What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, was originally a diet for the treatment of epilepsy. It has gained some attention as a weight loss diet, used by body builders to shed extra fat and people looking for alternative ways to lose weight. Like other low carb and no carb diets it is questionable if the ketogenic diet is a safe and healthy weight loss method.
This diet works by manipulating the way the body burns fat. By first not eating for one day and then consuming mostly high-fat foods for a ketogenic diet the normal cycle of metabolism changes, mimicking starvation. By depriving the body of carbohydrates, and therefore glucose, it goes into a state known as ketosis. Fat, or more specifically ketones, must be regularly burned as a source of energy. How exactly this prevents seizures is unclear, although it has been a successful treatment option for some epilepsy patients.
Ketogenic diet foods are divided into foods with that are unrestricted and fatty foods. Unrestricted foods are mostly vegetables with a small amount of carbohydrates. Fatty foods include meat, dairy, and fish. It is important to limit your daily carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams to remain in ketosis.
Unrestricted foods include:
- Carrots: 12 grams of carbohydrates for one cup of raw carrots
- Broccoli: 6 grams for one cup raw
- Spinach: 7 grams for one cup cooked
- Mushrooms: 2 grams for one cup of sliced white mushrooms
- Cauliflower: 1 gram for 1 ounce raw
Fatty foods include:
- Hamburger: 0 carbohydrates
- Steak: 0 carbohydrates
- Eggs: 0 carbohydrates
- Salmon: 0 carbohydrates
- Tuna: 0 carbohydrates
- Bacon: 0 carbohydrates
- Chicken: 0 carbohydrates
- Nuts: 6 grams of carbohydrates for 1 ounce almonds
- Olive oil: 0 carbohydrates
- Butter: 0 carbohydrates
- Cheddar cheese: 2 carbohydrates for 1 cup
Is the Keto Diet Safe?
There are potential health concerns from eating foods for the ketogenic diet as opposed to eating a balanced diet. First of all there is the likeliness of nutritional deficiencies. It is important to take a nutritional supplement while on the keto diet and to eat some vegetables to ensure some fiber is included in the diet. A diet lacking in valuable nutrients and antioxidants from fruits and whole grains may promote weight loss, but it may also be a foundational cause of health problems, especially if used over a long period of time.
Another concern is undue strain on the body, especially the liver and kidneys. It takes a lot of effort for the body to break down the rich foods that are the bulk of the keto diet, especially without the help of enzymes from a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables. Side effects include fatigue, dehydration, constipation, pancreatitis, and the risk of kidney stones and gall stones.
If choosing to eat foods for a ketogenic diet to lose weight instead of a balanced diet, be sure to consult your health care practitioner first.
Epilepsy Foundation https://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/about/treatment/ketogenicdiet/
“Ketogenic Foods.” https://www.keto.org/foods.htm
Nutrition Data https://www.nutritiondata.com/
“The Ketogenic Diet.” (UMDN) https://www.theuniversityhospital.com/epilepsy/html/epilepsyandkids/pedsketogenicdiet.htm
photo by: The Bittenword (CC/flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/galant/2589279995/