A Keto diet, also known as a Ketogenic diet or low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet is extremely low in carbohydrates, as the name suggests. The human body primarily depends on glucose as a fuel. On extremely low-carb diets, the body starts breaking down the stored fat to produce ketone molecules and the entire body, including the brain, switches to ketones as a source of fuel. The body is thus induced into a state of ketosis.
What you can eat while on a keto diet?
A Keto diet is very high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. The Keto macros are as follows: 70% fats, 25% protein and 5% carbs. The total carbs should be below 35-50 grams and the net carbs (total carb minus total fibre) should be 20-30 grams.
Foods allowed include leafy greens, above-ground veggies (broccoli & cauliflower etc), meats (fish, lamb, poultry, beef etc), eggs, high fat dairy (hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter etc), nuts and seeds, avocadoes and berries (raspberries, blackberries etc), and fats (coconut oil, saturated fats, high-fat salad dressings etc).
Foods to be avoided include grains (wheat, rice, corn, cereals, pasta, bread etc), sugar (granulated sugar, honey, jaggery etc), high-carb fruits (apples, bananas, mangoes etc), tubers (potato, yam etc), fruit juices, desserts, processed foods and alcohol.
Keto diet has gained in popularity over the years as it results in rapid weight loss, yet it has several potential risks. Also, it's hard to follow and stick to because it's a radically different way of eating.
The short term side effects include:
1. During the transition phase, when the body switches over its fuel supply from glucose to ketones, it experiences flu-like symptoms, also called Keto-flu.
2. During the first few days, the body loses a lot of water, sodium and other minerals like potassium, magnesium etc. Infact, the initial weight lost is due to water loss and not fat loss. The symptoms are dehydration, frequent urination, excessive thirst, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and muscle cramps.
3. Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia is another side effect. The noticeable symptoms during the transition phase include fatigue, hunger, confusion, anxiety, irritability, tachycardia, light-headedness, shakiness, sweating and chills.
Other side effects include:
4. Smelly breath - Acetone is one of the ketone bodies and it has a characteristically fruity smell similar to that of a nail-polish remover.
5. Constipation - is a common side effect in the beginning due to dehydration and drastic change in diet composition. Occasionally, some people also experience diarrhea due to high fat diet.
6. Disturbed sleep.
However, there can be some more serious long-term side effects too:
7. The level of lipids and cholesterol in the blood increases due to high fat intake.
8. Acidosis causes the bone to demineralize and erode. It increases the risk of bone injury and fracture.
9. Ketosis results in low urine pH. Bone erosion leads to hypercalciuria. The low pH leads to formation of crystals and kidney stones.
10. Women experience disruption of the menstrual cycle, and in extreme cases, amenorrhea which means complete absence of periods.
Considering these risks, people who have kidney damage, individuals at risk for heart disease, pregnant or nursing women, people with type 1 diabetes, pre-existing liver or pancreatic condition and anyone who has undergone gallbladder removal shouldn't attempt the Keto diet.