Basics of Keto | Benefits | How to Start

 

This website was created to offer readers low-carb and keto recipes with carefully-calculated macros. My recipes have been developed so that readers can plan their meals accordingly and be confident in the knowledge that they can safely stick to their daily goals. 

However, assuming not all my visitors completely understand the benefits of low-carb or living keto, I created this page because I felt it was important to give some basic information to curious (or clueless) visitors that may want to learn a bit more about this life-changing lifestyle – and also shed some light on why I am such a passionate ambassador.

I have explained the basics of keto below in much the same way I would chat to a curious friend at a dinner party, or the way I would text it to a desperate, out-of-shape friend that reached out to me. I have also included a few quality links throughout where expert doctors and professionals can explain the benefits of going low-carb / keto better than I can.

After visiting the links listed in this article, return to Mud & Love for quality recipes and accurate macros. My macros have been individually and manually calculated with time and precision using software I invested in which is approved by the relevant Trading Standards organizations, and is EU and FDA-compliant. Not to shame other sites, but many use an auto-plugin based on general ingredient input. I find this too risky and not respecting the fact that readers are strict about sticking to their macros. If you don’t know what ‘macros’ are, its best you keep reading because they are an essential part of the keto lifestyle

 

Keto 101 The basics of the ketogenic low carb diet

 

INTRODUCTION

As mentioned, I trained as a chef, but have always been interested food, cooking, nutrition and metabolism.

To help you understand keto, let’s start at the beginning with what we know about ‘recommended nutrition’ …

Let’s go all the way back to 6th grade life science / biology. It varied from country to country, but basically we were taught The Pyramid and the main food groups:

– Grains and Cereals
– Vegetables, Fruit & Legumes
– Proteins (meat, fish and eggs)
– Dairy
– Fats and Oils

Our syllabus, teachers, books (and doctors!) told us to consume these in specified amounts and they showed it to us in a visual pyramid. Do you remember that pyramid? It showed loads of bread, grains and rice to be your maximum consumption, followed by fruit and vegetables, then some meat, fish and dairy, and then a teeny-tiny amount of oils and fats at the top.

Now… I want you to forget about that pyramid! 

Why the food pyramid is wrong

 

On a low-carb and Keto diet, we ONLY look at the data that is listed on nutritional labels on food all over the world. These are known as the macronutrients (macros) and are divided into Fats, Carbs and Protein (and Calories- which may or may not be important to you. More on this further down, and highly debatable with the keto police.)

 

Nutrition label collage of multiple packaging labels. Nutrition facts show quantities of ingredients in products, including calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates

 

You will soon realise that there is plenty of ‘over-lap’ of MACROS over the ingredient-based pyramid we have been taught – and this is understandably confusing. Stick with me, it gets good…

 

On the low-carb & keto lifestyle, we look how food sits on a Carbohydrate, Fat & Protein scale. We use those macros to make up our total daily Calorie requirements. We do NOT fit in with the food groups on the suggested pyramid (which, ironically is almost-perfect if you turn it upside down for keto!) It’s also why your keto friend skips the ‘healthy’ fruit & granola at brunch and chooses bacon and eggs instead: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MACROS.

 

Let me give you a quick example just within fruit: the pyramid we have been taught advocates PLENTY of fruit (and vegetables). However, on keto, we only look at how that specific fruit sits on the carb scale. If it contains too many carbs (eg. watermelon), its a no-no. But if it sits low on the carb scale (eg. blueberries) then it is allowed.

The same goes for vegetables. Broccoli: yes, yes, yes. Potatoes: no, no, no.

Sugar, wheat, grains, corn (some fruit, bread, pasta, crisps etc) are not even negotiable. This is because on keto we aim for 20-30g carbs in total per day – and these, even in small amounts, are right off the scale: AVOID.

For the newbies: Become familiar with food labels – and respect your kitchen scale. It’s essential. If a label says that 100g of that food is 5g carbs – don’t eat 200g without counting the fact you have consumed double the amount of carbs. Count. Monitor. Keep a daily record. 

