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As a society, Westerners are increasingly aware of the types of foods we eat and their effects on weight and health. More and more people are dieting to manage their weight.
The ketogenic or keto diet is a commonly followed diet that shares certain features with other well-known diets such as Atkins diets and low carb diets. Like all diets, it provides guidance on what can and can not be consumed.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is characterized by consuming foods low in carbohydrates and high in fat. As a result of consuming such foods, many people experience weight loss that can be extremely beneficial for those who wish to manage their weight.
This occurs as a result of the dramatic reduction in carbohydrate intake, which must be replaced by fats, because of which the body enters ketosis, which is a natural metabolic state. As a result, the body becomes more efficient at burning fat in energy, and it is also thought that it converts liver ketones into energy that can be used to fuel the brain.
Healthy eating concept. Keto food pyramid. Image Credit: Mountain Brothers / Shutterstock
How does ketosis burn fat?
In case of ketosis, the body's glucose stores become too weak to allow normal lipid oxidation and are unable to supply glucose to the central nervous system (CNS).
The central nervous system can not use fatty acids as a source of energy because free fatty acids can not cross the blood-brain barrier. After 3 to 4 days of abstinence from carbohydrates, the CNS must find alternative sources of energy.
The ketone bodies (KB), particularly acetoacetate, β-hydroxybutyrate and acetone, are mainly generated by ketogenesis in the liver, within the mitochondrial matrix.
Ketones are a vital source of energy when the body is fasting or when there is a shortage of carbohydrates.
Best foods to eat on the ketogenic diet
Proponents of the ketogenic diet are limited to 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrate a day, which is roughly equivalent to a large potato and half a kilogram of vegetables.
To stay within this limit, some foods are recommended, whose carbohydrate content is lower. However, it is still incumbent on the individual to avoid overconsumption of any food, whether recommended or not, as too much carbohydrate can hinder the development of ketosis.
Fish and seafood
Most fish and seafood are allowed on the ketogenic diet. In addition to being rich in B vitamins and potassium, these foods are also very low in carbohydrates.
Overconsumption of starchy vegetables should be avoided with a ketogenic diet. However, non-starchy vegetables are recommended, especially green vegetables such as spinach, Brussels sprouts and kale.
Research also suggests that eating these foods is associated with reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
Low carbohydrate vegetables can be a good substitute for high carbohydrate foods. For example, rice can be substituted with cauliflower rice.
The popularity of avocados has increased in recent years and many consider it a superfood alongside kale. In addition to containing several essential vitamins, avocados also contain potassium. It is thought that eating foods high in potassium can help the body to turn into ketosis.
The worst foods to eat according to the ketogenic diet
Some foods are not recommended in the ketogenic diet because they contain too much carbohydrate.
Despite the many benefits of fruits for health, the keto diet presents some problems. Grapes and bananas, for example, contain large amounts of carbohydrates. 1 cup of grapes contains about 26 grams and a medium banana, 24 grams of carbohydrates.
As a rule, these fruits should be avoided. However, a cup of strawberries contains 8 grams and an average orange 12 grams of carbohydrates. Therefore, these are eligible in moderate amounts in the diet.
Grains and starches
Cereals and starchy foods should also be avoided with the ketogenic diet because of their considerably high carbohydrate content. Consumption of these foods can cause the individual to exceed the daily carbohydrate intake by 50 grams.
The adverse health consequences of the consumption of processed foods have been well documented. On the keto diet, processed foods and trans fats should be avoided because they are high in carbohydrates.
Although the ketogenic diet may be useful for those wishing to manage their weight or their diabetes, some argue that there are no longitudinal studies of the long-term consequences of adopting this type of diet. In addition, it is suggested that people consult a doctor because their diet is not suitable for pregnant women and people at risk of hypoglycemia.