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Keto for Weight Loss: When a Calorie Isn’t Just A Calorie

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  Published on March 28th, 2020
  Reading time: 3 minutes
  Last modified January 19th, 2023
food quality is important when using keto for weight loss

When the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) diet exploded in popularity, it brought with it the idea that you could eat anything so long as you met your daily macronutrient intake. For a lot of people, this meant indulging in fried chicken to meet protein and fat needs and eating Pop-Tarts for reaching that carbohydrate goal.

A diet of junk food and the claim that you can still reach your fitness goals is based on the cliché that a calorie is just a calorie. Recent studies are showing that is not the case. Let’s take a look at what the science says about the importance of the quality of the food you eat, and how the keto diet stacks up for weight loss.

Food Quality Matters for Weight Loss

For many years, the dominant idea was that so long as you burn more calories than you consumed, you could eat whatever you wanted. However, one study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that food quality – not the number of calories – was the most important factor in determining long-term weight loss success. [1]

What determines a high-quality food compared to a low-quality food, and how you can you tell the difference?

High Quality vs. Low-Quality Foods

The Healthy Eating Plate that is provided by the Harvard School of Public Health states that high-quality food is unrefined and minimally processed. This usually includes foods that natural and organic such as the following:

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Healthy and natural sources of fat such as coconut oil
  • Healthy sources of protein such as a chicken breast

On the other side of the spectrum, we have low-quality foods, and this is going to include the following:

  • Highly processed such as snack foods
  • Sugar-sweetened such as sweet beverages (e.g., iced tea)
  • Refined grains such as white bread
  • Refined sugars such as what you’d find in candy
  • Trans fats (usually found in processed snack foods)
  • Foods that spike your blood sugar or high-glycemic foods (e.g., white potatoes, soda, etc.)

Quality of a Keto Diet for Weight Loss

When followed responsibly, the ketogenic diet is focused on high-quality foods, and it has been shown to be extremely effective for weight loss. There are two primary reasons for this: 

Once you enter a state of ketosis, your body taps into stored fat as a fuel source, not glucose (carbohydrates). This has been shown to accelerate fat burning. One study found that subjects using a keto diet for 24 weeks had a dramatically reduced body weight, body mass index, level of triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and blood glucose. [2]

Also, the ketogenic diet regulates your hunger hormones more efficiently. Studies show that ghrelin, the hormone that triggers hunger, stays in normal ranges and does not increase while leptin, the satiety hormone, stays elevated. In other words, you’ll always feel satisfied on a keto diet. [3]

Ready to Use the Keto Diet for Weight Loss?

Check out our beginner-friendly keto diet system – the OK32 system – that breaks down everything you need to know for weight loss success. 

David James Sautter is a fitness writer with over a decade of experience in the industry. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Secondary Education, he earned certifications as a NASM-certified personal trainer, NASM-certified fitness nutrition specialist, and ACE-certified sports conditioning specialist. Merging his two passions, he has been the driving creative force behind articles, e-books, and training guides that cover a range of health and fitness topics with an emphasis on the ketogenic diet.



Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med. 2011 Jun 23;364(25):2392-404. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1014296.


Dashti HM, Mathew TC, Hussein T, et al. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2004;9(3):200–205.


Sumithran P, Prendergast LA, Delbridge E, Purcell K, Shulkes A, Kriketos A, Proietto J. Ketosis and appetite-mediating nutrients and hormones after weight loss. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jul;67(7):759-64. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.90. Epub 2013 May 1.

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