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Is Keto Actually Healthy? What Science Says

Overhead shot of chef preparing ribeye with butter, thyme and garlic. Keto diet.

Is Keto Actually Healthy? What Science Says

There have been many diets over the years that claim to be the “healthiest.” The keto diet is generally considered a good diet option. But is keto actually healthy? Here’s what science says. When it's practiced correctly, the keto diet enables your body to convert fat into fuel. Fat as opposed to the usual suspects…carbohydrates! This state of metabolism is known as “ketosis.” To achieve it you’ll need to reduce your carbohydrate intake and increase your protein, and healthy fat intake. Studies have shown keto to be an effective method for long-term weight loss. It can also lower your risk for certain diseases, and decrease your blood pressure (via Healthline).

In this post, we’ll aim to answer the question “Is keto actually healthy?” Read on to learn the history of the keto diet, as well as what goes into successfully and healthily practicing this diet. We’ll talk about what foods you can and cannot consume while practicing keto, and get a bit more into the science behind this high-protein diet. Stick around as we get into the healthy details and possible downsides to the keto diet. Happy reading! 

What Is the Keto Diet

We'll start off with a simple question, “what is the keto diet?” The keto (ketogenic) diet is a high-protein diet that kickstarts your body into a state of ketogenic metabolism. By consuming more protein and higher fat content, instead of carbohydrates, your body begins to break down the healthy fat into fuel. Healthline recommends cutting out certain aspects of your diet and using intermittent fasting to get your body into ketosis faster once you've started the keto diet. Studies have shown this diet to be just as or even more effective than a low-carb diet for weight loss. Because it is also quite filling it doesn't require the same calorie counting as other diets. The health benefits of the keto diet, outside of weight loss are worth noting as well.

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History of the Keto Diet

The keto diet was actually originally used for treating epilepsy. It is still utilized for treating epilepsy, but it has also evolved as a general dieting technique due to its health benefits. Ketogenic dieting was considered a form of fasting and utilized in the early 1900s to reduce the symptoms of epileptic seizures. The term “keto diet” wasn't coined until 1921. A John Hopkins Medical man named Dr. Russel Wilder derived the name from the breakdown process of fat in the body and the achieved metabolic state of ketosis (via Johns Hopkins Medical). In terms of how this diet could possibly treat epilepsy, it's very much linked to how the body converts energy. In the simplest terms, lowering sugar intake and encouraging the body to use healthy fats for fuel can reduce the tendency for the brain to generate seizures (via Cleveland Clinic).

encephalography brain paper cutout with purple ribbon, autism, Epilepsy awareness, seizure disorder, mental health concept
The keto (ketogenic) diet was originally developed to treat epilepsy.


Over the years, the keto diet evolved beyond just the medical sphere. By the 1990s, as other dieting fads took off, so did this version of fasting with a high-protein intake. What drew people to this particular diet was its weight loss abilities without losing a body's energy source. Your body naturally begins to convert fat into fuel when it runs out of glucose that's converted from carbohydrates. So, when your body is trained to use this second energy source as its primary energy source, it will burn fat at a higher rate and the result is less hunger and definite weight loss (via Med Star Health).

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

We've talked about the keto diet in terms of its benefits, but how does it actually work scientifically? When your body enters ketosis, it successfully breaks down healthy fat into fuel instead of sugars. This breakdown process results in the production of ketones which provide energy to your brain and body. When you're actively on a keto diet your ketone production will increase and burn more fat. You should always consult with a doctor before starting on the keto diet if you have any concerns. It's quite a restrictive diet and can result in some big chemical changes in your body, so it's worth really understanding before you embark upon keto.

Is The Keto Diet Healthy?

When practiced in a conscientious and healthy way, the keto diet is a good dieting option, and there are a few ways to go about using it. The “standard ketogenic diet” involves a diet of 70% healthy fat foods, 20% protein-rich foods, and only 10% carbohydrates. Next, there's the “cyclical ketogenic diet” which involves five keto-specific days, followed by two days of carbo-loading. The “targeted ketogenic diet” allows for added carbohydrate intake around workouts, to make up for burning energy. And lastly, the “high-protein ketogenic diet” has a higher protein consumption at 60% healthy fat foods, 35% high-protein foods, and 5% carbohydrate intake. So, there are some ways to customize this diet better for your lifestyle needs. As with all kinds of diets, it's super important to always listen to your body as you're incorporating new dieting techniques into a lifestyle change.

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Medical benefits aside, we've talked about a few of the health benefits that led to keto's evolution into more mainstream dieting. These health benefits include lowered blood pressure, a decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and resulting long-term weight loss. It has also been linked to the decrease of symptoms for disorders including Parkinson's disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, and traumatic brain injuries.

What Can You Eat On the Keto Diet?

Now that you know how the keto diet works, and what some variations on it are, let's talk about what you can and cannot eat while doing keto. On the blacklist: look out for carbohydrate-rich vegetables (carrots) which will imbalance your body's ability to enter ketosis. Processed oils, starch-rich foods, and most wheat-based foods are also on the blacklist for this diet. These categories include cereals, pasta, candy, baked goods, and processed condiments.

healthy eating and diet concept - natural rich in protein food on table
Keto-friendly foods include healthy fat, balanced carbohydrate, and high-protein options.

©Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

The following foods are keto-friendly. Look for items with healthy fat and high-protein content. Vegetables with a good carbohydrate balance include asparagus, avocado, squash, mushrooms, okra, and more. Berries that are high in fiber, and pumpkin seeds or certain nuts can also be eaten on keto. Moving onto proteins, you can enjoy red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, protein-rich cheeses, greek yogurt, and tofu. Don't overfill on protein because that can trigger your body to start creating glucose again. Best to follow a diet plan until you get used to how much protein you'll actually need while on keto. And finally, for the fat content, try high-fat cheeses (brie, feta, halloumi, mozzarella, and more). Heavy cream, grass-fed butter, healthy-fat vegetables, and high-fat cuts of meat are also great.

Keto-Diet Friendly Recipes

Check out some of these meal plan ideas. A few of these come directly from healthcare institutions and they can guide you in the safe practices for starting out your keto journey. Having a plan and some recipes in mind will help you develop your own relationship and routine with a ketogenic diet:

Also, check out these keto-diet-friendly recipes that can be used for an array of meals, including holidays.

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Homemade Thanksgiving Stuffing Made with Bread and Herbs

Keto-Friendly Sausage and Sage Stuffing

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  • Author: MomsWhoThink.com


Units Scale
  • 1 pound ground sausage (pork or turkey)
  • 2 cups almond flour or almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large skillet, brown the sausage, breaking it into crumbles as it cooks. Remove and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, melt the butter and sauté the celery, onion, garlic, and sage until softened.
  3. Stir in the almond flour and gradually add the chicken broth, mixing until it reaches a stuffing-like consistency.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, then fold in the cooked sausage.
  5. Serve as a keto stuffing alternative.
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