Keto Diet

The 10 FAQs You Have to Read Before Trying the Keto Diet

Maybe you’ve heard about it from celebrities or social media influencers, or you’ve seen the label ‘keto-friendly’ on foods at the supermarket. Given that it’s been one of the most popular diets for a few years now, you may even know someone who’s tried going keto. But how much do you really know about the keto diet?

You’ve probably got questions, ranging from “What is it?” to “Is it hard?” to “Will it work for me?” We’ve got your answers right here.

First of all, what does ‘keto’ even mean?

Keto Word Spelled with Vegetables

Keto is short for ketogenic. It refers to the process of ketosis, which is when your body runs out of carbohydrates and then has to start burning your fat for energy.

So, what is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is similar to trendy, low-carb diets like paleo and Atkins: you eat more proteins and fats but keep your carbohydrates lower. Instead of following strict guidelines about what exact foods and portions, you aim to eat a certain amount of protein and fat and no more than 50 grams of carbs a day. That’s the equivalent of two slices of bread and a small apple.

What do you eat, then?

Ketogenic Diet Chart

Unlike diets you may have tried in the past, keto encourages full-fat dairy products and meats. Keto-friendly foods include:

  • Fatty cuts of meats, skin-on poultry, seafood, and eggs (including the yolks)
  • Low-carbohydrate vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach
  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews; also pumpkin seeds
  • Full-fat dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt
  • Healthy oils
  • Avocados

You’ll have to sacrifice most breads and sweets. You’ll also have to cut way, way, WAY down on healthy items like legumes (beans and lentils) and fruits.

How much weight can I lose?

No one can predict how much weight you will lose – there have been reports that some people lose as much as 10 pounds in two weeks. But those results aren’t typical, and the loss was probably primarily water weight.

Rapid weight loss is one of the reasons keto diets are so popular. Scientific studies have even shown that, compared to other diets, keto will help people drop more weight, faster. However, over long periods of time, the overall weight loss was the same for keto-eaters as it was for people on traditional low-fat diets.

What are the benefits of keto eating?

Woman Measuring Her Waist

One of the main reasons why so many people have taken it up is to lose weight, but that’s far from the only benefit.

Following a keto plan has been shown to help dieters reduce abdominal fat, which is closely linked to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. The keto diet may also reduce other risks for heart disease, including your cholesterol and triglycerides levels. Some people may experience improved gut health, which could result in less acne, reduced inflammation, and improved mental outlook.

If I try keto, will I be hungry all the time?

Two Women Eating Healthy

Another reason why the keto diet is so popular: it’s been shown to suppress the appetite, which can lead to greater weight loss.

Can I eat a keto diet if I exercise or am very active?

It depends on how intense your cardio program is. A recent study showed that certain athletes, like marathoners or long-distance cyclists, performed better after adopting a keto diet, but those whose exercise involves short, intense bursts of effort performed more poorly.

If you’re working toward a big goal, like doing a breast cancer awareness 10K, make sure your body is well-adjusted to the diet before your event.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t try the keto diet?

Yes. That list includes:

  • Pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding women
  • Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive problems
  • Anyone who’s previously suffered an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating)
  • Anyone with kidney issues, Chronic Kidney Disease, or diabetes

Even though the keto diet may help prevent diabetes, those who have diabetes or hypoglycemia should avoid keto and other eating plans that could affect their insulin levels.

Does it have any drawbacks or side effects?

From a practical standpoint, two of the most common complaints about going keto are that it’s hard to follow and it’s expensive. However, there’s an extensive list of health reasons why you might think twice about keto.

Besides the fact that it’s unsuitable for the people listed above, many people who try keto report feeling terrible for a few weeks as their bodies adjust to this new style of eating. In fact, the symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, nausea, and constipation, are so common that there’s a name for it: the keto flu.

Other side effects range from the mild and annoying – many beginners develop bad breath and constipation – to more serious problems, such as disruption of the menstrual cycle, severe dehydration, kidney stones, the loss of muscle, and even higher cholesterol levels, and increased risk for heart disease.

That sounds awful! Should I talk to my doctor before I try it?

