The ketogenic diet, also known as the “keto diet,” is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that has gained popularity in recent years as a weight loss and health improvement strategy.
The basic principle of the keto diet is to drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake and replace those carbs with healthy fats, to induce a metabolic state called ketosis.
During ketosis, the body begins to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. It’s this metabolic process that leads to sustained weight loss.
So, if you’re interested in trying the ketogenic diet, let’s understand how it works, the risks and rewards involved, and the best ways to get started.
Popularity of the keto diet
The popularity of the keto diet can be attributed to its effectiveness for weight loss, as well as its potential to improve certain health markers such as blood sugar control and reduction in risk for certain diseases like heart disease  and diabetes .
The diet has seen a significant growth in popularity across the world thanks to a string of high-profile celebrities  documenting their experiences with the diet, including:
- Halle Berry
- Kourtney and Kim Kardashian
- Gwyneth Paltro
- LeBron James
- Megan Fox
The keto diet is also commonly used within medical treatments for those with epilepsy by mimicking the body’s biochemical response to starvation, relying on fat rather than carbohydrates for energy .
The science behind the ketogenic diet
To understand why the ketogenic diet is effective, we must first understand the concept of Ketosis.
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body begins to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Normally, the body uses glucose (a type of sugar) as its primary source of energy. However, when carbohydrate intake is restricted, the body must find an alternative fuel source.
Fatty acids are broken down by the liver into molecules called ketones, which can be used as an alternative energy source for the body and brain.
The ketogenic diet is designed to induce ketosis by drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake. This leads to weight loss as the body is burning stored fat as an energy source.
Potential added benefits of following a keto diet
One of the main potential benefits of the diet is its ability to improve blood sugar control, which is important for preventing and managing diabetes.
The keto diet can lower the body’s insulin resistance and therefore lower the need for insulin. This can be very beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes, as it can help to improve blood sugar control and reduce the need for medication.
Another potential benefit of the ketogenic diet is its ability to reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease. The diet can improve blood lipid profiles, which is important for reducing the risk of heart disease.
The ketogenic diet has also been studied for its potential anti-cancer properties. Some studies have shown that the diet may help to reduce the growth and spread of certain types of cancer cells.
How to follow a keto diet
As we’ve already discussed, the ketogenic diet requires you to consume foods that are high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates.
The exact ratios can vary depending on your individual goals and medical requirements, but the general guidelines for a ketogenic diet are as follows:
- Fat: 70-80% of total calorie intake.
- Protein: 15-30% of total calorie intake.
- Carbohydrates: 5-10% of total calorie intake.
The ketogenic diet can be quite an extreme form of dieting, so it’s always recommended to work with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional to identify the macronutrient ratios that work best for you.
Food to eat on the keto diet
Whilst a diet that reduces carbohydrates to just 10% of your intake can feel quite limiting, there are plenty of great ingredients that are perfect for a ketogenic diet. These include:
- Seafood and meat (animal proteins)
- Cheese and other plain unsweetened dairy products.
- Low-carb vegetables (especially leafy greens)
- Nuts and seeds
- Dark Chocolate
- Unsweetened coffee and tea
Foods to avoid on the keto diet
After covering the positive list of recommended foods, it’s important you also know the foods you need to avoid. I’ll start with the more obvious foods that everyone would recognise as being carb-heavy:
- White and sweet potatoes
- Chips and crackers
- Quinoa and other grains.
The hardest part of the keto diet arises from the carbohydrates found in most sugars. This means that most sugary foods should be avoided, including:
- Juices and sodas
- Wine and beer
- Sweetened dairy products
- Honey and syrups
- Milk or white chocolate
- Ketchup and barbecue sauce
Unfortunately, you’ll also find carbohydrates in otherwise healthy foods which means you often need to get creative with your meals. These include:
- Fruits (excluding berries, lemons, limes)
- Beans and other legumes like lentils
- Low-fat dairy products.
Whilst this isn’t an exhaustive list of carbohydrate-filled foods, it’s a good start to understanding the types of food a keto diet tries to avoid.