After time, you will be so knowledgeable, its very likely you will become slightly obsessed – and monitoring will become natural. And there is nothing wrong with caring about what you are eating and the impact it has on your body, blood sugar, metabolism and (believe-it-or-not) your cholesterol! If you are shocked that I am advocating a diet that welcomes saturated fats, do some research after watching this short video

Strange hey? We have been taught to avoid saturated fats: animal fats , dairy fats or fats that are ‘solid-at-room-temperature’. It’s simply not true. The only fats we need to avoid are the ‘factory-made’ ones: artificial, processed trans fats (like sunflower or canola oil). Check labels: avoid foods which include the words ‘shortening,’ ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ’hydrogenated vegetable oil.’ In other words, ditch your ‘low-fat margarine’ and replace it with delicious, real butter! 

It’s also important to bear in mind that strict keto followers do more than just count-the-carbs. They also eliminate plenty of ‘inflammatory foods’ – even if they still fit comfortably in their allowable macros. I will leave you to research that yourself, but… baby-steps. On my recipes, I highlight which recipes are strict ‘keto’ and which are just simply low-carb. Most however, are high-fat – so unless you are planning on committing to this lifestyle with every meal, be mindful of this.  

To sum up in a quick “elevator-pitch“, the basics of keto is that your daily calorie consumption should ideally come from: 70-80% fats, 20-25% proteins and 5-10% carbs, and that knowledge about the carbohydrate, protein and fat grams in the foods that we eat is ESSENTIAL.

Low carbohydrate high fat ketogenic diet Ideal Macros

 

We know that food is fuel and it’s essential for us to function, survive and thrive.

Fat is higher in calories than carbs and proteins, and therefore limited on calorie-restricted diets. And while calorie-restricted diets DO work, they will only work if you are in daily-calorie-deficit (burning more calories than you consume), over a significant and consistent period of time. This is tricky and boring. People fail because these diets are hard to sustain.

On keto, we fuel with fat. Keep reading to see why this works!

 

THE LOW-CARB, HIGH-FAT (KETO) LIFESTYLE

 

On the keto diet, you limit the carbohydrate (your body’s first source of fuel) intake so much, your body has no other source of energy and uses consumed fat (and stored fat) for fuel. It’s a magical metabolic shift that happens.

 

After some time (approx. 24-72 hours) of committed keto, you start burning fat for fuel (ketosis). 

Many people debate whether calories still count on a keto diet:
We have been taught that ‘a calorie is a calorie’. Its true that all calories have the same amount of energy (a dietary calorie is 4,184 Joules of energy). BUT, this would imply that consuming 100 calories of ice-cream is the same as eating 100 calories of lettuce! It simply does not work like that. The reality is the that body is a complex system – and different foods have different metabolic pathways. Keep an eyeball on your calories, but don’t obsess. I won’t go into it more than this, because this article gets it spot-on

 

In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. 

 

Interesting side note: In medicine, the ketogenic diet is primarily applied to control epilepsy in children.

There is more to keto than just this, it also restricts inflammatory foods, so some further research on your part would be beneficial if you want to do 100% clean keto (eliminating soy, peanuts etc as opposed to just counting macros). However, if you choose to simply work on monitoring macros, you will certainly still enjoy the benefits and see results (we do this, we are 80-90% of the time lazy / ‘dirty’ keto). I advise to do whatever works for you!

 

BENEFITS OF THE KETOGENIC DIET

  1. WEIGHT LOSS – Yes please!
  2. APPETITE CONTROL – No more stomach rumbling cravings for the “bad” things. Sugar addiction is no more.
  3. BETTER MENTAL FOCUS – No more inconsistent energy because of the rise-and-fall in blood sugar levels
  4. MORE ENERGY – As appealing as a nap after a carb-laden lunch is, imagine not needing one? Being in ketosis is like experiencing a neverending energy source.
  5. FIGHTS TYPE II DIABETES – Need we say more, but if you don’t believe us, read this!
  6. INCREASES HDL CHOLESTEROL – Before you panic, HDL is the good one and escorts cholesterol away from the body and to the liver where it’s given the boot.
  7. LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE – If you’re stressed about your blood pressure, click on this link  and then take a deep breath, relax and know that you’re in good hands with the Ketogenic Diet. 

* * *

There are three key things to remember before attempting to start keto:

  1. You have to become educated about food and which foods are carbs, proteins and fats
  2. You have to become anal about reading food labels and measuring while you cook
  3. You have to be dedicated enough not to cheat and have food high in carbs.
    (Just one cheat meal could throw your body out of ketosis. More on ketosis here.)
  4. If you choose to do 100% clean keto, I advise further research, but in my personal experience, having my sashimi dipped in soy sauce once in a while, or snacking on peanuts at a dinner party (where that was the only non-carb snack I could have) has not impacted my journey.

