Eating healthy is a lifelong goal, but sometimes you need a physical reset. For millions, transitioning their eating habits to a ketogenic diet is a highly effective way to rev up their metabolism, lose weight, and improve their quality of life.
But what does this famed diet promise, and can it live up to that potential? Looking closer at the benefits of the ketogenic diet for total body health will help you answer that question.
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
Often called the ‘no-carb’ diet, following a ketogenic eating plan means that you only eat meals that are high in fat, moderate in protein, low in carbohydrates, and free of simple sugars. While you won’t have to count calories or limit portion sizes, the key to success is dramatically limiting the sugars and starches you eat.
The keto diet’s central premise is that your body normally uses carbs to produce glucose (sugar) for energy. While this glucose provides a quality quick energy supply, any excess that you don’t burn becomes stored as body fat. Reducing your body’s access to glucose, however, causes it to turn to different energy sources instead by breaking down your existing stores of protein and fat. This process is called ketosis, and over time it leads to weight loss.
In this way, ketosis lets your body mimic a natural fasting state that helps you drop weight quickly, even if you don’t make other lifestyle changes. While the diet has some similarities to the Atkins diet, going keto requires you to eat more fat than protein, while the Atkins diet values protein over fat.
18 Main Health Benefits Of Ketogenic Diet
Following a ketogenic diet has impressive potential for your health. Some of the benefits for your body include the following:
1. Speeds Up Weight Loss
Since the ketogenic diet lets your body switch over to burning fat for energy, it can quickly trigger weight loss. And, because the plan is high in protein, you won’t feel as hungry between meals or feel the need to fill up on excess calories.
Weight loss results aren’t the same for everyone, but a meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials showed that five of the experiments revealed significant benefits from following a ketogenic diet. Likewise, a study from the British Journal of Nutrition revealed that ketogenic dieters often experienced substantial weight loss that was faster and longer lasting than those on traditional diets.
2. Improves Health Of Women With PCOS
As an endocrine disorder, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can trigger the ovaries to enlarge or develop cysts. The research isn’t conclusive, but there is evidence that eating a high-carbohydrate diet can worsen PCOS symptoms or heighten the risk for women of developing the disease. Following a ketogenic diet, in contrast, seems to have a positive effect. Evidence from a 24-week pilot study of five women with PCOS showed that eating only ketogenic foods lead to better hormone balance overall – negating many of the side effects of the condition.
3. Protects Against Cancer
Following a ketogenic diet changes how your body’s cells fuel themselves, and this doesn’t exclude cancer cells. Research shows that low-carb, high-fat diets might ‘starve’ prostate cancer cells because they can’t make the switch from running on sugar to fats. The testing is only in the beginning stages, but experts expect that other cancer cells will respond the same way.
Further evidence shows that following a ketogenic diet might also help chemo patients recover faster, as the process causes more oxidative stress to cancer cells than regular ones. Another factor for cancer prevention is that a ketogenic diet reduces high blood sugar, which can lower the chances that you develop the kinds of insulin complications that are associated with some cancers.
4. Keeps Acne Under Control
While multiple conditions can lead to acne, your diet is a significant factor. Eating meals high in refined carbohydrates fuel the production of gut bacteria in ways that cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Over time, this strain can show up on your skin as acne. By limiting your carb intake with a ketogenic diet, you can reduce your risk of breakouts from the bloodstream up.
5. Lower Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
Fueling itself on fat has another benefit for your body, it causes your blood to become more sensitive to insulin. Eating food with lots of carbs can cause your system to release insulin, which triggers cells to store as much energy as they can in the form of body fat. Eliminating carbs, in contrast, better regulates your blood sugar levels and leaves you with a lower risk of developing insulin resistance. This is an underlying cause of diabetes, so restricting your diet will reduce your risk of developing it. In fact, evidence even shows that adopting a ketogenic diet can reverse insulin resistance and reduce the health effects of diabetes.
6. Less Risk Of Heart Disease
The World Health Organization states that high blood pressure and the resulting heart disease results in almost 13% of global deaths. One significant indicator of heart disease is your cholesterol levels, and a ketogenic diet can keep them where they should be for lower risk. While the menu is high in fat, research shows that eating keto foods can lower your levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while raising the HDL (good). Ketogenic diets can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in obese patients more effectively than a low-fat or moderate-fat diet. So what’s the takeaway? Limiting your carbohydrates and eating healthy fats that will keep your heart pumping as it should.
