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What Is a Ketogenic Diet?

Posted on March 9, 2017 at 8:31 AM by Lia Bahls, RD


We’ve been taught that our bodies need to have protein, fat and carbohydrates to be healthy, but how accurate is this information? Proteins and fats are required for the human body to function, however carbohydrates are not as necessary as we once thought. While carbohydrates have been used as the main energy source for the brain and human body, it’s been shown that a reduction in carbohydrates allows for the body to utilize fat as a source of fuel instead.


This low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet is what is referred to as a ketogenic diet. Very low carbohydrates and high fat intake leads to ketosis, which is when your body switches from carbohydrates to fat for energy. Fat is turned to ketones in the liver and these provide fuel for the brain. The ketogenic diet has been shown to have positive effects on weight and overall health, as well as leads to a decrease in carbohydrate cravings. If considering this diet, it’s important to work with a provider and dietitian to set goals in regards to macronutrient intake as every individual has a different carbohydrate tolerance.


Ketosis is safe for healthy individuals. If you have Type 1 diabetes, meet with your provider prior to making any drastic dietary changes. Some side effects to adapting to this type of diet can include constipation, sweet, fruity smelling breath and flu-like symptoms. These typically go away once your body is fully adapted to the new diet. Make sure to have adequate electrolyte and vitamin intake (magnesium, potassium and sodium). 


If considering this diet, review the following food lists to know what to eat and what to avoid.


Foods to avoid:

  • Processed high-sugar foods such as soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, and candy
  • Grains and starches such as pasta and bread
  • Beans or legumes, this includes peas (peanuts are okay in moderation)
  • Root vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Low-fat or diet products
  • Certain condiments or sauces with added sugars, including ketchup and BBQ sauce
  • Alcohol


Foods to eat:

  • Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel
  • Eggs
  • Butter and cream (look for grass-fed when possible)
  • Cheese
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
  • Healthy oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil
  • Avocados
  • Low carb veggies in small amounts (most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.)
  • Seasonings like salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices


If you’re interested in trying this diet or would like more information about weight loss, contact us to set up a consultation with one of our dietitians at 515-327-2000.

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