The ketogenic diet has received a fair amount of attention over the years. It has become recognized as a viable and fad-free alternative to other carbohydrate-restricted diets, such as the Atkin’s diet. However, part of its recognition are a result of the extreme conditions of the ketogenic diet – of course, these extreme conditions also translate to extreme results!
Before getting into the specifics, let’s look at exactly what the ketogenic diet is and does.
The ketogenic diet is a diet built around getting the body to enter into ketosis. This process results in ketone bodies being found in large amounts within the body. This results in an increase in fat metabolism efficiency. It also triggers diabetes mellitus, which is a metabolic disease that exists when blood sugar levels are kept high for an extended period of time.
The History of the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet entered the mainstream world as a solution for epilepsy. While fasting was viewed as an effective way to eliminate the problems associated with epilepsy, it was obviously unideal. The ketogenic diet allows epileptics to solve their problems without having to actually starve themselves.
Basically, the ketogenic diet achieves the same effects as fasting in the sense that the body enters into ketosis and is operating in starvation mode. This means nutrients can still be taken in through food and one can feel full without interfering with epileptic therapy.
It was only in 1994 when the diet really recaptured its original attention and really took off in today’s mainstream diet industry. It remained as a viable solution for epileptics. It gained a lot of traction in scientific studies after being a prominent part of First Do No Harm, a movie starring Meryl Streep.
What Foods You Can Eat on the Ketogenic Diet
Basically, you want to take in foods that contain no carbs at all. However, trace carb content can be justified if necessary.
Here is a look at what we may want to consume while on the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet. Therefore, there will be a significant focus on taking in foods that are rich in fat. Preferably, foods that are rich in fat and full of protein. However, the two can be separate as well.
From a primarily fat standpoint, some good foods to include in the ketogenic diet include avocado, peanut butter, macadamia nuts, and carb-free mayonnaise. Oils also serve as a quality fat source, so you may want to include coconut oil or olive oil in your diet. Lastly, butter and chicken fat are both good sources of fat during the ketogenic diet.
Protein rich foods often do not contain many carbs. Protein is also an essential nutrient for our bodies. Not only does it have many important health functions, but it also assists us with getting the best composition of fat loss possible. As in, we won’t be losing a bunch of muscle during our weight loss journey.
High protein foods aren’t hard to find. Some examples include canned tuna, chicken breasts, fresh salmon, and eggs. As we are not concerned about the fat intake, we can eat the whole egg instead of just the egg whites. We can also take in protein through fattier meats and meat cuts, such as steak, bacon, and sausages.
As with any diet, vegetables have their place in the ketogenic diet. Ideally, you will want to stick to vegetables that aren’t grown in-ground, so no potatoes, for example. You should also favor leafy green vegetables. Some good examples of vegetables to have during the ketogenic diet include asparagus, avocado, carrots, celery, and cucumber.
Dairy products are perfectly acceptable while on the ketogenic diet. However, we must be careful as we do not want to accidentally take in carbs through dairy. Some quality dairy products to consume while on the ketogenic diet include cheese, milk, and sour cream. Just make sure to read the label and see how many carbs the product contains. Ideally, we will keep it under 1 gram of carbs per serving, but upwards of 2 grams of carbs is acceptable.
Nuts and Seeds
While some nuts and seeds are rich in carbs, there are quite a few that aren’t too carb dense. The little bit of carbs that come from nuts and seeds are from dietary fibers anyway. Some of the healthier nuts to take in during the ketogenic diet include brazil, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut, pecan, pine, walnut, and pistachio nuts. For seeds, chia, flax, and pumpkin seeds are all great options.
As with any diet, the healthiest thing we can drink is water. We can also get hydration through coffee, tea, and resort to calorie and sugar free water flavoring products if absolutely necessary. If we need to sweeten our beverage, an artificial sweetener like Stevia or sucralose is recommended – aspartame, for example, is very carb heavy.
What Foods You Can’t Eat on the Ketogenic Diet
The above should give you an idea on the foods that are recommended for consumption while on the ketogenic diet. This should also give you a little insight on the foods that should be avoided.
Based on the principles of the ketogenic diet, the most obvious thing that must be avoided is any foods that are rich in carbs. There could be a list just as detailed as the one provided in the last section of this article, but it’s pointless.
Because all you have to do is look at the label and see if the food contains carbs to know if it should be avoided!
The general rule of thumb is to keep carb intake to below 30 grams a day. Many go a step further and just allow carb intake through trace carbs, or via leafy green vegetables and other fiber rich foods.
Some things that must be avoided, but that often go under the radar, include diet soda, processed and packaged foods, fruits, grains, and vegetables grown in-ground.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of the Diet
The ketogenic diet entered the mainstream as an innovative approach to remedying epilepsy, but the truth is that it kept its popularity because of the weight loss benefits it offers. The same goes for the modified alternative, the Atkin’s diet, which may help for treating medical conditions, but really gets appreciation for its weight loss benefits.
That’s exactly what makes the ketogenic diet so beneficial. It defies the bro-science for fat loss. Some people have managed to lose more than a pound a day, even without a caloric deficit. It all comes down to what the ketogenic diet does within the body. Since the body is operating different than it normally would with such a heavy amount of food consumption, it also responds different. In this case, it responds in a way that still allows for fat loss.
At the same time, the diet requires the individual to take in practically no carbs. This is fine in the short term, but the body needs a sufficient amount of all three macronutrients. Therefore, it’s not an ideal diet to follow in the long run, but it is acceptable as a quick way to lose weight for a few months. Adding in a carb load up phase periodically will help stretch out how long the diet can go for.
Realistically, the only major concern is the amount of foods that are taken in, which may have negative effects on the heart. Taking in excessive amounts of fatty meats, for example, is definitely not good for your health. This can be fixed by adding some versatility into your meal plan.
Further, it can be a bit discouraging to be on a diet that prevents you from cheating at all. Deviating from the plan can easily take the body out of ketosis and cause a weight gain rebound, which severely sets back your progress. On the other hand, this could be used as fuel to keep you motivated, too!
Should you try the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a much underrated approach to fat loss. Many try other diet programs, but never get any results. This is the one diet plan that, when actually tried, pretty much guarantees you quality results. If you follow the ketogenic diet as you are supposed to, the body will have no choice but to lose weight.
At the same time, the ketogenic diet is usually better for someone who has a substantial amount of weight to lose. Otherwise, a slight caloric deficit would be sufficient, versus putting the body into ketosis to trigger fat loss. With that being said, the ketogenic diet is definitely effective, but you have to make sure it is the right approach, given your current life circumstances and goals.