7. Fights Brain Disease
Keeping your brain functioning well is a top concern as you get older, and the ketogenic diet can treat and possibly even reverse age-related neurological impairments. The eating strategy was initially developed as a treatment for the seizure disorder epilepsy, and further research shows that it offers neuroprotective benefits against degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. One clinical study showed that Parkinson’s patients who ate a ketogenic diet experienced a 43% reduction in their disease rating scales. Even healthy children can experience benefits from going keto, as research shows that eating ketogenic foods can improve their cognitive functioning.
It’s still not clear why a low-carb diet improves brain function, but the answer is likely linked to the value of powering the brain with ketones and the ways that consuming fatty acids helps you develop them.
8. Less Inflammation
The evidence is clear that ketogenic foods promote anti-inflammatory properties, but few people realize how much of an impact this has on health. Chronic inflammation can trigger a host of irritating health problems, including eczema, arthritis, psoriasis, IBS, and even chronic pain. However, restricting your carbohydrate intake with a ketogenic diet seems to inhibit the production of inflammatory agents that trigger these conditions. That’s because one of the main ketones produced on a high-fat diet is BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate), a compound that suppresses numerous inflammatory diseases.
9. Improves Energy Levels & Sleep Quality
The first few days of a ketogenic might leave you sluggish as your body resets itself, but many people experience a general increase in their energy levels after day three. This is because the diet will stabilize your insulin levels and switch your system over to ketones for an energy source for the brain and body tissues.
Similarly, a ketogenic diet can improve your sleep quality by increasing the slow-wave sleep patterns that leave you feeling the most well-rested. Researchers aren’t sure why this happens, but they expect it’s attributed to the biochemical shifts that take place in the brain when it uses ketones instead of carbs for fuel.
10. Improves Female Health & Fertility
Eating more fats and fewer carbs seems to bode well for female fertility, at least according to a review published in 2013. These results showed that keeping blood sugar levels low through a ketogenic diet seems to stabilize hormone levels for women, which provides benefits in a myriad of ways in the body, including more regular and less painful periods, improving the chances that women can get pregnant.
11. Reduces Severity Of Migraines
Considering the impacts that a high-fat diet can have on the brain, it’s hardly surprising that following a ketogenic diet can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Decades of research reveals that it can reduce the need for migraine sufferers to take outside medication, likely because of how ketone bodies inhibit inflammation in the brain. Their secret? They prevent you from developing high concentrations of the neurotransmitter glutamate and reduce overall oxidative stress.
12. Improves Eye Health
High blood pressure can have unexpectedly negative impacts on your eyesight, and living with diabetes increases your risk of developing cataracts and blurred vision. A ketogenic diet helps negate this risk by maintaining low blood sugar levels, consequently improving your eye health and preventing chronic issues from progressing further.
13. Reduces Non-Fatty Alcoholic Liver Disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can cause a host of health problems like obesity and heart disease. A primary trigger for the condition is type 2 diabetes, and a ketogenic diet will dramatically reduce your risk of developing it. In fact, eating high-fat foods shows evidence of improving the health of your liver overall. A meta-analysis of low carb, high-fat diets found that they can reduce the fat levels around the liver, lowering your risk of developing the condition and reducing the symptoms you already have.
14. Improve Muscle Mass & Endurance
Following a ketogenic diet can improve your ability to gain muscle. Bodybuilders have sworn by the routine for decades, and going keto seems to have exceptionally beneficial for ultra-endurance athletes. Regularly eating a high-fat diet can improve physical performance by boosting your mitochondria levels, which enhances your cells ability to utilize fat. This also leads to lower oxidative stress and lactic acid levels.
Likewise, ketone levels in your blood can lead to significant improvements in physical performance by boosting your overall endurance levels.
15. Greater Loss Of Belly Fat
When it comes to your health, not all body fat is the same. Subcutaneous fat is found under the skin, while visceral fat is located in the abdominal cavity and tends to lodge itself around your organs. Excess amounts of visceral fat can cause health problems, including inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolic dysfunction.
Here’s the good news. Low-carb diets help you lose a higher proportion of visceral fat than subcutaneous, which significantly reduces your risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
16. Fewer Autism Symptoms
Strange as it sounds, a ketogenic diet can improve life with autism symptoms. One study with 30 autistic children showed that following a ketogenic diet for six months showed mild to moderate improvements in their ability to engage with others. Best of all, the benefits lasted even when they returned to their regular diets.
