Ketogenic Diets Q & A
by Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, very low-carb diet that has been used in children with epilepsy to help control seizures. Recently, it has become a trendy weight loss diet.
How does it work?
Eating a high fat/low carb diet puts the body in a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic adaptation that has allowed humans to survive on ketones as fuel instead of its regular glucose. Ketones are the result of fat breaking down and can provide energy for the brain when glucose is scarce. Being in a state of ketosis also diminishes cravings and hunger sensations, so it could lead to an overall reduction in food intake.
What foods are allowed on the ketogenic diet?
– Fats and Oils – Butter, Lard, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, etc
– Meat and Poultry
– Full fat dairy
– Nuts and Seeds
– Certain non-starchy vegetables
– Beverages – Water, broth, coffee, tea, unsweetened coconut and almond milk
What should are not permitted on the ketogenic diet?
It’s recommended that only 5-10% of calories come from carbohydrates, which depending on calorie intake generally means fewer than 30g of carbohydrates a day. This means sugar, fruit, high sugar and high starch vegetables, and grains should be eliminated or eaten in very small quantities.
Will I lose weight?
Probably. Anyone who follows an elimination diet (whether they eliminate gluten/dairy/fat/carbs etc.) will likely lose weight because they also are reducing calories. You also may feel less hungry as ketosis diminishes hunger sensation, so overeating tends not to be a problem
Will I keep the weight off?
Probably not. The ketogenic diet is a difficult, and arguably ‘unhealthy’, diet (due to the reduced fiber and vitamin/mineral content) that is not recommended for the long term. The best ‘diet’ is the one you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life.
What are some pros and cons of the ketogenic diet?
– Probable short-term weight loss
– Diminished feelings of hunger
– Allowed to eat high-fat foods
– Difficult to adhere to long-term (which leads to weight regain)
– Low fiber
– Risk of nutrient insufficiencies
– Side effects such as bad smelling breath, low energy, headaches and constipation
– Elevated LDL cholesterol
The ketogenic diet is not recommended for long-term use (unless it is being used as medical nutrition therapy for an individual with epilepsy). It is likely safe for short-term use for weight loss, but it is recommended to incorporate fruits and whole grains back into the diet once a weight maintenance plan is in place. While following a ketogenic diet, take a multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains adequate B vitamins and magnesium.