Diabetic Healthy Diet

We recommend consulting your doctor before making any serious lifestyle changes. They may have other ideas for how you can healthfully lose weight. AltaMed has a variety of healthy lifestyle programs designed to help participants reduce their risk for, or control their diabetes, and maintain a healthy weight. Ask your AltaMed doctor for a recommendation.

If you’re not sure if keto is right for you but you want to eat healthier, try some of these delicious, nutritious ideas, such as low-calorie ways to lighten up traditional recipes and why it’s good to eat all the colors of the rainbow!

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Woman Eating Cereal For Breakfast

The Link Between Food and Mood: It’s Not All in Your Head

You already know what you eat affects how your body works and feels. Food can also have a big impact on your mood and your mental health. You’ve probably noticed that, if you eat junk food and empty calories, you may feel sluggish, unfocused, and even a bit blue – and when you eat healthy foods that are full of vitamins and nutrients, you feel mentally lifted and energized.

It’s not all in your head: there’s a strong connection between your diet and your mood. What you eat may not cause depression or anxiety, but it can make behavioral disorders worse. And just like food can help sharpen your brain, a healthy diet may help you feel more cheerful and positive.

So, if you’ve been feeling down and don’t understand why, it could be related to what you eat.

Why Sugar Isn’t So Sweet

Man Choosing Between Junk and Healthy Food

Sugar isn’t just bad for your body and your teeth: eating too much sugar can increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Sugars, including the simple carbohydrates found in white bread, candy, and soft drinks, can increase inflammation in the body, which has been linked to increased pain and depression.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons a day for women or 9 teaspoons a day for men. To give you an idea of how much that is, a can of full-sugar soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar while a small banana has 3 teaspoons. Check out these recommendations for healthy drinks that won’t spike your sugar.

Your Gut-Feeling Is Real

Over the past few years, scientists and nutritionists have studied the gastrointestinal system – also known as your gut. Your gut has more than a thousand types of bacteria and trillions of organisms that play an incredibly important role in many of the body’s processes. Ninety-five percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, a substance that helps regulate sleep, appetite, mood, and pain sensitivity, is made in your gut. It’s not that much of a stretch to say a lot of your mental outlook starts in your stomach.

A diet full of added sugars and highly processed foods (canned foods, fast food, most chips, and snack foods) can kill some of the good bacteria in your gut – which can make you want even more sugar. Sugar can temporarily spike your serotonin, but in the long run, it affects your gut’s ability to produce it.

So far, there has been hopeful news about probiotics, a beneficial bacterium that exists naturally in foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, and kombucha. In addition to improving the body’s immune system and helping to reduce bloating and gas, researchers believe that probiotics may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. These foods are not a miracle cure, but they are healthy and delicious options to try.

Comfort Foods Aren’t Always the Answer

Mexican pasta soup

Sometimes, when a person feels down, they may reach for comfort foods that make them feel safe, happy, or protected. Comfort foods can be different from family to family and culture to culture, but typical American comfort foods include rich, calorie-heavy dishes like mac’n’cheese, fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and other dishes that can give you a few minutes of bliss but leave you feeling worse off in the long run, due to added sugar. Eating large portions of fatty foods will also make you feel sluggish because your body has to work harder to digest the extra fat. 

Comfort foods, and meals eaten in social situations where there’s friendship and festivities, can make you feel good, but you should still focus on making nutritional choices that will keep you feeling healthy and energetic. This list of food swaps can give you ideas about how to make some of your favorite holiday dishes a little healthier. And it’s always a good idea to add more fresh and healthy in-season produce to your diet.

Try Keeping a Food/Mood Journal

Woman Writing on the Notebook

If you’re thinking about changing your diet to see if your mood improves, start by keeping a journal. Make a few notes daily about the foods that you stopped or started eating, the portion size, when you ate it, and then how you felt a few hours later. It doesn’t have to be long commitment, but you should commit to doing it every day for at least a few weeks so you can track your progress.

