The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits.
This article is a detailed beginner's guide to the ketogenic diet.
It contains everything you need to know.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
Bottom Line: The ketogenic diet (keto) is a low-carb, high-fat diet. It lowers blood sugar and insulin levels and shifts the body's metabolism away from carbs and towards fat and ketones.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and only 5 percent carbs (1).
- Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as five ketogenic days followed by two high-carb days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60 percent fat, 35 percent protein and 5 percent carbs.
However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
The information in this article mostly applies to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), although many of the same principles also apply to the other versions.
Bottom Line: There are several versions of the ketogenic diet. The standard ketogenic diet (SKD) is the most researched and most recommended.
Ketogenic Diets Can Help You Lose Weight
One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet. Triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels also improved (17).
For more details on the weight loss effects of a ketogenic diet, read this article: A Ketogenic Diet to Lose Weight and Fight Disease.
Bottom Line: A ketogenic diet can help you lose much more weight than a low-fat diet. This often happens without hunger.
Ketogenic Diets for Diabetes and Prediabetes
Diabetes is characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar and impaired insulin function (27).
One study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by a whopping 75 percent (29).
Another study in patients with type 2 diabetes found that seven of the 21 participants were able to stop all diabetes medications (28).
In yet another study, the ketogenic group lost 24.4 lbs (11.1 kg), compared to 15.2 lbs (6.9 kg) in the higher-carb group. This is an important benefit when considering the link between weight and type 2 diabetes (2, 31).
Additionally, 95.2 percent of the ketogenic group was also able to stop or reduce diabetes medication, compared to 62 percent in the higher-carb group (2).
This article has more details about low-carb diets and diabetes.
Bottom Line: The ketogenic diet can boost insulin sensitivity and cause fat loss, leading to drastic improvement for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
Other Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases, such as epilepsy.
Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:
- Heart disease: The ketogenic diet can improve risk factors like body fat, HDL levels, blood pressure and blood sugar (32, 33).
- Cancer: The diet is currently being used to treat several types of cancer and slow tumor growth (4, 34, 35, 36).
- Alzheimer's disease: The diet may reduce symptoms of Alzheimer's and slow down the disease's progression (5, 37, 38).
- Epilepsy: Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause massive reductions in seizures in epileptic children (3).
- Parkinson's disease: One study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson's disease (39).
- Polycystic ovary syndrome: The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which may play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome (40).
- Brain injuries: One animal study found that the diet can reduce concussions and aid recovery after brain injury (41).
However, keep in mind that research into many of these areas is far from conclusive.
Bottom Line: A ketogenic diet may provide many health benefits, especially with metabolic, neurological or insulin-related diseases.
Foods to Avoid
In short, any food that is high in carbs should be limited.
Here is a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:
- Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
- Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
- Unhealthy fat: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- Alcohol: Due to its carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
- Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
Bottom Line: Avoid carb-based foods like grains, sugars, legumes, rice, potatoes, candy, juice and even most fruits.
Foods to Eat
You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:
- Fatty fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
- Butter and cream: Look for grass-fed when possible.
- Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella).
- Avocados: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
- Condiments: You can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices.
Bottom Line: Base the majority of your diet on foods such as meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, healthy oils, avocados and plenty of low-carb veggies.
A Sample Ketogenic Meal Plan For One Week
To help get you started, here is a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:
- Breakfast: Bacon, eggs and tomatoes.
- Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
- Dinner: Salmon with asparagus cooked in butter.
- Breakfast: Egg, tomato, basil and goat cheese omelet.
- Dinner: Meatballs, cheddar cheese and vegetables.
- Lunch: Shrimp salad with olive oil and avocado.
- Dinner: Pork chops with Parmesan cheese, broccoli and salad.
- Breakfast: Omelet with avocado, salsa, peppers, onion and spices.
- Lunch: A handful of nuts and celery sticks with guacamole and salsa.
- Dinner: Chicken stuffed with pesto and cream cheese, along with vegetables.
- Breakfast: 3-cheese omelet with tomatoes.
- Lunch: Leftover stuffed chicken from the night before.
- Dinner: Steak, egg, mushrooms and salad.
- Breakfast: Sugar-free yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder and stevia.
- Lunch: Beef stir-fry cooked in coconut oil with vegetables.
- Dinner: Bun-less burger with bacon, egg and cheese.
- Breakfast: Ham and cheese omelet with vegetables.
- Lunch: Ham and cheese slices with nuts.
- Dinner: White fish, egg and spinach cooked in coconut oil.
- Breakfast: Fried eggs with bacon and mushrooms.
- Lunch: Burger with salsa, cheese and guacamole.
- Dinner: Steak and eggs with a side salad.
Always try to rotate the vegetables and meat over the long term, as each type provides different nutrients and health benefits.
For tons of recipes, check out this link: 101 Healthy Low-Carb Recipes.
Bottom Line: You can eat a wide variety of tasty and nutritious meals on a ketogenic diet.
Healthy Ketogenic Snacks
In case you get hungry between meals, here are some healthy, keto-approved snacks:
- Fatty meat or fish.
- A handful of nuts or seeds.
- Cheese with olives.
- 1–2 hard-boiled eggs.
- 90 percent dark chocolate.
- A low-carb milk shake with almond milk, cocoa powder and nut butter.
- Full-fat yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder.
- Strawberries and cream.
- Celery with salsa and guacamole.