Ketogenic meal delivery services in Australia
To make it easier following the ketogenic diet, some Australian meal delivery services offer specific ketogenic plans including meals that are extremely low in carbohydrates.
Other services just offer low-carb meals that allow you to limit your carbohydrate intake without putting your body into a total state of ketosis.
We’ve summarised these services into the best ketogenic meal delivery services in Australia.
Our top pick is Be Fit Food who have plenty of meals with under 20g of carbohydrates and have the additional bonus of their meals being delicious. If you’re looking to lose weight by leveraging a low-carb diet, Be Fit Food will be highly effective.
Potential risks and side effects
The ketogenic diet, like any diet, may have some potential risks and side effects. If you plan on moving to a strict ketogenic diet, please consult with a health professional or dietitian first.
Some of the most commonly reported effects of the keto diet include the “keto flu” and nutrient deficiencies.
The keto flu
I’m sure you’re wondering what the “keto flu” is.
It’s a term used to describe the symptoms that some people may experience when transitioning to a ketogenic diet. These symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and irritability.
It’s thought that “keto flu” symptoms are caused by the body adjusting to the new metabolic state of ketosis and the carbohydrate withdrawal. Symptoms may last a few days up to a few weeks and will be different for every person.
You can reduce your risk of “keto flu” symptoms by ensuring your body is fully hydrated and increasing your electrolyte intake.
Because the ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, it can be difficult to get enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals from fruits and vegetables. The most common deficiencies  include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B7
You may find yourself needing to supplement your intake by consuming vitamin and mineral pills. We recommend using a service like Vitable who can supply a month’s supply of daily vitamin packs and helps keep your intake consistent.
A summary of the ketogenic diet
The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that has gained popularity in recent years for individuals trying to lose weight or improve their overall health.
The basic principle is to reduce carbohydrate intake as much as possible, replacing those calories with healthy fats and proteins. If successful, this will induce a metabolic state called ketosis.
In ketosis, the body will begin to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates, which leads to weight loss.
There are many positive effects of the ketogenic diet, including improved blood sugar control and a reduction of risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
However, there are also possible risks and side effects. Individuals might find themselves suffering from “keto flu” or nutrient deficiencies. Some people may find they need to supplement their nutrient intake.
As always, it’s critical you consult with a healthcare professional before committing to a ketogenic diet. As it’s quite an extreme diet, keto is not suitable for everyone.
- McBride PE. Triglycerides and Risk for Coronary Heart Disease. JAMA. 2007;298(3):336–338. doi:10.1001/jama.298.3.336, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/207954
- Alarim RA, Alasmre FA, Alotaibi HA, Alshehri MA, Hussain SA. Effects of the Ketogenic Diet on Glycemic Control in Diabetic Patients: Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Cureus. 2020 Oct 5;12(10):e10796. doi: 10.7759/cureus.10796. PMID: 33163300; PMCID: PMC7641470., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7641470/
- “Celebrities Can’t Get Enough of the Ketogenic Diet” by Kristin Canning, Everyday Health, Published on October 24, 2018. https://www.everydayhealth.com/ketogenic-diet/diet/celebrities-cant-get-enough-ketogenic-diet/
- “Management of Children and Adolescents with Epilepsy” by The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, New South Wales, Australia, Published on 2016, https://www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/_policies/pdf/2016-8000.pdf
- Masood W, Annamaraju P, Uppaluri KR. Ketogenic Diet. [Updated 2022 Jun 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
- Dowis K, Banga S. The Potential Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2021 May 13;13(5):1654. doi: 10.3390/nu13051654. PMID: 34068325; PMCID: PMC8153354., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8153354/
- Li Jing, Zhang Haiyan, Dai Zhu. Cancer Treatment With the Ketogenic Diet: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Animal Studies DOI=10.3389/fnut.2021.594408 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2021.594408/full8
- “20 Foods to Eat on the Keto Diet” by SaVanna Shoemaker, Healthline, Updated on April 5, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-foods
- “What is keto flu” by Marcelo Camps, MD, Harvard Health Blog, Published October 18, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-keto-flu-2018101815052
- Jayson B Calton (2010) Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7:1, DOI: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-24, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/1550-2783-7-24