A ketogenic diet is high in fats, moderate in proteins, and low in carbohydrates. Carbohydrate intake is drastically reduced and replaced with fat in this diet. As a result of the reduction in carbs, your body enters a state called ketosis. In a ketosis state, your body becomes remarkably efficient in burning fat to produce energy. In addition, it converts fat into ketones in the liver, which can provide energy to the brain.
This diet is used predominantly for treating children with refractory epilepsy (it is the hard-to-control type of epilepsy). The ketogenic diet is also efficient in weight loss, improving type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, certain types of cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome, and brain injury outcomes.
Ketogenic diets do not have a standard macronutrient ratio (carbs, fats, and proteins) that applies to everyone. You have to limit your carbohydrates intake to 5-10% of your calories consumption for this diet. Also, the ketogenic diet suggests an average fat intake of 70-80% and a protein intake of 10-20% of the calories.
Following the keto diet involves eating fat with every meal due to its high fat requirement. This diet encourages eating saturated fats from lard, oils (coconut, palm), cocoa butter, and butter in high amounts. However, some healthy unsaturated fats are also allowed. For example, following the ketogenic nutrition plan, you can eat seeds, nuts, olive oil, tofu, and avocados.
The keto diet includes protein. However, it does not differentiate between foods high in lean protein and those high in saturated fat, such as pork, beef, and bacon.
Although vegetables and fruits are rich in carbs, you are allowed to eat certain fruits (typically berries) and vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, bell peppers, garlic, onions, mushrooms, summer squashes, and celery) on the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet is highly restrictive and high in fat, so it is harmful to patients with liver failure, pancreatitis, disorders of fat metabolism, carnitine palmitoyltransferase deficiency, primary carnitine deficiency, carnitine translocase deficiency, pyruvate kinase deficiency, or porphyrias. In addition, people with diabetes that take insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents experience severe hypoglycemia if the medications are inappropriately adjusted before beginning this diet. Therefore such people have to consult with a doctor before starting the ketogenic diet.
How to avoid possible deficiencies
A ketogenic diet is highly restrictive. As a result, it may lead to nutrients deficiency. The ketogenic diet can result in calcium, magnesium, iron, sodium, potassium, selenium, carnitine, vitamin B-1 (thiamin), and vitamin B-9 (folate) deficiencies. Therefore, you should pay special attention to listed nutrients to meet your body’s needs.
- Calcium: broccoli, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, kale, almonds, white beans.
- Magnesium: dark chocolate, avocado, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, leafy greens, spinach, cocoa powder.
- Iron: shellfish, spinach, organ meats (liver, kidney, and heart), pumpkin seeds, turkey, broccoli, dark chocolate.
- Sodium and potassium: nuts, seeds, fatty fish, dark green leafy veggies and other non-starchy vegetables, bone broth, cacao powder, dark chocolate, avocado, meats, dairy products, and Sea salt or Himalayan salt.
- Selenium: brazil nuts, fish, beef, turkey, chicken, pork, cottage cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds, spinach, milk, and yogurt.
- Carnitine: beef, pork, whole milk, fish, chicken breast, avocado.
- Vitamin B-1 (thiamin): beef, liver, nuts, sunflower seeds, trout, salmon, mussels.
- Vitamin B-9 (folate): spinach, brussels sprout, kale, liver.
You can also take supplements to receive all the essential vitamins and minerals.
Tips on improving your dieting experience
- Plan out your meals. It may be easier to follow the ketogenic diet if you plan your meals in advance. It may also save your time during the week.
- Read the labels. Look through food labels and check the grams of carbs, proteins, fat, and fiber to decide which food can fit into your diet plan.
- Take your food with you. When you attend social gatherings or visit friends and family, you may want to bring your own food with you to avoid diet violations and keep sticking to your diet plan.
- Look for new recipes. Use websites, apps, cookbooks, and food blogs to find keto-friendly recipes. It will help you to diversify your menu.
- Use alternative options. If you do not have time to cook, you can buy healthy frozen keto-friendly meals or use certain meal delivery services that offer keto-friendly meals options.
The ketogenic diet is highly restrictive and is not sustainable for everyone. It is beneficial for people with obesity, diabetes, and those who are looking to improve their metabolic rate. However, there is a considerable risk of nutrient deficiency and side effects in this diet. You should speak with your doctor and nutritionist before beginning the ketogenic diet.
Consider trying the Mediterranean or Nordic diets, which emphasize food quality rather than carbs, fats, and protein intake ratio.