What is the keto diet?

January 23 2019

Atkins, the zone diet, the 5:2 diet, you’ve heard of them all —  but what about the keto diet?

Keto is a buzzword you may have heard banded about by nutritionists and fitness experts, but what exactly is a keto diet?

A ketogenic, or keto, diet is one that eliminates as many carbohydrates as possible and replaces them with healthy fats.

The science behind the diet is that your body produces small fuel molecules called ketones when it’s low on glucose, which your body can then use as a fuel source. And the reason the keto diet is so popular is thanks to its fat-burning qualities, as your liver creates ketones from your own body fat.

Remember that the key to a healthy lifestyle is the proper balance between diet and exercise. Starting a new diet, especially one that makes drastic changes to your current lifestyle, will naturally have side effects.

If the keto diet is something that you would like to try out, we have all the information you need to get started.

The benefits of keto

The most noticeable benefit of keto, and the reason why it skyrocketed in popularity, is weight loss. Training your body to use ketones instead of glucose allows it to burn body fat much quicker than other diets.

As well as weight-loss, you may also notice a reduced appetite when doing the keto diet. This helps promote weight loss further, as you’ll snack less and only need to eat when you’re hungry.

You’ll even improve your balance of good and bad cholesterol. Consuming fat increases your levels of high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol), which lowers your blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

What can I eat?

The most important thing to remember on the keto diet is to reduce down your carb intake. You don’t have to cut them out entirely, but you should stick to a maximum of just 50 grams of carbohydrates a day instead.

Starchy foods like bread and pasta are definitely a no-no, but also be mindful to avoid sugary foods like chocolate, sweets and fizzy drinks.

The main food groups of a keto diet should include:

Meat - Unprocessed meats are low in carbs and keto-friendly. Just remember not to go overboard, as keto is a high-fat diet, not a high-protein diet. Overdoing it will result in your body converting excess protein to glucose. Make sure you also avoid processed meat like sausages as they often contain added carbs.

Fish and Seafood - All seafood is green-lit on the keto diet, as it’s full of healthy fats. However, don’t buy breaded fish as it’s just adding unnecessary carbs to your meals.

Eggs - Boil them, fry them, scramble them, whip up an omelette, however you like your eggs, you can enjoy as many as you want.

Vegetables - As with any balanced diet, you need to make sure you’re eating plenty of veggies. They’re not only vital to maintaining your health, but are also a great way of replacing carbs in your meals (think courgetti spaghetti). However, make sure you’re choosing leafy and green vegetables, as root vegetables can be too starchy.

Drinks - Avoiding sugary and carb heavy drinks is key here (that means beer too!). Cutting out alcohol altogether will give you the best results, but if it’s a special occasion, opt for dry wines or low-sugar spirits. Otherwise, stick to water or tea and coffee with just a drop of milk.  

Keto recipes

 

Keto chicken Garam masala:

Ingredients

  • 25 oz. chicken breasts
  • 3 tbsp butter or ghee
  • Salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1¼ cups coconut cream or heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

 

Garam masala ingredients

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 - 2 tsp coriander seed, ground
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (green)
  • 1 tsp turmeric, ground
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg

 

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • Mix the spices for Garam masala.
  • Cut the chicken breasts lengthwise. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry the chicken in butter until golden brown.
  • Add half the garam masala mix to the pan and stir thoroughly.
  • Season with salt, and place the chicken, including the juices, in a baking dish.
  • Finely chop the bell pepper and add that to a small bowl along with the coconut cream and remaining garam masala mix.
  • Pour over the chicken. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.
  • Garnish with parsley and serve.

 

Keto baked salmon with lemon and butter:

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs salmon
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 7 oz. butter
  • 1 lemon

 

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • Grease a large baking dish with olive oil. Place the salmon, with the skin-side down, in the prepared baking dish. Generously season with salt and pepper.
  • Slice the lemon thinly and place on top of the salmon. Cover with half of the butter in thin slices.
  • Bake on middle rack for about 20–30 minutes, or until the salmon is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
  • Heat the rest of the butter in a small saucepan until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool a little. Gently add some lemon juice.
  • Serve the fish with the lemon butter and a side dish of your choice. See below for suggestions.

 

Keto lamb chops with herb butter:

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp dried sage or dried rosemary
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 5 peppercorns, white
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 duck legs
  • 2¼ lbs butter or ghee or duck fat
  • 1½ lbs rutabaga

 

Balsamic sauce ingredients

  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream or sour cream

 

Method

  • In a mortar, crush the spices together with the sea salt. Wipe the duck with kitchen paper and pat dry, then rub the spice mixture over the duck. Let sit for a while at room temperature.
  • Fry the duck legs in plenty of butter or ghee for a few minutes. You can even skip this step if you want but it adds an extra nice flavour and colour.
  • Put the duck and the gravy in the slow cooker. Add finely chopped onion and garlic, then pour over the butter, ghee or duck fat so the meat is completely covered. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
  • Strain the cooking juices, set aside the onion, and pour into a glass jar. Cool quickly so the fat solidifies and the broth separates. Remove the fat with a spoon and save the broth for the sauce. Keep the fat in a jar, so you can use it for cooking later.
  • Peel and slice the rutabaga into half-inch (1 cm) pieces. Brush with oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven (365°F/185°C) for 20 minutes or until they get soft.
  • Bring the broth to a simmer, stir in vinegar, mustard and tomato paste. Add sour cream or heavy cream. Salt and pepper to taste, add some more vinegar if needed.

So, if you feel like a keto diet is something you’d like to try and want to see how it could benefit your health, just remember to check in with your doctor before making dramatic changes to your diet.

For more information and tips on dieting, head over to our nutrition blog.