What is a keto diet? A guide to keto for beginners

What is a keto diet? A guide to keto for beginners

If you’re currently exploring new diets to fit your lifestyle requirements, the keto diet might be for you. In a similar vein to the Atkins diet, following a ketogenic diet encourages you to decrease your consumption of carbohydrates and increase both your fat and protein intake. Although these low-carb diets have been widely debated for decades, there can be many benefits to adopting this new way of eating, particularly if you have existing health concerns. 

Keep in mind that, as always, we recommend contacting your GP before exploring a new diet, to make sure you don’t do any damage to your health. Read on as we delve into the why’s and what’s of the keto diet and how it may benefit you.

What is a keto diet?

The keto diet is a low carbohydrate, high fat and moderate protein diet. The idea behind this diet is to encourage your body to enter the metabolic state of ketosis which occurs when our body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. 

If you consume a high carbohydrate diet, glucose will be used as your body’s primary fuel source. Your digestive system breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose, which is then absorbed into your bloodstream. As your glucose levels rise, your pancreas releases insulin into the blood, which is needed to transport glucose from your blood into your body, to be then used as an energy source. 

However, if you consume a low carbohydrate diet, such as the keto diet, your body will instead burn fat for the main energy source. High-fat foods will break down into fatty acids in your digestive system, these fatty acids are then absorbed into the bloodstream and straight into your cells, meaning they do not require insulin to enter your body's cells, unlike glucose. These fatty acids can also be transported to the liver where they are then converted into ketones which is the term given to the essential fuel our brain cells need.

There are many variations of the ketogenic diet, however, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been validated with substantial research. A standard or high-protein keto plan would use these macro percentages:

  • Standard ketogenic diet: 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs
  • High-protein ketogenic diet: 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.

How does the Keto diet work?

If you eat less than 50 grams of carbohydrates each day and increase your fat and protein intake, it should take around 2-5 days for your body to enter ketosis. You are in ketosis when your blood ketone range is between 0.5 mmol/L and 3.0 mmol/L. Your ketosis range can be tested in many ways, so if you’re curious about finding out if you’re in a ketogenic state, we suggest contacting a healthcare professional for advice.

Other key indicators that indicate you’re in ketosis include increased focus and energy, weight loss, a reduced appetite and ‘fruity breath’ due to increased ketone production.

What food is suitable for a keto diet?

The food that should be eaten on a keto diet depends on your individual taste and preferences. This diet will require a lot more planning and meal prepping, especially if you have particular dietary requirements, such as if you’re following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Ideally, when eating a keto diet, your diet should consist of a combination of the following foods:

  • Fish and seafood
  • Meat and poultry
  • Eggs
  • High-fat dairy products including, yoghurt, cheese, and butter
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Non-starchy vegetables including, broccoli, cauliflower, and courgette
  • Avocado
  • Berries
  • Oil

For this diet to be its most effective, sticking to the foods from this list that are whole will be the best course of action. However, we understand that completely eradicating your favourite foods that don’t fit into this diet may be difficult, which is where our range of keto-specific products comes in. From coconut wraps and keto bread to sweeteners and high-cacao chocolate, our keto shop offers a variety of keto-friendly snacks and pantry staples that are made specifically to be low-carb so that you don’t miss out on your favourite foods.

Improv'eat Coconut Wrap Original £7.50 and Keto8 Raw Cacao Morsels £6.99 

Swapping out your usual carbohydrate of choice with a keto-friendly alternative is a great way to help you remain in a state of ketosis without giving up your favourite meals. The Improv'eat Keto Coconut Wrap is made from coconut meat, coconut water and salt and is a delicious alternative to a classic tortilla. Fill with your favourite proteins, fats and low-starch vegetables and you have the perfect keto-friendly grab-and-go meal.

Free from grain, gluten, yeast and dairy, the Keto8 Raw Cacao Morsels are a nutrient-dense and nourishing keto-friendly macaroon that makes for the perfect indulgent snack that keeps you on track. Raw cacao, coconut and vanilla extract come together to create a sweet, tasty low-carb and low-sugar alternative to a traditional chocolate bar.

Browse through our full range of keto snacks, pantry staples and supplements to find everything you need to get you started on your keto lifestyle.

What food is not allowed in keto?

It’s important to remember that although the aim of the keto diet is for it to be low in carbohydrates, this does not mean you cannot eat carbs at all. It is more about your overall carbohydrate intake and how you choose to “spend” your carbs. The general guideline is to stick to 20-40 grams of carbs per day, with the rest of your food being high in fat and protein. Some of the foods you should avoid whilst on the keto diet that are often overlooked for being high in carbohydrates include:

  • Wheat and grains
  • High-sugar fruits
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Sugar in any form
  • Juices
  • Processed foods
  • High-carb condiments.

What are the benefits of a keto diet?

There are many benefits that can be gained from following a keto diet, however they can vary from person to person. The three main benefits that have been shown in various studies are as follows.

Reduces your appetite

Studies have found that by following a low-carb diet and eating more protein and fat, they tend to see a reduction in their appetite and eat fewer calories.

Weight loss

Research shows that those who cut carbs out of their diet lose more weight, faster than those on low-fat diets. This is due to the fact that a low-carb diet sheds excess water from your body, which lowers your insulin levels and can lead to rapid weight loss in the first week or two.

Reduces blood sugar and insulin levels

Studies have shown that cutting down your intake of carbs can drastically lower blood sugar and insulin levels. This may be a particularly helpful diet for those with type 2 diabetes, as one study found that 95% of those with type 2 diabetes in this study had reduced or eliminated the use of their glucose-lowering medication within 6 months of a low-carb diet.

However, we cannot stress enough how important it is to consult your doctor prior to making these dietary changes or adjusting any medication you take.

How do I start my keto diet for the first time?

The key to getting started with a keto diet for the first time is to familiarise yourself with what foods you can and can’t eat. This includes checking the labels of your favourite foods to determine the nutritional value and just how much fat and carbohydrates they provide. Once you have a good idea of what foods you can eat, we would suggest creating a meal plan and prepping meals in advance to make sticking to this diet as easy as possible. Not only does this save you time, but it can also come in handy if you need to bring food to a friend or family member’s home that you can be sure aligns with your diet.

It’s important to consider the potential risks of a keto diet and how you can manage them before you start. One of the main risks of the keto diet is that you might not eat enough fibre and therefore lack B vitamins in your diet, as the food groups that are naturally high in these include whole grains, legumes and some vegetables that also contain a significant amount of carbs. Not having enough fibre in your diet can negatively impact your gut microbiome, therefore we would recommend taking keto-friendly supplements alongside your diet that will help you reach your nutritional goals whilst ensuring you take care of your health, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian.

Other potential risks include digestive issues and changes in gut bacteria, low blood sugar and stress on your kidneys. Because of this, while there are associated benefits to this diet, we always recommend consulting with your doctor before deciding to make any drastic changes to your diet, to ensure this way of compartmentalising your diet will work for you and not cause any lasting damage to your health.

Follow a keto diet with the help of Planet Organic

If you’re curious to try out the keto diet, here at Planet Organic we have a wide range of products suitable for this low-carb diet in our keto shop. For ideas and further inspiration on what meals you can try while remaining in a state of ketosis, check out our ‘Two weeks of Keto meal ideas and shopping list blog’ to help ease you into this new lifestyle change.