17. Anti-aging Properties
Dealing with oxidative stress is one of the fastest ways to reduce your lifespan, but a ketogenic diet helps you keep your levels under control. This is because it decreases insulin levels that lead to this stress in the first place.
18. Fewer Instances Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Intestinal discomfort is a major concern for millions today, but upping the fat content in your diet can lead to long-term improvements for your gastrointestinal health. This is due in part to lower sugar consumption, which reduces abdominal pain and improves the consistency and regularity of your stools to combat the symptoms of IBS.
How To Follow A Ketogenic Diet Plan
So you’re convinced by the benefits of a ketogenic diet. How can you start following one yourself? Going keto isn’t quite as simple as cutting out all refined carbs from your diet. Instead, success comes from consuming the correct ratio of fat, protein, and complex carbohydrates to keep you in ketosis for as long as possible.
There are three primary methods of a ketogenic diet to consider.
Standard Keto Diet Plan:
To follow a traditional ketogenic diet you need to split your food consumption into 75 percent fats, 20 percent protein, and five percent carbohydrates. It’s crucial that you don’t overeat protein, as your body might transform any excess into glucose when you first transition to the plan.
Modified Keto Diet:
This keto diet is designed for those who find it difficult to fill up on fat. You can adjust the diet’s ratios to find ones that make more sense for you. For instance, many adults restrict their carb intake to 30 percent of their food instead of five percent.
For those who hate restricting their carb levels all the time, carb-cycling lets you alternate your daily intake levels and optimize the timing of workouts to get the maximum benefits without limiting yourself. This plan works well for athletes who need to take in thousands of calories each day.
Best Foods To Eat On The Ketogenic Diet
What should you eat on a ketogenic diet? This eating plan gives you more options than you might expect.
The central focus of keto eating is filling up with healthy fats. Excellent sources include heart-healthy olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and small amounts of nuts and seeds. One way to boost your fat levels first thing in the morning is to make “bullet coffee” by combining butter and coconut oil into your coffee.
To fill out the calories from fat, you’ll also need to supplement your diet with unsweetened, non-starchy vegetables. These can include plants in the cruciferous family like broccoli and kale as well as leafy greens and watery veggies like cucumbers. Sugary, starchy produce like tomatoes and potatoes should be avoided.
Finally, you’ll need to fill the rest of your plate with high-quality protein. Ketogenic enthusiasts believe that the quality of your meat matters as much as the type, which is why grass-fed beef, cage-free eggs and pasture-raised poultry, bone broth, and even organ meats regularly feature in this eating plan. You can also consume moderate amounts of full-fat dairy products.
Foods To Limit For Ketosis
To put your body into ketosis as often and for as long as possible, you need to limit your consumption of starchy veggies like sweet peas, potatoes, and carrots, as well as beans, seeds, nuts, and fruit. While there’s nothing unhealthy about these foods, their high carbohydrate levels will slow down your transition into ketosis.
Foods To Avoid For Ketosis
If you care about entering ketosis, it’s best to avoid any food that breaks down into glucose quickly. This covers sugar in all forms (“natural” options like honey and maple syrup included) most processed foods, sweet beverages like milk and alcohol, and most grains, including bread, pasta, oats, rice, and even quinoa.
Ketogenic Diet Side Effects
Transitioning to a ketogenic diet is likely a radical change in how you eat. This means your body might struggle to adapt for the first few weeks by causing you to experience some unpleasant side effects. “Keto flu” is a condition caused by your body shifting its energy production to ketones, and it can lead to two weeks of symptoms like headaches, bad breath, constipation, brain fog, and general moodiness. You can improve this process by eating high-quality food and drinking plenty of water.
If you’re an athlete, a ketogenic diet might not provide enough fuel for you. In this case, carb cycling or taking in carbs after a workout is a smart way to provide your muscles with glucose for quick rebuilding.
Try Ketogenic Eating For Better Health
If you’re looking for a way to lose weight quickly, boost your energy levels, and improve your general wellbeing, the ketogenic diet has a lot to offer. So long as you have the self-control to stick to the proper nutrient ratios, this eating style can make all the difference for your health. Try it today! You might be surprised how much better you feel.