What is a keto diet, and other common questions
What is a keto diet?
A keto diet is a low-carb diet that results in ketosis. To achieve this, the diet has to be very low in carbohydrates, and no more than moderate in protein.
Usually the diet is also high in dietary fat, at least long term. In a more short-term diet, this is not always necessary. It’s possible to instead be fueled via your own fat stores, as long as you have excess weight to lose.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a normal process allowing your body to keep working when you eat few carbohydrates.
Carbs are one of two major fuels for the body. We can also burn fat for energy, but the brain can’t burn fat directly. Instead, when eating very low carb, fat is converted in the liver to ketones that are released into the blood stream. This is a great fuel for your brain.
The process of fueling the entire body with fat, including the production of ketones, is called ketosis. Under normal circumstances ketosis is safe and natural, for example when it is the result of a low-carb (“keto”) diet, or while fasting.
However, under certain special circumstances – most commonly with type 1 diabetes – ketosis can be a sign of insulin deficiency, and the ketones can then rise to potentially harmful levels.
Is a keto diet safe?
A keto diet is usually very safe. However, in the following three situations you may need extra preparation or adaptation:
- Are you on medication for diabetes, e.g. insulin? Learn more
- Are you on medication for high blood pressure? Learn more
- Are you breastfeeding? Learn more
If you’re not in one of these situations, you’ll likely do fine on a keto diet, without needing any special modifications.
How do you know when your body is in ketosis?
Any of these signs may indicate you are in ketosis:
- Decreased appetite and increased energy levels.
- Increased thirst and urination.
- “Keto breath”, which may be more apparent to others than to yourself. Learn more
- Dry mouth or a metallic taste in your mouth.
Beyond these signs and symptoms, you can measure your level of ketosis, using one of three methods:
What foods can you eat on a keto diet?
Eat real low-carb foods like meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and natural fats (like olive oil or butter). A simple rule for beginners is to eat foods with fewer than 5% carbs (numbers above
Is a keto diet safe for the kidneys?
Yes. People often wonder about this, because of the belief that a diet high in protein could be harmful for the kidneys. However, this fear is simply based on two misunderstandings:
- A keto diet is high in fat, not protein.
- People with normal kidney function handle excessive protein just fine.
Thus, there’s no reason to worry. In fact, a keto diet may even be protective of your kidneys, especially if you have diabetes. Learn more
Is ketosis safe for people with diabetes?
A keto diet leading to ketosis is generally a very powerful treatment to reverse type 2 diabetes.
People with type 1 diabetes can use a keto or low-carb diet to significantly improve their blood-sugar control. They will however normally always require insulin injections, but usually far lower doses on keto. They need to take care to not take too low doses and end up with ketoacidosis, or too high and end up with hypoglycemia.
Both people with type 1 and type 2 may rapidly require a reduction in medication on a keto diet to avoid hypoglycemia.