Most of us all want to be fit, healthy and slim and will even go to extreme measures to get there—including trying diet after diet. Personally, we don’t like the “d” word. Many of them tend to be very restrictive and set people up for failure in the long run.
A popular diet many people are turning to these days is ‘the ketogenic diet.’ This high-fat, low-carb diet has actually been around for nearly a century. The diet calls for removing all but non-starchy vegetable carbs and substituting them with healthy fats and high-quality protein. It works by breaking down fats instead of carbs for energy, in turn, promoting weight loss.
Of course, with any diet plan there are both pros and cons. Below, I address them as well as foods to eat and avoid for anyone eager to give this diet a try.
The Benefits Of A Ketogenic Diet
The National Institutes of Health conducted a 24-week experiment with the help of 83 obese volunteers. At the end of the study, they made a surprising discovery. They concluded that this diet:
- Significantly reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients
- Suppressed hunger for longer periods
- Decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose
- Helped protect against the development of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, during prolonged intermittent exercise
- Decreased the risk factors for heart disease
- Helped act as a mood stabilizer in bipolar illness
- Served as a potential alternative to other existing therapies for infantile spasms, a very rare form of epilepsy
- Improved changes in the brain that may benefit people suffering from depression and mania
- Increased the availability of beta-hydroxybutyrate, a substance classified as a ketone body,
to help reduce seizures in patients suffering ‘cerebral energy failure’
The Negative Effects Of A Ketogenic Diet
Some people have reported having a hard time adapting to this diet, reporting both long term and short term side effects including:
- Kidney stones
- Raised cholesterol levels
- Excess calcium in the urine
- Menstrual irregularities
Foods To Avoid On A Ketogenic Diet
- Carbohydrate-rich veggies: This includes potatoes, squash, dried beans, carrots as well as cereals grains.
- High-carb fruits: This includes bananas, pears, figs, grapes, apples, mangoes, peaches and pineapples.
- Processed foods: This includes canned food items, pasta meals, snack foods, boxed meals and packaged cakes.
- High-carb beverages: Beers and sodas make the list.
Foods To Eat On A Ketogenic Diet
- Low-carb veggies: This includes broccoli, asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes, leafy greens, radishes and okra.
- Low-carb fruits: This includes strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, lemons and limes.
- Meat: Because meat is packed in protein, this diet allows you to pretty much eat as much meat as you want including: beef, chicken, pork, fish and lamb.
- Fats: This includes avocado oil, olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil and palm shortening to name a few.
- Low-carb beverages: This includes unsweetened almond milk, teas, seltzer water, water and club soda
- Nuts: Nuts are also packed high in healthy fat, allowing you to eat pecans, almonds, peanuts, macadamia, walnuts, pistachios and cashews to name a few.
- Dairy: This includes full-fat yogurt, butter, whipping cream, cottage cheese and regular cheese.
The Basic Concepts Of The Ketogenic Diet
- About 70-75% of calories come from fat
- About 20-25% of calories come from protein
- About 5-10% of calories come from carbohydrate (20-60 grams per day is recommended)
As always, before starting any rigorous exercise program or diet, you should always check with your doctor first—especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.
It’s also important to note, that if you’re trying this ketogenic program for weight loss or any diet for that matter, you have to be realistic. Being healthy is something we should all strive for and be excited about.
With that said, diets aren’t necessarily the answer—certainly not for the long run. At the end of the day, it’s ultimately about making healthy food choices, exercising regularly and not over indulging in “bad foods” like sweets or fast food. That’s the real key to a better you. It’s all about balance—not so much living the rest of your life trying one diet after another.