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Keto is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. The name comes from ketosis, or the breakdown of fats in the body to make ketones. In people who follow this diet, ketones replace glucose as the primary source of energy.

Read on to know the history of the keto diet, and why it has become popular with people looking to lose weight, reduce inflammation and improve overall health.

  1. What is keto diet?
  2. Benefits of keto diet
  3. Side-effects of keto diet
  4. 4 week Indian keto diet plan for weight loss

Our body needs energy to regulate all functions. A high-carbohydrate diet produces glucose, an instant source of energy, and insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. The body can also get energy by breaking down fats and proteins. 

In keto diet, we restrict our intake of carbohydrates to below 50 grams a day and increase our fat and protein intake. Fewer carbohydrates means less glucose and less insulin in the body. This absence of glucose induces ketosis - a natural process that helps us survive during long periods of hunger. During ketosis, our body produces ketones which in turn break down fats to produce energy. It is important that you eat adequate fats on this diet, so the body uses them for energy - simply substituting proteins for carbohydrates will not work.

Though the diet was originally created for epileptic children, today it has gained cadence as a technique for weight-loss and maintenance.

  • Weight loss: This low-carb, high-fat diet burns fats for energy. Adequate proteins in the diet help to maintain muscle mass. Not only does this help people lose weight, it also regulates insulin levels in the body. 
  • Management of diabetes: Keto diet has been shown to be more beneficial for diabetics than a low-calorie diet. With restricted intake of carbohydrates and sugar-based foods, the blood sugar remains steadier. Though patients living with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can benefit from this diet, this is not a substitute for diabetes medicine. Please talk to your doctor, and do not reduce dosage or medicine on your own.
  • Prevention the spread of cancer: Recent studies show that a keto diet can also help you fight cancer - certain types of cancer cells thrive on insulin. Low-carb foods lead to low glucose levels in our body and low glucose levels mean that the body produces less insulin.
  • Better brain function: Studies show that the ketogenic diet can improve cognitive functioning. The neuroprotective benefits of keto can help to prevent or manage conditions like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and sleep disorders.
  • Management of epilepsy: Keto diet has proved to be effective in management of symptoms in patients who don’t respond entirely to traditional epilepsy medicines. It has been used to treat epilelptic children since the 1920s. The diet is not a replacement for anti-epilepsy drugs. Instead, it works as an additional therapy to medicines.
  • Heart disease: In a ketogenic diet, the body uses up fat for energy - this helps to prevent weight gain. It also keeps cholesterol in check, and can therefore protect against conditions like atherosclerosis (build-up of cholesterol plaque on the wall of the arteries) and certain heart diseases.
  • Reduce acne: Both carbohydrates and insulin are responsible for the breakout of acne: high-glycaemic foods trigger the production of more insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 in the body. This, in turn, sends the oil glands beneath the skin into overdrive. The result: acne. In people who follow a keto diet, the blood sugar remains steady. Fewer spikes in blood sugar means no reason for increased production of insulin and growth factors.

Keto diet has some common, non-serious side-effects. 

  • Body spasm: Spasms, especially leg spasms, are the most common side-effect of this diet. A deficiency of minerals, especially magnesium, can cause these spasms. Increasing the intake of salt and liquids can help to treat them.
  • Constipation: Drinking more water and eating raw vegetables to increase the fibre content in your diet can help. Use Isabgol or probiotics if the constipation persists.
  • Breathlessness: Drink lots of water. Adding lemon and salt to the water can help restore the body’s electrolytes. You can also opt for potassium supplements.
  • Fatigue: In the initial stages, when the body is learning to use fats for energy, you can feel tired. This is because your body is accustomed to using glucose to get energy. Relax, your body will get used to it.

Followers of this diet can find it hard to identify keto-friendly foods initially. Remember that anything that is sweet to taste, or which caramelizes on cooking is not keto-compliant. This means, no carrots, tomatoes and onions in your food. Though spring onions are okay. Try adding a spoonful of flaxseed to your diet daily.