- Smaller portions of leftover meals.
Bottom Line: Great snacks for a keto diet include pieces of meat, cheese, olives, boiled eggs, nuts and dark chocolate.
Tips for Eating Out on a Ketogenic Diet
It is not very hard to make most restaurant meals keto-friendly when eating out.
Most restaurants offer some kind of meat or fish-based dish. Order this and replace any high-carb food with extra vegetables.
Egg-based meals are also a great option, such as an omelet or eggs and bacon.
Another favorite is bun-less burgers. You could also leave the bun and swap the fries for vegetables instead. Add extra avocado, cheese, bacon or eggs.
At Mexican restaurants, you can enjoy any type of meat with extra cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream.
For dessert, ask for a mixed cheese board or double cream with berries.
Bottom Line: When eating out, select a meat, fish or egg-based dish. Order extra veggies instead of carbs or starches and have cheese for dessert.
Side Effects and How to Minimize Them
Although the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts.
This is often referred to as “keto flu"—and is usually over within a few days.
Keto flu includes poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, digestive discomfort and decreased exercise performance.
In order to minimize this, you can try a regular low-carb diet for the first few weeks. This may teach your body to burn more fat before you completely eliminate carbs.
At least in the beginning, it is important to eat until fullness and to avoid restricting calories too much. Usually a ketogenic diet causes weight loss without intentional calorie restriction.
Bottom Line: Many of the side effects of starting a ketogenic diet can be limited. Easing into the diet and taking mineral supplements can help.
Supplements For a Ketogenic Diet
Although no supplement is necessary, some can be useful.
- MCT oil: Added to drinks or yogurt, this provides energy and helps increase ketone levels.
- Minerals: Added salt and other minerals can be important when starting out, due to shifts in water and mineral balance.
- Caffeine: Caffeine can have benefits for energy, fat loss and performance.
- Exogenous ketones: This supplement can help raise the body's ketone levels.
- Creatine: Creatine provides numerous benefits for health and performance. This can help if you are combining a ketogenic diet with exercise.
- Whey: Use half a scoop of whey protein in shakes or yogurt to increase your daily protein intake.
Bottom Line: Certain supplements can be beneficial on a ketogenic diet. These include exogenous ketones, MCT oil and minerals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the ketogenic diet.
1. Can I ever eat carbs again?
Yes. However, it is important to eliminate them initially. After the first 2–3 months, you can eat carbs on special occasions—just return to the diet immediately after.
2. Will I lose muscle?
There is a risk of losing some muscle on any diet. However, the high protein intake and high ketone levels may help minimize muscle loss, especially if you lift weights.
3. Can you build muscle on a ketogenic diet?
Yes, but it may not work as well as on a moderate-carb diet. More details: Low-Carb/Ketogenic Diets and Exercise Performance.
4. Do I need to refeed or carb load?
No. However, a few higher-calorie days may be beneficial every now and then.
5. How much protein can I eat?
Protein should be moderate, as a very high intake can spike insulin levels and lower ketones. Around 35 percent of total calorie intake is probably the upper limit.
6. What if I am constantly tired, weak or fatigued?
You may not be in full ketosis or be utilizing fats and ketones efficiently. To counter this, lower your carb intake and re-visit the points above. A supplement like MCT oil or ketones may also help.
7. My urine smells fruity? Why is this?
Don't be alarmed. This is simply due to the excretion of byproducts created during ketosis.
8. My breath smells. What can I do?
This is a common side effect. Try drinking naturally flavored water or chewing sugar-free gum.
9. I heard ketosis was extremely dangerous. Is this true?
People often confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. The former is natural, while the latter only occurs in uncontrolled diabetes.
Ketoacidosis is dangerous, but the ketosis on a ketogenic diet is perfectly normal and healthy.
10. I have digestion issues and diarrhea. What can I do?
This common side effect usually passes after 3–4 weeks. If it persists, try eating more high-fiber veggies. Magnesium supplements can also help with constipation.
A Ketogenic Diet is Great, But Not For Everyone
A ketogenic diet can be great for people who are overweight, diabetic or looking to improve their metabolic health.
It may be less suitable for elite athletes or those wishing to add large amounts of muscle or weight.
And, as with any diet, it will only work if you are consistent and stick with it in the long-term.
That being said, few things are as well proven in nutrition as the powerful health and weight loss benefits of a ketogenic diet.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
- What Happens to Recycled Plastic? Researchers Lift the Lid ... ›
- This Eco-Village Is Being Built From More Than 1 Million Recycled ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Brett Wilkins
Despite acknowledging that the move would lead to an increase in the 500 million to one billion birds that die each year in the United States due to human activity, the Trump administration on Friday published a proposed industry-friendly relaxation of a century-old treaty that protects more than 1,000 avian species.
- Hundreds of Thousands of Migratory Birds 'Falling Out of the Sky' in ... ›
- Scientists at Work: Sloshing Through Marshes To See How Birds ... ›
Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.
- Are We Doomed If We Don't Curb Carbon Emissions by 2030 ... ›
- California Winery Cuts Carbon Emissions With Lighter Bottles ... ›
- Wealthy One Percent Are Producing More Carbon Emissions Than ... ›
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
- 14 States On Track to Meet Paris Targets - EcoWatch ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
- Biden Names John Kerry as First-Ever Climate Envoy - EcoWatch ›
By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.