 

HOW DO YOU START KETO?

 

  • Commitment
    How badly do you want it? If you are going into anything half-heartedly – don’t bother. Eating a high-fat diet while still consuming carbs is bad for your thighs and your heart. You simply cannot half-commit. The decision is not to be taken lightly: this is metabolic shift, and your body won’t care about your good intentions or your weak moments.
  • Educate yourself
    Understand which foods are high in carbs.
    Understand which foods are allowed on keto and which are not.
    Then go through your pantry and fridge and toss out everything that does not fit into this lifestyle. I would start with sugar (the worst one!), breads, pastries, pasta, all grains and soft drinks. Throw out any vegetable oil – its evil stuff.
    This link might help for a detailed Food List – bookmark it for easy reference.
  • Initial Substitutions
    Switch milk in your coffee for double cream. (cream is lower in carbs and higher in fat)
    Switch sugar for Erythritol. I use Truvia in my coffee and Swerve in my baking.
    Switch vegetable oils for olive oil or coconut oil.
    Switch your snack items for high-fat keto-friendly ones. There are plenty of ideas here.
  • Calculations
    Calculate your unique macro-requirements suited to your body. Then stick with it. Many people use an APP to track their daily macro food goals. It helps them a lot, especially in the beginning. I have never done this, but I do encourage you to give it a go. Click here to do this.
  • Dedication and Planning
    Plan your meals ahead of time and take care in preparing them. Steer clear of anything ready-made until you become an expert at understanding all about keto.
    Keep it simple, start by eating fatty chicken, steak and fish – and serve it alongside green veggies or salads. This isn’t hard to do and I recommend it’s a good way to start. Don’t ‘pimp’ anything with store-bought marinades and sauces – keep it simple. The main meals on my site have lots of meat, chicken and fish options. Serve them with ideas from the side dishes.
    After a while, you can get more creative making bread alternativesdesserts and investing in special ingredients. I don’t advise doing all that in the early days, it will only discourage you.
  • Support Groups and Accountability
    Join Keto and Low-carb Community groups on Facebook. Everyone is on the journey together and are all very supportive. There are hundreds of newbies every day and you can learn so much.
    My favourite group is EASY KETO UK, but a quick Facebook search in your country will list many groups, and there are plenty – so find one that you are happy with.
    On Instagram, run searches for “keto” on people – and follow them. There are hundreds-of-thousands of people on there sharing their meals to inspire you. Even more encouraging, there are SO many athletes, body-builders etc that swear by it.

 

Side Effects
Embrace that you will feel groggy in the first few days. This is not because you are under-nourished, it’s a carbohydrate-detox and it’s commonly referred to as Keto Flu. It means you are doing something right – so push through it. It’s temporary and it will pass. You may experience nausea, lethargy and headaches. Once it has passed, it won’t return unless you stop keto and have to start again. (This is why you will choose never to cheat!). I suffered keto flu for two days and Funnyman didn’t experience it at all, so everyone is different.

Drink plenty of water! (Many people use electrolytes, but I have never needed them. This link has some excellent information on keto flu and the need for supplements.) Some people also suffer constipation. I have never experienced this. I ensure that my daily allocated 20g carbs per day comes from a variety of high-fibre, nutritious vegetables – and a Bulletproof Coffee in the morning helps too!)

 

If I have done a completely useless job at explaining the basics of keto to you, these guys might explain it better, and if I still haven’t convinced you, check out these other SUCCESS STORIES on the (brilliant) Diet Doctor website.

 

I am a chef, not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor if you want to discuss this diet. All the information here is based on my (and my hubby’s) own experience.


Visit OUR JOURNEY where I talk more about how my husband and I started keto.

 

 

DISCLOSURE: Like many blogs, I am part of the Affiliates Program on Amazon. The links to the products I recommend on this page are affiliate links, meaning – at no additional cost to you – I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

Some Additional Reading

For years we’ve been told to stay away from things like butter and fatty meats because they cause heart disease and high cholesterol. We’ve been pushed by huge advertising campaigns to eat or drink low-fat that, and to “carbo-load” to get us through the day because it was “good for us” and we needed the energy to get through the day.

But over the years it seems that even though these so-called “healthy eating” habits have invaded every aspect of our daily lives, the number of people with heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and many other forms of disease have been increasing exponentially. Why? The answer is simple, it’s not the fats that are killing us, it’s the carbs.

