, especially in the beginning as your body adapts to a new diet, so be sure to consult a physician before diving in head first.