This week-by-week plan is designed to help you get started.

Week 1:

  • Breakfast:
    • Cheese fritters, fried in peanut oil or coconut oil. Do not use breadcrumbs or besan. If you need to coat the cheese at all, use almond meal or desiccated coconut
    • Cheesy egg omelette with spinach or cheesy scrambled eggs with green capsicum, cooked in olive oil or butter
  • Lunch:
    • A salad of baby spinach, feta cheese and walnuts. Do not add store-bought dressing or vinaigrette
    • Chicken and vegetables, or spinach cream soup with fried broccoli or mushrooms
    • Hung curd dip and baked or blanched french beans 
  • Dinner:
    • Baked spinach with cheese and cream
    • Lemon chicken
    • Fried cheese fritters
    • Fried mutton - try not to use the sweeter spices like dalchini to coat the mutton
    • Cauliflower salad or cauliflower thoran with coconut (Kerala style cauliflower)

Week 2:

Now is the time to introduce bullet coffee in your diet. Bullet coffee is the mixture of coconut oil, cream and butter with black tea or coffee. It is an essential part of the keto weight loss diet plan - try having a cup in the morning. Do not add sugar, and try not to add sugar supplements either.

  • Breakfast:
    • Bullet coffee
  • Lunch:
    • Spinach, capsicum and mushroom salad, mixed with olive oil and a little bit of lemon juice, with chicken or eggs or Cheese and vegetables
    • Fried cheese fritters
    • Lemon chicken or paneer steak
    • Fried eggs and “cauliflower rice” - wash and dry the cauliflower. Blitz the florets with a little bit of salt and coriander in a blender, till you get a coarse mix. Add a generous dash of olive oil and microwave this mix for 7 - 8 minutes or till the cauliflower is lightly cooked
  • Dinner
    • Cheese slices with fried french beans
    • Cauliflower, cooked in coconut oil and coconut milk
    • Mushroom cream
    • Boiled chicken
    • Cheese fritters
    • Zucchini pasta - slice green zucchini lengthwise to get thin pasta like strips. You can also use a peeler for this. Mix with olive oil and a little bit of salt. Microwave till the zucchini becomes soft. Add a generous amount of cheese and microwave again, until the cheese melts.

Week 3:

As you move into the third week, the diet will become more difficult to follow. Week 3 is known as the fasting week. You will begin your day with an early breakfast and will then fast for next 12 hours - that means no lunch for you. However, you will have high fat foods for dinner.

  • Breakfast:
    • Bullet coffee
  • Lunch:
    • From time to time, drink salt lemonade or green tea (no sugar please). Drink lots of water.
  • Dinner:
    • Eat 6-8 almonds soaked in water throughout this week
    • Cheese and spinach with chicken in pesto, fried in olive oil
    • Chilli paneer, with capsicum and spring onion
    • Roasted chicken with spinach and cheese salad
    • Spinach omelette with lots of cheese

Week 4:

The fourth week is the most difficult week in the diet. You will have to fast the whole day, and will only get to eat dinner. Drink lots of water. You can have green tea or lemonade with salt.

If you find the Week 4 diet hard to follow, then you can start afresh with the second week diet plan. This plan combines calorie restriction with switching the body over to fats as a primary source of energy - that's why it feels difficult. Once you are over this hump, things should get easier.

  • Breakfast:
    • Black tea/lemon tea/peach tea (sugarless)
    • Black coffee
  • Lunch:
    • Drink lots of water. Drink lemonade or green tea from time to time
  • Dinner:
    • Beans fried with desiccated coconut and a small quantity of peanuts
    • Roast chicken with vegetables
    • Cheese and spinach cooked in butter or cream
    • Fried vegetables
    • Boiled chicken
    • Lemon chicken
    • Fried cheese, spinach and capsicum
    • Home-made almond meal "bread" (no sugar, please)

Note: It is necessary to take the advice of your doctor or your dietician before following any diet plan.

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