“Coronary Heart Disease remains the number 1 killer in the UK. 160,000 people die from heart and circulatory disease. 73,000 people die from coronary heart disease (CHD). 42,000 people died prematurely from cardiovascular disease (CVD).” – www.heartuk.org.uk.

That’s a very scary 275,000 people dying every year in the UK, from some form of heart disease.

What’s even scarier is that according to heartuk.org.uk approximately 17.3 million people died from some form of cardiovascular disease globally. 

According to studies done by heartuk.org.uk, every year in the UK:

  • Every 7 minutes someone in the UK will have a heart attack.
  • Every 12 minutes someone in the UK will have a stroke. 
  • 1.2 million men and 900,000 women are living with chronic angina.
  • 20,000 new cases of angina and 25,000 new cases of heart failure are diagnosed. 
  • 1 million men and nearly 500,000 women are living with the after effects of a heart attack.
  • 600,000 men and 600,000 women are living with the after effects of a stroke.
  • Over 1.6 million men and over 1 million women are living with CHD.
  • 800,000 people are living with heart failure.

Overall CVD is estimated to cost  the UK economy 19 billion – 46% direct healthcare costs, 34% productivity losses and 20% to informal care of people with CVD.

You don’t need to watch a horror movie for a good scare, just look at these statistics and ask yourself, “am I one of these numbers?”.

In a nutritional study at The Lancet of more than 135,000 people across 18 different countries (the largest observational study ever), researchers found that the people that ate the least saturated fat  (which is about the same amount as currently recommended to heart patients by the way) had the highest rates of heart disease and mortality, but people that consumed the most saturated fat had the lowest rate of strokes.

Analysing more than a dozen studies published by the British Journal of Nutrition, it’s quite clear that patients on low-carb diets had healthier body weights and cardiovascular systems than those on the massively popular low-fat diets.

 

Why do these myths that “carbs are good for you and fats are bad for you” still exist?

 

Well, in 1961 the American Heart Association published its first report recommending that people limit the consumption of animal fats and dietary cholesterol. Even though they cited several studies that showed a link between high-fat diets and heart problems this finding was never put to the test in a clinical trial. Not very scientific, but this narrative became gospel.

What makes this eating “advice” so concerning is the following –

Eventually, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) started conducting clinical trials. However, these trials were deeply flawed. Additionally, when evidence contradicted the dominant medical narrative, researchers effectively buried it. One NIH study, which found little-to-no relationship between saturated fats and various health problems, was conducted between 1968 and 1973 but wasn’t published for another 16 years.” – The Washington Post, July 8, 2018. 

Why all the secrecy?

It makes one ask the question nobody seems to be asking, who is profiting off this “advice”…

 

ALL RECIPES AT A GLANCE:

Keto Cod in Dill Cream
Cod in Dill Cream Sauce
Low Carb Lamb Stew
Ronald's Lamb & Tomato Stew
Mini Rosemary Keto Rolls
Mini Rosemary Keto Rolls
Keto Low carb Turkish Delight Mousse
'Turkish Delight' White Chocolate Mousse
Low carb Chicken Oregano Bake
Low-carb Chicken, Lemon and Oregano Bake
Olive and Sundried Tomato Bread
Olive & Sun-dried Tomato Low-carb Bread
Spring Onion Scramblies
Spring Onion Scramblies
Keto Cabbage Mince Rolls
Low-carb Cabbage and Mince Rolls
Low Carb Sausage and Cabbage Soup
Low-carb Sausage and Cabbage Soup
Smoked Salmon Keto Sandwiches
Mini Salmon Sandwiches
Keto Mini Soda Bread Loaf
Keto Mini Soda Bread Loaf
Keto Mixed Berry Crumble
Mixed Berry Coconut Crumble
Posh Keto Salmon Breakfast
Posh Keto Breakfast
Pork Shank with Keto Mustard Gravy
Pork Shank with Mustard Keto Gravy
Keto Poached Eggs on Spinach
Poached Eggs on Spinach
Keto Prosciutto Muffins
Low-carb Prosciutto 'Muffins'
Keto Breakfast Muffins
Keto Breakfast Muffins
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Fresh Keto Tomato Ketchup
Fresh Tomato Ketchup
90 second Keto Microwave Chia Bread
Quick Keto Chia Bread
Keto Toasted Cheese
Toasted Cheese & Tomato (using Quick Keto Chia Bread)
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