Beginner's guide to ketogenic diet

Published On: June 15, 2018 08:31 AM NPT

Simply put, Keto diet is a low or zero-carb diet, where ketones are produced in the liver as the source of main energy for the body to carry out its different functions. This process is called ketosis.

Dr Praniti Singh, clinical and bariatric nutritionist at Norvic International Hospital in Kathmandu, further explains that ketosis is the natural process which body initiates to help us survive when carbohydrate intake is low. Carbohydrates in food are responsible for generating glucose and insulin, which are also the primary energy sources for our body. But when one doesn’t take carbs, the body goes to a state where it starts using fats for energy. This will result in you burning all your extra kilos in short period of time as compared to other diet plans.  

Though the concept is all about cutting off carbs, there are still many things that one must consider before embarking on this particular diet plan. “Unlike other diets, Keto diet takes an entirely different approach to weight loss. It’s hard to follow and very risky for human health, especially for Nepalis, because almost all of our regular food contains loads of carbs and protein,” says Dr Singh.   

So in order to get the basics right, The Week with inputs from Dr Singh uncovers all the essential facts about the Keto diet. This is to help you decide if it’s right for you or not as well as get the maximum benefit out of it should you choose to go on this diet. 

What to eat?
To start a Keto diet, you will have to plan ahead. The more strictly you eat, the faster you will get into the Ketogenic state. Your nutrient intake should be around 80% fats, 15% protein, and the remaining carbohydrate. To achieve this, one must base majority of their meal around food like butter and cheese from dairy items, nuts like almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds, meats such as red meat, sausages, and chicken, fruits like whole avocados, and fresh veggies such as tomatoes, spinach, onions. You can also take in salt, pepper and other healthy herbs. But before you prepare your food routine, consult an expert instead of randomly picking up a food plan from the internet or other sources. Remember, what works for your friend might not work for you. 

What to avoid?
The list of food to avoid begins with all those foods that are carbohydrate rich. Just because the Keto diet allows you to eat fat does not mean you can binge any type of food with high-fat content. Unsaturated or monosaturated fats are known as good fats whereas trans-fats or saturated fats that are found in junk food are the bad fats. Other things included in the say no list are any sweet treats such as honey, syrup or sugar, all types of beans like peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpea, all fruits except for the small portions of berries, avocados and root vegetables like carrots. Likewise, strictly say no to alcoholic beverages for they can disturb the ketosis process in the body.

Benefits of a Ketogenic diet 
Despite the fact that Keto diet is largely followed for weight loss, it has many other benefits as well. If followed in a healthy manner, it helps control the cholesterol level, improves brain functioning and fights against the neurological disorders as well. It also helps to regulate insulin levels in the body that can go a long way in preventing diabetes. Since this particular diet eliminates excess refined sugar and other processed carbohydrates, it is considered to be effective in preventing and, in some cases, even curing cancer.

Getting started
In the initial stage of a Keto diet, people are more likely to have the urge to urinate frequently. This is because within the first day or two of embarking on a Ketogenic diet, your body will release a lot of water. This can bring about complications such as dehydration, headache, and dizziness as your kidneys will be eliminating minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium along with the fluid. Your blood pressure may also fall drastically. Other problems you could possibly face might be constipation, diarrhea, and muscle cramps. But, according to Dr Singh, there is no pressing need for concern, as your body will adjust to it after a while. However, you can take early precautions like eating more potassium-rich food including leafy greens and dairy products. Consume adequate amount of salt and drink water. But consult a doctor if the symptoms do not get better even after a few weeks. 

Things to watch out for
A few mistakes in your Keto diet plan and it can lead to various dangerous consequences. The first one is Ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening state in which the body’s blood is highly acidic due to an extreme level of ketones in your body. This is often seen in people with type I diabetes. The common symptoms include abdominal pain, weakness, frequent thirst, and blurred vision. Dr Singh also mentions that the Keto diet is a temporary diet method and can’t be used as a means for sustainable weight loss. According to her, the day you go back to your old routine, you will gain weight. Some people also have hair fall problems while on a Keto diet. So, before following the diet, it’s best to make sure it suits your body type and health conditions. 

Alternatives to the Keto diet
Dr Singh suggests three basic rules to sustain a healthy life and maintain your fitness levels. They are: Good diet, good sleep, and exercise. A good diet includes a balanced diet with all the important minerals and nutrients. Good sleep refers to sound sleep of at least seven hours after a stressful day. Lastly, an hour long exercise routine is necessary as diet alone cannot help in weight loss. So, if one can manage these three points and implement them on a daily basis, then you really don’t need to go on a Keto diet or follow any other diet plan for that matter. With this, you might not get the results you want in a short span of time but in the long term you will definitely lose weight. 

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