Sometimes a Healthy Diet Isn’t Enough

Woman in the Kitchen Looking Through the Window

Eating right has so many benefits to your health, but sometimes it isn’t enough to pick you up if you’ve been feeling down for a long time. If you’ve been sad and you don’t know why, you could be going through an episode of depression. Depression is a real health problem that you shouldn’t ignore. Call AltaMed at (855) 425-1777 to learn more about our behavioral health services.


Why You Need Vitamins and the Best Places to Get Them

When it comes to getting the right amount of vitamins, grabbing a quick pill might seem like the easiest option. But what most people don’t know is that there’s almost no proof that multivitamin pills offer any long-term health benefits.

A well-balanced diet is the best way to get the nutrients your body needs but can’t make on its own. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains offer key vitamins and minerals that keep you functioning at your peak. Plus, adding more healthy foods to your daily rotation can help ward off things like the common cold and aid the health of your immune system. Here’s a brief guide to some of the most important vitamins and the easiest, most delicious ways to get them.


Two Boys Having Breakfast with Their Mom

Why we need it: Calcium helps build healthy bones and teeth, and it aids in blood clotting and muscle contraction. The human body does not produce calcium on its own, yet this mineral is essential for keeping us alive.

Where to get it: Your best bets are lean dairy products, like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Because these foods can be high in both fat and sodium, make sure you’re not eating too much! Also, caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda can pull the calcium out of your body, so watch how many of these beverages you consume.


Variety of Healthy Food

Why we need it: Iron is another powerhouse mineral that makes life possible. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough red blood cells. This can lead to a condition called anemia. Lack of iron can leave you feeling fatigued and dizzy. Pregnant women who don’t get enough iron are more likely to give birth to underweight or premature babies.

Where to get it: The good news is there are plenty of tasty foods that can help you get enough iron. The best sources are animal proteins: chicken, fish, beef, and especially liver are rich in iron. You can also find iron in lentils, beans, cereal, tofu, and even dried apricots.

Vitamin B6 and B12

Raw Beef Liver

Why we need it: Vitamin B6 is important for your metabolism, or how your body breaks down your foods for energy. It’s also been shown to promote brain health and cut the risk for Alzheimer’s. B12 helps keep the nerves and blood cells healthy. When its lacking in the body, you may feel fatigued and dizzy – in severe deficiencies, you could experience muscle and coordination problems.

Where to get it: Foods like turkey, chickpeas, tuna, salmon, potatoes, and bananas as well as fruit (other than citrus) are B6 rich. B12 is naturally found in animal products (meat and dairy products) and is added to fortify plant-based foods like veggie burgers. Beef liver and clams contain the highest amount of B12, with 3,460% of the recommended daily allowance in one serving.

Vitamin C

Grapefruit Orange and Lemon Cut in Half

Why we need it: Vitamin C protects our cells from damage caused by free radicals which are harmful compounds found in air pollution, the sun’s UVA rays, and cigarette smoke. It’s also vital in the production of collagen and helps the immune system fight off diseases.

Where to get it: Vitamin C’s impressive health benefits can come from many fruits and vegetables like strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, kale, and spinach. The most popular source of Vitamin C is, of course, oranges. A single orange delivers almost your entire daily dose.

Vitamin D

Salmon on Cutting Board

Why we need it: Vitamin D has numerous benefits related to cancer prevention, bone health, mental health, and your immune system. Vitamin D helps your body better absorb calcium, which helps prevent osteoporosis and decreases the risk of bone fractures in older adults. There’s even been a study that suggests vitamin D may help fight depression.

Where to get it: Dairy products, nut milks, and cereals are often fortified with vitamin D, giving them an extra helping of this important vitamin. Fatty fishes like tuna, salmon, and cod rank high on the list of nutrient-filled foods. Rare mushrooms and egg yolks also contain small amounts.

Reaping the Benefits


Supplements can be an added bonus to our daily diet but should be considered as a secondary option when it comes to sourcing the proper nutrients for our bodies. Incorporating foods that nourish our bodies and are loaded with minerals is essential to a long and healthy life. Even if you’re eating at a restaurant, you can still make smart choices and meet your nutritional goals. Check back regularly for more healthy living tips and ideas!

The 10 FAQs You Have to Read Before Trying the Keto Diet