By Holly Bieler
Updated on 23. Jul. 2020

The keto diet has exploded in recent years, gaining a reputation as one of the most effective diets for those who want to shed weight fast. The foundation of keto, which espouses low-carb, high-protein meals, isn’t new: diets like Atkins and Scarborough have gained millions of followers following a similar dietary equation for decades. So what’s so special about keto? Check out below for all you need to know.

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Table of contents

  1. Who is Keto Good For?
  2. Types of Keto Diets
  3. What Can I Eat on the Keto Diet?
  4. What Can’t I Eat on the Keto Diet?
  5. Potential Side Effects
  6. The Low Down

What Does Keto Mean?

Keto is short for ketosis, the metabolic state wherein your body begins burning fat at a higher rate. Getting your body into ketosis, which results in burning through body fat more quickly and easily, is the goal of the keto diet, and it achieves this by replacing much of your carbohydrate intake with fats instead. Starved of carbohydrates, your body begins burning fat out of necessity and ultimately falls into ketosis, allowing it to burn through body fat more efficiently and quickly.

Who is Keto Good For?

Keto is known as a particularly effective weight-loss diet. The body reaches ketosis in about two to seven days on the diet, after which it becomes much more effective at burning body fat than normal, so dieters can expect to lose on average 2 pounds a week. The downside, as with most quickly effective diets, is that keto is relatively strict and rigid. It’s not impossible to follow, but if you’re looking for a diet you can maintain for years, keto probably isn’t a great option for you. It’s also not a good option for vegetarians, as beans are prohibited. 

Types of Keto Diets

There are many different varieties of the keto diet, each with different fat/carb breakdowns, timelines and eating patterns. It’s worth your time to do a little research and pick the right of regimen before you embark on your keto diet journey, as there’s sure to be a keto variety that fits your goals and preferences best. Here are three of the most popular varieties:

Standard Keto Diet

This is the classic low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat variety most commonly associated with keto. Your daily nutritional breakdown generally equals out to 5% carbs, 20% protein and a whopping 75% fat.

Targeted Keto Diet

The targeted keto diet follows the standard model but limits carb consumption around workout times, theorizing that your body will process carbs most efficiently after a workout, when your body’s need for energy increases. While you can only eat carbs after you work out, you can eat more carbs on those days then you would on the standard keto diet.

High Protein Keto Diet

This diet tweaks the nutritional breakdown of the standard keto diet to include more protein, with your average daily consumption comprising closer to 35% protein, 60% fat, and 5% carbs. Some research has shown a high protein keto diet might lead to quicker weight loss than a standard keto diet.

What Can I Eat on the Keto Diet?

Unlike most diets, keto will rarely leave you hungry. Keto meals are rich in satisfying fats and protein, while carbs, which are generally less filling, are largely eschewed. This nutritional makeup yields some decided bright spots-- cheese, for instance, is allowed on this diet, as are other ingredients prohibited on most diets, such as butter, cream and avocados. Here’s a preliminary list of some of the foundational ingredients of the keto diet:

- Red meat

- Poultry

- Fatty fish

- Eggs

- Butter and cream

- Cheese

- Yogurt

- Cottage cheese

- Nuts and seeds

- Healthy oils such as olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil

- Avocados

- Low-carb veggies such as tomatoes, zucchini, kale and brussel sprouts

- Nut butters

- Olives

- Coconuts

- Dark chocolate

What Can’t I Eat on the Keto Diet?

Most of the foods prohibited on the keto diet are no-brainers. Like most diets, desserts, baked goods, sugary drinks, white bread and alcohol can only be consumed in extreme moderation. However there are many ingredients that aren’t as intuitive. Beans and legumes are expressly forbidden, as are carby vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, as well as most fruits. Here’s a rundown of some of the top foods you can’t eat:

- Sugary desserts such as ice cream, candy, cake and cookies

- Soda and fruit juice

- All grains and starches, such as rice, bread, pasta, etc.

- Fruit

- Beans

- Legumes 

- Root vegetables

- Potatoes

- Trans fats such as processed vegetable oils and margarine

- Mayonnaise and other fatty condiments

- Alcohol

Potential Side Effects

Most of the side effects associated with starting a keto regimen are the same ones you can expect to experience when beginning any diet, such as lethargy and brain fog during the first week or so. For some people, however, the drastic limitation of carbs can result in more severe symptoms, sometimes called the “keto flu”. These can comprise cramps, headaches, diarrhea and even nausea. However in the majority of cases, these symptoms clear up after about a week.

The Low Down

If you’re looking to drop weight relatively quickly or hate feeling full, keto is a great option. For vegetarians and those looking for a more long-term lifestyle change, keto probably isn’t for you.

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