What is Keto?
The keto (pronounced KEY-toe) diet was first developed to treat diabetes in the 19th century. Later it helped epileptic children who were resistant to medication.ii
If you're thinking about discussing this diet with your health care provider be sure to also ask about vitamin considerations. You might need to take certain supplements while on this diet to reach the daily recommended amount of important nutrients.
How does Keto work?
Glucose is our bodies' main source of energy. When we deprive the body of glucose (found in abundance in carbohydrates), our body's cells turn instead to "ketones," chemical sources of fuel the liver produces from stored fat. This is why keto is known today primarily as a weight loss diet: your body burns through stored fat, a process called ketosis, in order to get the energy it needs.iii Healthy individuals experience mild ketosis during periods of fasting or even strenuous exercise, and is, therefore, nothing to be alarmed about.xvi
You probably guessed that those ketones are where keto gets its name. When you cut out carbohydrates in your diet, or if you've been fasting, your body first takes glucose from stores in the liver. It also breaks down muscle in order to produce glucose.
What You Can and Can't Eat on Keto
The idea behind keto is that carbohydrates, those easy sources of glucose, are severely restricted and replaced by a higher intake of meats and fats. You might think of carbs as just bread, pasta and potatoes, but many fruits and vegetables are chock full of carbohydrates, too.
This means people on the keto diet typically avoid not just bread and potatoes but also fruits in favor of cuts of meat that are very fatty, oily fish, seeds and nuts, avocados and other sources of either saturated or unsaturated fats.
When health care providers prescribe this diet, they often customize it to each patient. If you try to research keto on your own, you may find conflicting information on what you can eat on the keto diet, what you should avoid, and what ratios of fats, proteins and carbohydrates you should pursue.v
What Are the Best Vitamins Recommended for Keto Dieters?
It’s important to remember that keto diet recommendations should come from your health care provider and may differ from person to person. However, here are some nutrients a typical keto diet might affect:vi
Fiber: By cutting out fruits and whole grains, a keto diet removes key sources of fiber. Fiber helps keep our digestive system running smoothly.vii
Magnesium: Magnesium affects muscles, nerves, your immune system, and many chemical reactions throughout the body. On a keto diet, you may have to cut out foods rich in magnesium, such as whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.x
Other Potential Keto Pitfalls
Keto diets are serious undertakings. You may need to monitor your body while on this diet with the guidance of a health care provider to ensure that your body does not go into ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is when the kidneys begin to excrete ketone bodies along with body water in the urine, causing some fluid-related weight loss.xv It is unusual for this to happen but not impossible on this diet.
You may also experience fatigue, irritability, constipation (due to the aforementioned lack of fiber) on keto.
So why do I keep hearing about Keto?
While keto is a diet that health care professionals sometimes prescribe to address issues such as diabetes, many people refer to any diet that restricts carbohydrates as keto. But any diet that eliminates a whole range of foods can create gaps in your nutritional intake.
Keto a good way to lose weight?
Keto for weight loss has limited research to date. Some studies have shown that past the one year mark, keto was no more or less successful for weight loss than other diets.xiv
A true keto diet can be difficult to stick with. Only you and your health care professional can decide if keto is right for you and if/how you will need to supplement your new diet with vitamins.xiii