The ketogenic, or keto, diet is not only a popular choice for those looking to shed excess weight but is also a growing lifestyle trend. This low-carb, high-fat and moderate protein diet has been shown to promote overall health and protect against certain medical conditions. Our beginner’s guide is here to show you the ropes with all things keto!
Read on to explore what to eat, what to avoid and – most importantly – why!
In a world full of health-conscious foodies it can be difficult to keep up with diet do’s and dont's. Scroll through the news headlines and you’ll be told to eat more of one food and less of another – finding the right diet for you can quickly become confusing!
The good news is that the keto diet is made up of some pretty basic principles – overall intake should be low-carb, high-fat and adequate protein. This holy trinity will guide you to eat a certain balance of foods which encourages your body to breakdown fat for fuel.
There are different variations of keto – including standard, cyclical, targeted and high-protein – but for the beginners guide we will focus on the standard ketogenic diet (SKD). This classic keto diet usually splits caloric intake at around 75% from fat, 20% from protein and 5% from carbs.
Remember, nutritional requirements vary significantly from person to person, so it can be useful to use an online calculator to work out which macronutrient ratios to aim for.
Beginners beware – there are a lot of diets out there that are either unhealthy, unevidenced or else based on absolute nonsense! At Hunter and Gather we’re passionate about real food principles and making sure we follow the facts to avoid the fads. That’s why it’s so important to understand just what effects a keto diet has on the body.
The aim of a ketogenic diet is to encourage ketosis - sounds painful, right?! But ketosis is far from scary, it's just a word used to describe an entirely natural metabolic process. When following a low-carb diet the body does not have enough glucose for energy and so it turns to fat for fuel. This fat comes from both your diet and any stored on the body i.e. your wobbly bits!
In short, an extremely low carb diet encourages ketosis, which provides a new fuel source for certain organs – particularly the brain. This promotes fat oxidation rather than relying on carbs.
How do I know I'm in Ketosis?
To judge your current state of ketosis simply close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and listen to your body - just kidding! It can be difficult to know if you have managed to reach ketosis or not. There are many signs and symptoms that indicate you have, but it's far more accurate to monitor levels of ‘ketone bodies’.
More commonly known as 'ketones', the liver produces these in high amounts as a by-product of metabolising fatty acids. In other words, the more ketones, the more likely you are to be in ketosis. You can find out if you’re in nutritional ketosis by measuring ketones in your blood – the most accurate method – or by using a urine strip test – the easiest and most convenient method.
If you don’t feel up to taking biological samples from yourself each day – don’t fret! Many people follow keto principles to promote an overall healthier lifestyle – so aren’t necessarily maintaining a laboratory in their bathroom to make sure they’re in a constant state of ketosis!
Keto Diet for Weight Loss
The most common reason for making the switch to keto is to lose weight. In the past dieters have avoided fat like the plague, but we now have a greater understanding of the benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet for weight loss.
Studies have shown that a very low-carb diet is more effective than a low-fat diet for weight loss. It can also help to conserve muscle mass, which in turn boosts metabolism and increases the amount of calories you burn at rest. This is all good news for anyone watching their waistline!
Aside from the fat-burning fabulousness of ketosis, a keto diet also benefits from an increased protein and fat intake – both of which help to curb cravings and increase satiety.
Going Keto for Good Health
Whether you’re looking to lose a few of pounds or not, following a keto diet has been shown to potentially improve overall health and protect against disease.
A recent review of the scientific literature has indicated that adopting a ketogenic diet could have benefits for a variety of heath conditions:
As if this wasn’t enough, you’ll also find potential improvements to your blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as insulin sensitivity. Long-term keto followers also report improved mood and a boost in energy levels. What’s not to love?!
Foods to Enjoy
As a keto novice it’s probably going to take a lot of trial and error to get started. Making sure you balance your carb : protein : fat ratio is key. It can be easy to track your macronutrient intake with the help of a free app.
The keto diet ties in nicely with the Real Food principles we follow at H&G HQ – that is eating foods, which are natural, nourishing, and as unprocessed.
Here are some of the low-carb, high-fat foods which can be enjoyed as part of a keto diet:
Foods to Avoid
We hope by now that you’re grasped the low-carb concept of keto! Learning which foods are high in carbohydrate and eliminating them from the diet will give you a great start on your journey to ketosis!
Here’s a heads up on which foods are a keto no-no:
Ready, Steady, GO!
Whether you’re in it for fast fat loss or long-term lifestyle benefits – curving the carbs, prioritising protein and feasting on fats will mean you’re keto good to go!
We hope that this beginners guide has helped explain the principles of a Keto diet. We would recommend further reading and to consult with a functional nutritionist if you are unsure or would like specific advice tailored to yourself.
Browse our keto-friendly range for some nutritious and delicious additions to your keto pantry.