A beginner’s guide to the ketogenic diet

Before jumping on the keto bandwagon, explore what the keto diet is, how it works, and some things to consider in order to get started!

Assortment of ketogenic ingredients, such as green vegetables, meat, salmon, cheese and eggs.
Ketogenic diet

Magazines rave about it, celebrities praise it, and the media buzzes about the ketogenic diet. You want to begin your weight loss journey, but where do you start? When it comes to starting a new diet, it is important to get the facts before you dive in headfirst; new diets can be overwhelming and potentially harmful to your health if done incorrectly. In this beginner’s guide, we will help you to navigate the ins and outs of the keto diet for you to remain knowledgeable, healthy and prepared to achieve your weight loss goals.  

For starters, what is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet, also referred to as keto for short, limits your intake of net carbohydrates and replaces them with higher amounts of healthy fats. High-fat foods such as olive oil, salmon, eggs, and avocado all take center stage in this diet, while starchy foods like bread, pasta, rice and sugar are ruled out. On nutrition labels in the US, net carbohydrates are equal to the total amount of carbohydrates minus the amount of fiber and sugar alcohol in food. In European nutrition labels, the number of carbs listed are the same as the number of net carbs. Because fibers do not affect blood sugar, tracking the total net carbs you intake is key. 

The science behind the keto diet

The keto diet aims to transform your body into a fat-burning machine. Usually, carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for our diet. In the absence of carbohydrates, the body starts to break down fat stores into ketones to use as an energy source instead of sugar/glucose. (1). The shift in the source of fuel from carbohydrates to fat, with ketones becoming the primary source of fuel for the body, is referred to as ketosis. Hence, the name for this eating pattern (2) The goal of this diet is for the body to achieve a state of ketosis where it metabolizes fat efficiently to promote weight loss and other potential health benefits.

Facets of the keto diet

While some may suggest that higher fat, lower carb eating habits are inherently “bad” for you, the ketogenic diet has suggested to have many positive health benefits, including being an effective method of weight loss.

The keto diet is said to be good for those looking for weight loss because it may reduce hunger, can be simple to follow, and can improve the metabolism of fat. Simplicity comes from the fact that the diet has a simple guideline- limit your carb intake. When consuming meals higher in fat and protein without carbs, it can potentially lead to a reduction in appetite, in turn leading to the consumption of smaller portions without thinking about it. These changes in your diet can help bring about weight loss in a natural way.

While research is not conclusive on this, some studies have suggested that the keto diet has been shown to improve blood sugar control for patients with type 2 diabetes, at least in the short term (3). Stabilizing blood sugar can also lead to lower blood pressure and can help prevent heart disease; however, general long term effects of the keto diet are still unknown. 

Where should you start?

Starting a new diet can be overwhelming. Here are some things to consider before you begin your keto diet:

Although keto may be the diet you choose to follow, it is important to remember that there is no one diet that works for everyone. Each person’s body reacts differently and can have different outcomes to the same diet. However, if you are looking to start a certain diet, make sure that you receive the proper information on how to do it safely and healthily. If you are still unsure and would like to learn more about the ketogenic diet and what it entails, nutrition apps such as Lifesum’s informational youtube videos such as this one here. How do you think the keto diet fits into your personal nutrition goals?

4 references (hide)

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.

Read this next

Screenshot from the Lifesum app
  • Apple AppStore:
    4.6 average rating
    Google Play:
    4.4 average rating
  • Editors’ Choice, App Store 2018
  • Best of Google Play 2017 & 2018

Gain control of your nutrition intake and boost your health.

Learn more