The Keto Diet: What Is It?


Diet fads are nothing new. In an effort to get in shape, people have tried an array of restrictive and inventive menus. But in the age of social media recommendations, one stands out. You’ve probably seen friends or relatives talking about the keto diet. But do you know what it is?

Even if you’re trying to live by the keto code right now, you might not have the whole story. So we’re going to dig in and bring you the skinny on this method of losing weight.

What Is Keto?

First of all, let’s define the word. We are talking about what is technically called a ketogenic diet. We understand if that word isn’t familiar. We’ll provide some more context into the term itself later on, but the crux lies in cutting carbs.

Sure, this has been a popular weight-loss method for generations, from Atkins to South Beach to paleo, but the keto diet takes a new approach — one that is obviously resonating with folks struggling to shed unwanted pounds. Adherents to the plan say this combination of food kick-starts their metabolism. They claim this makes it much easier to lose weight naturally.

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Ketogenic (also referred to as keto) is a term for a low-carb, high-fat diet — so bread and potatoes are out, but cheese, eggs, meat and butter are in. In return for eating a very low-carb diet, the body is put into a metabolic state known as ketosis. During this state, the body produces small fuel molecules (produced in the liver from fat) called ketones. Because the blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply, the ketones are used to fuel the body. In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet allows the body to burn fats, rather than carbohydrates.

Why Is It Growing in Popularity?

The graph above shows the increase in web search popularity for “keto diet” over a span of the last 12 months.

Plenty of fads have come and gone after attracting millions of disciples, but those on the keto diet bandwagon say this one is here to stay. We think the trend is catching on instead of waning for a few key reasons. First, it is based on a theory many folks believe is more natural than other diets. Also, it is easy to follow and understand, which gives it an advantage over more complex systems. Finally, there are the results. Of course, it won’t work for everybody. But those who give it a real chance and show commitment have an impressive success rate.

Who Are the Major Keto Evangelists?

No major diet trend takes off without promotion from high-profile talking heads. Some are medical specialists, others are personal success stories and some are just folks trying to sell a book. In any case, dieting has launched plenty of careers — including more than a few preaching the keto diet. Below are a few of the more notable voices to emerge in recent years.

  1. Jimmy Moore. If you want to know some of the deeper rationale behind this diet, read this health writer’s work. He is a blogger who has teamed up more than once with Dr. Eric C. Westman. Both men offer their perspective on the perceived benefits of committing to this diet. Some of Moore’s claims cite research showing the keto menu could aid in preventing diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. Maria Emmerich. Whether you’re looking to stick to the diet or cleanse yourself into it, she can help. After teaming up with Moore on a previous cookbook, she also put together the keto cleanse system. She makes the argument that sticking to this diet doesn’t have to strip you of meal options. In fact, she compiled a collection of comfort foods you can still enjoy.
  3. Jacob Wilson. As one of the authors of the authoritative “Ketogenic Bible,” he holds a lot of influence in the movement. If you’re looking for a specific answer about the keto diet, he’s probably already written it.

The Pros and Cons of Keto

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We’ve covered many of the stated benefits of following this diet, but even its adherents would probably say it’s not for everybody. The simple truth is that even beyond the weight-loss benefits, it can help treat serious health issues. Medical experts have long used it to treat epilepsy not treated by traditional medicine. And there are benefits linked to reducing fat and treating diabetes.

But such a restrictive diet can take its toll. Perhaps the easiest way to tell is by the dropout rate. You probably know the ones who have managed to stay on keto for a long time, and they love it. But then there are the many others who tried it and fell off the wagon. That’s because even though it is easy to determine what you can have, it is tough to deprive yourself. Over the long term, you might just find that it is easier to follow a more traditional nutrition plan.

Last but not least, some medical professionals are not sold on the concept. Some doctors argue that the real reason new adherents lose weight is because of a diuretic effect. Active ketones might send you to the bathroom more often, they say, but do not lead to long-term weight reduction. In fact, most dietitians recommend a well-balanced diet consisting of carbohydrates in moderation.

Popular Keto Recipes

What is the keto diet: Woman cooking
(Unspash / Kevin McCutcheon)

There are tons of keto options. Once you become comfortable making the best choices, you’ll probably come up with your own meals. But if you’re just getting started, these popular recipes will get you acquainted to the diet. We’ll give you a breakfast, lunch and dinner meal choice to show how well rounded it can be.

  1. Cheese crusted omelette. Any day can get started on the right foot with a proper omelette, and perhaps no breakfast is so perfectly designed for the keto dieter. Fry some cheese on the bottom of your pan. When it starts to bubble, pour in some whisked eggs. After you see that mixture start to firm up, you can throw in mushrooms, spinach or other fillings that fit into the diet. Flip it over and let it cook all the way through, and you have a perfect keto-friendly breakfast!
  2. Tuna salad. Maybe a traditional sandwich is out of the question. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy tuna salad while you’re on the diet. Not only is it delicious, it is incredibly easy. Mix your favorite flavors into the mayonnaise and tuna. We like celery for crunch and a pop of mustard for flavor. Just make sure you’re picking ingredients that fit into the keto lifestyle. We also like to serve it with some fresh romaine lettuce and a side. A boiled egg topped with salt and pepper makes a great finisher.
  3. Asian cabbage stir-fry. You could serve this in a lighter version as a side dish. But we think it makes a particularly hearty — and tasty — dinner with ground meat and other flavors. First, you’ll want to brown the cabbage in plenty of butter on a hot pan. Add some vinegar and your favorite Asian spices. After you add in even more butter, toss in some cabbage and lots of ground meat. Mix the stir fry up and when it’s ready to serve, dip it in some spicy mayo.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
Professional Memberships
Online News Association
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment