For women, the keto diet can be a godsend for supporting healthy weight loss and reducing blood sugar swings throughout the day. But are there are many more benefits of keto for women, particularly with regards to female health and wellness? We’ll answer that question and more throughout this article.

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Before moving on, remember that the keto diet is not something that women should follow as a “quick fix”. Keto for women is a lifestyle change and it won’t produce results overnight. As such, the keto diet benefits for women are more pronounced over time.

Find out If The Keto Diet Is Right For You.

Also, I want to preface the rest of this article by reminding you that keto it is not a magic solution to all of humanity’s health problems. While there are indubitable benefits of the keto diet and reducing sugar intake, don’t look at it as a panacea. Your health is multivariate, and other lifestyle factors aside from diet play a role in your well-being.

For example, if you are a heavy smoker or avoid exercise like it’s the plague, those are things that you might want to work on in conjunction with a proper diet. In other words, keto can certainly help women, but it won’t solve everything on its own.

Now, let’s dive into the top health benefits of keto for women and walk you through the keys to carbless-life success!

Top Health Benefits of Keto for Women

The main benefits of keto for women are support for weight loss and healthy hormone balance, both of which are imperative to longevity and wellness. There isn’t much gender-specific research on the keto diet at this time, but we can extrapolate and infer quite a bit from the extant literature.

Keto can help women lose weight

Arguably the most desirable benefit of keto for women is weight loss. Females tend to hold a good amount of adipose tissue around the midsection and hips, which is often called “stubborn” body fat.

While you can’t necessarily “target” a specific section of your body fat, keto can help your body become better at utilizing fat for energy and stabilize insulin levels, both of which are beneficial for fat loss.[1]

By cutting out carbs, your body switches from burning sugar (glucose) for fuel to burning fat, from food and your body, for energy. Also, the increase in fat intake on the keto diet is generally beneficial for females looking to lose weight since healthy fat sources, like nuts, coconut, and avocado tend to be highly satiating (which makes it easier to eat fewer calories throughout the day).

Sugar, on the contrary, is not very filling and tends to encourage people to overeat; obviously, that’s not so great for weight loss.

Always remember though, even if you follow the keto diet, you need to be burning more calories than you consume in order to lose weight/body fat. This is a principle that applies to all of us, regardless of your gender, and there’s plenty of research supporting the importance of energy balance for weight loss.[2]

Keto can help treat symptoms of menopause

Recent research suggests that upwards of 50 million women in the United States are affected by menopausal symptoms and that an estimated 1.2 billion women worldwide will be in menopause or postmenopause by the year 2030.[3] Symptoms of menopause generally include:

  • Insomnia
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood disorders
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Vaginal dryness

If you had a peek at our article discussing the role of keto for managing menopause symptoms, then you may already know that cutting carbs may alleviate certain female-specific metabolic complications.

In modern medical settings, symptoms of menopause are usually treated through hormone therapy (generally estrogen). Unfortunately, hormone therapy can present side effects/complications of its own and is not suitable for all women.

The keto diet may present a non-hormonal therapy for managing menopause by encouraging healthy hormonal balance (naturally), thereby stabilizing energy levels, encouraging healthy appetite, supporting libido, and reducing inflammation throughout the body.[4]

When you eat a diet rich in healthy fats and low in sugar/starchy carbs, you help reduce erratic swings in blood sugar and insulin, which in turn promotes proper cortisol balance.[5] (Cortisol imbalance is one of the main culprits of mood swings and weight gain.)

Moreover, eating a high amount of healthy fats will help your body absorb and utilize vitamin D – a key precursor to sex hormones. Be sure you consume plentiful amounts of fibrous, micronutrient-rich veggies as well since they provide polyphenols and antioxidants which help reduce inflammation and promote alkalinity throughout the body.

(Learn more about the best veggies for keto, here)

Keto can reduce food cravings, mood swings, and fatigue during your period

In similar fashion to the keto diet managing symptoms of menopause, cutting carbs and eating more healthy fats can effectively attenuate food cravings, mood swings, and fatigue you may experience during your period.

Since the basis of menopause and menstruation is hormonal and biochemical changes, your diet plays a major role in managing symptoms of them.

Keto for PMS

On the first day of your cycle/period, both estrogen and progesterone are low. As you progress through the first week, your ovaries start to produce more estrogen; this signals your body to slow down and stop your period.

Now your body transitions into the follicular phase, as estrogen tells the ovaries to mature a follicle (which will become an egg). Estrogen levels continue to increase for about two more weeks at which point the ovulation occurs.

Once you enter the luteal phase (second half of your cycle), estrogen and progesterone reach their peak after 10 days or so. This is when the majority of females experience symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). After the peak, both estrogen and progesterone fall, triggering your period to begin. This marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next one.

Symptoms of PMS can be so debilitating that females have to take time off of work or miss school. Naturally, changing dietary habits may help reduce these symptoms by altering chemical imbalances and supporting healthy estrogen and progesterone levels.

For example, fluctuations in serotonin levels are thought to play a role in erratic mood states during PMS.[6] Your body produces serotonin from the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is predominantly found in turkey, red meat, eggs, fish, tofu, almonds, and various seeds. Coincidentally, those are all foods that are keto-friendly and great sources of healthy fat as well.

Moreover, since keto is generally a great diet for controlling appetite, it can help manage those intense sugar/food cravings you might experience from PMS. Supplementing with exogenous ketones is also a prudent option if you need something low in calories to help take the edge off your appetite.

Keto can help reduce bloating

Females are especially prone to water retention and bloating during the luteal phase as estrogen and progesterone levels reach their peak. It’s important to note that bloating and other physical symptoms (such as breast tenderness) are completely natural during this time.

Many females feel like there is something “wrong” when they experience bloating and water retention during their cycle, but the reality is that this is telling them their body is working as it should.

Nevertheless, you can reduce the severity of bloating you experience by reducing sugar/carb intake, as glucose and glycogen are water-attracting molecules. Fat, on the contrary, is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water.

(Try mixing olive oil with water and you’ll notice that the two stay completely separate in the solution.)

As such, the keto diet tends to reduce water retention and bloating.

Be careful though, as your body absolutely needs water and electrolytes for healthy function. It’s not recommended to use things like prescription diuretics or restrict your fluid intake just because you’re feeling bloated.

Keto can help you think more clearly throughout the day

Many people make the switch to keto for brain-boosting benefits of healthy fats and ketones. The keto diet can enhance mental acuity and clarity throughout the day by encouraging healthy neuronal integrity and increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).[7]

Furthermore, keto may help reduce inflammatory processes in the brain and even lower the risk of cognitive dysfunction.[8]

In contrast to diets that are high in sugar (which can be neurotoxic), the keto diet appears to slow neurodegenerative processes in the brain.

In other words: ketones and certain healthy fats (like MCTs) are nootropics with neuroprotective properties. This is why many people choose to supplement with exogenous ketones and/or MCTs throughout the day when they feel that mid-afternoon slump coming on.

Keto for Women: 6 Tips for Success

Not to sound grandiloquent, but the benefits of keto for women can certainly be life-changing. If you’re a female thinking of making the switch to the keto diet, then we want to get you started on the right foot (and help you stay the course)!

The first step to success on keto for women is to calculate your specific macronutrient and energy needs for healthy weight loss. Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to do this, we have a handy Keto Macronutrient Calculator that takes care of all the busy work for you.

In addition, here are six tips for success pertaining specifically to keto for females:

1. Don’t Be too Restrictive with Your Calorie Intake

If you’re a female and your main goal is to lose weight, intuition might tell you to cut calories as aggressively as possible. Sounds like the best way to drop those unwanted pounds fast, right?

In reality, many women are way too restrictive with their calorie (food) intake, thanks in large part to what they read about “celebrity weight loss diets” on social media and in periodicals.

Word of advice: Don’t believe everything you read about celebrities and what they ate to get “super ripped” for a movie role. Those diets are often extreme (to a fault) and not sustainable.

If you start the keto diet and drastically cut calorie intake, you will actually do more harm than good. In fact, research shows that being too restrictive with food intake is one of the main culprits of people giving up on a weight loss diet.[9]

While you do need to control your calorie balance to lose weight, this doesn’t mean you should feel like you’re starving. I know you’re antsy to get your summer body back before it’s time to hit the beach, but you can only lose so much weight (healthily) in a certain timespan.

If you want to lose 10 lbs total, start by trying to lose 1-2 lbs the first week. Each time you reach your weekly goal, you get closer to your end goal. Trust the process and stay the course; the results will come with time and consistency.

The good news is that females on keto tend to have a better time keeping their appetite under control since healthy fats and lean protein sources tend to be more satiating than starch and simple sugars.

2. Eat a Little Extra Fat for the First 1-2 Weeks (Especially DHA and EPA)

In the first few weeks of keto, eating some extra fat will only help for several reasons. First, fat is highly satiating and will reduce cravings that may arise while your body enters ketosis.

Second, fat is essential for a myriad of physiological processes in the body (including the source of fuel that helps your liver produce ketones).

Third, the omega-3s -EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – are essential fatty acids that many females tend to lack. Freshwater fish, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, are the richest sources of EPA and DHA.

Unfortunately, eating large amounts of fish is a growing health concern due to noxious heavy metals and environmental toxins that tend to accumulate in marine ecosystems.

For simplicity and practicality, you might want to opt for an omega-3 supplement to help meet their daily EPA and DHA requirements. DHA, in particular, is of crucial importance for pregnant women as it is necessary for prenatal support and encouraging healthy nervous system development in newborns.[10]

Research suggests that females should aim for roughly 1000 mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA per day (pregnant women might 750-1000 mg DHA per day).[11]

3. Avoid Empty-Calorie Foods

A big no-no when it comes to any diet is eating too many empty-calorie foods. The term “empty-calorie food” is more or less a way of saying that the food provides energy with little nutritive substance (i.e. it lacks vitamins, minerals, essential fats, etc.).

Some examples of empty-calorie foods are things like refined flour, vegetable oil (corn, canola, soybean, etc.), table sugar, simple syrup, and many other processed foods. Naturally, most empty-calorie foods are not the types of things you would eat on the keto diet anyway.

If you follow our Guide to the Best Keto Foods, you won’t have to worry about empty-calorie foods sneaking their way into your diet. In the event you have a “cheat meal” (or cheat day), it’s still wise to limit your intake of empty-calorie foods as they tend to be less satiating, which in turn means you’re more likely to drastically overeat.

On that note, we are all human and occasionally fall off the diet wagon. Don’t stress when that happens! If you slip up and overindulge, you can still quickly get back into ketosis with some simple tricks: If I Cheat on My Keto Diet, How Long Will it Take to Get Back into Ketosis?

4. Don’t Do Intermittent Fasting and Keto Simultaneously

Make no mistake that intermittent fasting (IF) is a useful strategy for female weight loss, mainly because women tend to require less energy than men. However, if you’re a female that’s new to keto, it’s best to forgo the IF regimen for at least the first few months.

Why not do both, you ask?

For the majority of females, switching from a carb-based diet to the keto diet and also fasting is far too extreme of a lifestyle change. The result is that the symptoms of the keto flu are exacerbated and you’ll be more likely to dread the whole ordeal. Remember, keto for women is not just a short-term fix or fad diet; this is a long-term lifestyle solution.

Sure, you might drop a significant amount of weight in the first week or two of doing keto and IF, but what’s the point if you feel miserable mentally and physically?

Now, if you give your body time to become “fat-adapted” on keto, then you could certainly try IF down the road once you are used to being in ketosis. It behooves you to not rush the process, though. Start with just the keto diet, give it some time, then reconsider if you want to also do IF.

5. Don’t Skimp on Protein

Many females that start the keto diet grossly underestimate how much protein they should eat. There seems to be a common misconception that if you eat a high amount of protein you will get “bulky” like gym bros and bodybuilders alike. Let me assure you that eating ample amounts of protein on keto won’t in and of itself transform you into a muscle-bound freak.

In fact, eating adequate protein is imperative for supporting weight loss (regardless if you’re male or female), and also helps increase the thermic effect of food.[12] Moreover, protein is an essential macronutrient for many physiological processes, especially for peptide hormone production and helping maintain/build connective tissue, muscle tissue, nervous tissue, and epithelial tissues.

Current evidence suggests that adults should aim for around 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, daily.[13] However, on the keto diet, you’ll want to eat a tad more protein since you won’t be eating many carbs.

For most women on keto, 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight (per day) will be plenty. For example, if you weigh 120 lbs, you would want to shoot for about 120-140 grams of protein per day.

(You can use our Keto Macro Calculator to determine your protein needs as well.)

6. Bone Vs. Vegetable Broth: Which Is Best?

Bone broth seems to be all the craze these days, especially among the keto community.

But what exactly is bone broth? Why is it becoming a dietary staple for so many health enthusiasts?

Bone broth is made by boiling the bones and connective tissues of animals (especially chicken and bovine sources) in water and allowing the nutrients from those tissues to be leached into a solution. The nutrients in bone broth include collagen, amino acids, bone marrow, and key minerals (particularly calcium and phosphorus).

Proponents of bone broth claim that helps boost the immune system, aid digestive function, reduce inflammation and even treat ailments such as ADHD.

Curiously, though, there is virtually no research suggesting that bone broth is beneficial in the capacity that health “experts” claim that is. In fact, drinking a large amount of bone broth is one way to ingest excessive amounts of heavy metals, like lead and cadmium.[14]

Another thing to consider is that the collagen you consume from any food source is not absorbed whole; the body hydrolyzes (breaks down) collagen peptides into its constituent amino acids, and collagen is actually not a very great source of essential amino acids.[15]

On the flipside, vegetable broth is a great way to stay keto-friendly while getting all the vital minerals and other phytonutrients that vegetables have to offer (without ingesting large amounts of heavy metals found in bones).

Keto Vegetable Broth Recipe

For keto, try this healthy low-carb vegetable “bone” broth recipe! You’ll be able to prep this in about 15 minutes and it only takes 90 minutes to finish cooking. The final broth is a micronutrient powerhouse with just about 5 grams of net carbs per cup!

Further Resources for Getting Started on Keto for Women

The first step to success on keto for women is to calculate your specific macronutrient and energy needs for healthy weight loss. Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to do this, we have a handy Keto Macronutrient Calculator that takes care of all the busy work for you.

References

[1] Volek, J. S., Sharman, M. J., Gómez, A. L., Judelson, D. A., Rubin, M. R., Watson, G., … & Kraemer, W. J. (2004). Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and womenNutrition & metabolism1(1), 13.
[2] Jéquier, E. (2002). Leptin signaling, adiposity, and energy balanceAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences967(1), 379-388.
[3] Sussman, M., Trocio, J., Best, C., Mirkin, S., Bushmakin, A. G., Yood, R., … & Louie, M. (2015). Prevalence of menopausal symptoms among mid-life women: findings from electronic medical recordsBMC women’s health15(1), 58.
[4] Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J. S., & Grimaldi, K. A. (2013). Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) dietsEuropean journal of clinical nutrition67(8), 789.
[5] Würzburger, M. I., Prelevic, G. M., Sönksen, P. H., Peric, L. A., Till, S., & Morris, R. W. (1990). The effects of improved blood glucose on growth hormone and cortisol secretion in insulin‐dependent diabetes mellitusClinical endocrinology32(6), 787-797.
[6] Rapkin, A. J. (1992). The role of serotonin in premenstrual syndromeClinical obstetrics and gynecology35(3), 629-636.
[7] Sleiman, S. F., Henry, J., Al-Haddad, R., El Hayek, L., Haidar, E. A., Stringer, T., … & Ninan, I. (2016). Exercise promotes the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrateElife5, e15092.
[8] Yonkers, K. A., O’Brien, P. S., & Eriksson, E. (2008). Premenstrual syndromeThe Lancet371(9619), 1200-1210.
[9] Smith, C. F., Williamson, D. A., Bray, G. A., & Ryan, D. H. (1999). Flexible vs. rigid dieting strategies: Relationship with adverse behavioral outcomesAppetite32(3), 295-305.
[10] Guesnet, P., & Alessandri, J. M. (2011). Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and the developing central nervous system (CNS)–implications for dietary recommendationsBiochimie93(1), 7-12.
[11] Carlson, S. E., Colombo, J., Gajewski, B. J., Gustafson, K. M., Mundy, D., Yeast, J., … & Shaddy, D. J. (2013). DHA supplementation and pregnancy outcomes–. The American journal of clinical nutrition97(4), 808-815.
[12] Belko, A. Z., Barbieri, T. F., & Wong, E. C. (1986). Effect of energy and protein intake and exercise intensity on the thermic effect of foodThe American journal of clinical nutrition43(6), 863-869.
[13] Layman, D. K. (2009). Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needsNutrition & metabolism6(1), 12.
[14] Monro JA, Leon R, Puri BK. (2013). The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets. Med Hypotheses, 80(4):389-90.
[15] Eastoe, J. E. (1955). The amino acid composition of mammalian collagen and gelatinBiochemical Journal61(4), 589.

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Elliot received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and has been a freelance writer specializing in nutritional and health sciences for the past 5 years. He is thoroughly passionate about exercise, nutrition, and dietary supplementation, especially how they play a role in human health, longevity, and performance. In his free time you can most likely find him lifting weights at the gym or out hiking through the mountains of Colorado. He will also host the upcoming BioKeto podcast. You can connect with him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/elliot.reimers) and Instagram (@eazy_ell)

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