A study of 89 obese adults who were placed on a two-phase diet regimen (6 months of a very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and 6 months of a reintroduction phase on a normal calorie Mediterranean diet) showed a significant mean 10% weight loss with no weight regain at one year. The ketogenic diet provided about 980 calories with 12% carbohydrate, 36% protein, and 52% fat, while the Mediterranean diet provided about 1800 calories with 58% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 27% fat. Eighty-eight percent of the participants were compliant with the entire regimen.  It is noted that the ketogenic diet used in this study was lower in fat and slightly higher in carbohydrate and protein than the average ketogenic diet that provides 70% or greater calories from fat and less than 20% protein.
I think lumping Keto diets in with other carb restriction diets is wrong. The reason (I’ve read) is that if you cut carbs somewhat, the body eventually responds by lowering the resting metabolic rate and you start gaining, but when you cut carbs to nothing (either in keto or fasting) the body keeps the metabolic rate high. It’s a survival mechanism, in a famine, we need energy to find food.
I’ve had many people ask for a Keto Grocery List. At first, I was hesitant because I am a picky eater and tend to stick to the same foods over and over. I know that most people eat a larger variety of foods than I do. At the same time, when I was researching Keto Grocery Lists, so many seemed overwhelming and included many foods that even after almost a year of following a Keto Diet I have never used.
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If you haven’t already jumped on the keto diet bandwagon, I’ll give you a brief introduction. Basically, the ketogenic diet is a super high in fat (65-75% of your diet is fat), a super low carbohydrate (<5% of your diet) and moderate in protein (15-20% of your diet). Surely, not the most balanced of diets considering Health Canada your diet should contain 10-35% of protein, 45-65% of carbohydrate and 20-35% of fat. So how to you meet that skewed macronutrient distribution? Well, you load up on keto diet staples like meat, fish, butter eggs, cheese, heavy cream, oils, nuts, avocados, seeds and low carb green vegetables. And you cut out all your go-to carb sources like grains, rice, beans, potatoes, sweets, milk, cereals, and fruits. These kinds of restrictive diets tend to make nutrition professionals like dietitians run for the hills but I’m going to give it my honest unbiased account.
Traditionally, in the sports nutrition field, we talk about the importance of timing carbohydrate and fluid intake on improving sports performance. For some time now, research has been looking at the role of very low carbohydrate diets on sports performance. Trailblazers in keto and sports performance research like Dr. Stephen Phinney have been conducting studies in this area since the 80s. In one of his studies, the glycogen stores of cyclists on a keto diet were not completely depleted and lipid oxidation was increased. Researchers concluded that the body was able to adapt to the lack of carbohydrates and preserve what was needed to use the fat as fuel. However, based on the VO2 max breath test, since the body was attempting to preserve the carbohydrate during the exercise, it appears that the intensity of the exercise was limited. In a more recent study, off-road cyclists following a keto diet experienced small improvements, but still not significant enough to make strong conclusions.
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Great post, Abbey!! Thank you for taking the time to write this and share it with us! This diet may work in some cases as you pointed out but i find it very dangerous, eventhouh i’m not a dietician. I tried it and i felt horrible. I felt depressed, constipated, pain in my right side which i think was my gallbladder. Couldn’t sleep, terrible breath. AWFUL!!
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This was one of the most well researched and balances pieces on keto I’ve read. Nice work! However, your statement of “Carbohydrates make up the life blood of our body’s ability to function” is just not true. Carbs are not an essential nutrient. Since human bodies can convert fat to use as fuel, no amount of carbs are necessary. Also, the diet isn’t as restrictive as you make it out to be. I think that perception stems from the idea that everything we eat has to be amazing, delicious etc. Food is fuel, its health benefits should outweigh the temper tantrums of our tastebuds.
The critics are right that people tend to buy in to certain things–a diet in this case–and then blindly defend it, exaggerate its benefits, etc. As someone on the Keto diet, I try to guard against doing that. Keto is not some magic snake oil that is going to cure all that ails mankind. But if you are going to criticize it, get your facts straight like the author did. Don’t be making ridiculous claims like Keto is a starvation diet.
In 2014 — for the first time — I discovered a low carb diet called Ideal Protein. It’s different from Keto in that you also keep a low fat intake as well. I can’t speak for Keto as I’ve not done it personally, but I lost 80 pounds on Ideal Protein in 5 months. It fit into my life as a busy mom and returning college student because I didn’t have to spend hours at the gym. I just ate low carb and moderate protein.
Since the ideal protein intake is fixed based on your lean mass and activity level and your net carbs intake is specified by you, the only macronutrient that needs adjusting is the fat intake. Your fat intake is used to adjust the calorie intake. The more fat, the more calories. Typically, you adjust fat so that you reach but not exceed your target calories.
This way of eating is a lifestyle and it has never failed, because we are all the same. The only variations are peoples environments/ temperature and food availability. Of course if someone lives in Siberia they will not eat the same as someone who lives in Phillipines; and not everyone has access to the healthiest environment and the healthiest cleanest food.
I say thank you, Abby, for the time you spent on your research of the KETO diet. I have been wondering what all that fat intake of the KETO diet would do to your liver. It can’t be healthy! But hey, it’s a matter of preference I guess. I prefer to be healthy. Okay, I’m not obese, I’m 5’1″ with 38 lbs. According to what I’ve read online and what my health insurance says, I need to lose about 15 lbs. I’m 60 years old — so, nah– probably not happening. I may be old, but active (walking 5 miles each day, doing one workout video on Grokker daily, gardening, hiking, kayaking). I want to lose enough weight to feel better (less arthritic) when I roll my butt out of bed in the morning, but I don’t want to deprive myself from the fun of eating. I don’t do fast or fat foods. I love cooking and eating healthy (like greens and everything veggie and beans and healthy grains like quinoa, freekeh, farro, black rice) and I like my beer of and on. I can do without sweets, but I do crave cheese. Take the “likes” away, and I get grouchy. I was trying to go with a low carb diet years ago, but the brain farts that came with it where just too pronounced. My body needs carbs! As long as they’re healthy carbs, I’ll be ok. I stay away from white bread and packaged, processed foods. I cook mostly low sodium and going out to eat is a special occasion. But I do count calories overall. I started logging my food intake on http://www.cronometer.com and that has helped a lot. I can create my own recipes, incorporate them into other recipes, and it gives me an overview of all the nutrients I consumed – both for the whole day or by each food item. I can tell how many calories or sodium is in each of my recipes. When I first started logging stuff on their website, I ran across the setting for “KETO diet”, but after I saw that it required to only eat 100 mg of carbs, I clicked off that one really fast. You get more than that from 1 glass of Porter! I love dark beer and good food. Real food, not pre-packaged powders or bla-tasting boxed food. I want fresh garlic, sumac, harissa. I want spice and texture. And low fat in most foods. If I want fat, I eat real cheese like goat cheddar. But that’s a treat. As long as I stick to my rule of eating at least 500 cal less than I burn, I’m ok with losing weight slowly. I want to be healthy first. So yeah, it’s a matter of preference. And patience. 🙂 To those of you who love Keto, cause it’s fast and it works for you, by all means: stay on it! It’s your body. My body runs better with a balanced diet. And that’s my 5 cents worth. 🙂
What about heart health and the keto diet? Previous older schools of nutrition would purport that a diet rich in fats (specifically saturated fats) would be detrimental for heart health, but more recent research suggests that saturated fat is not as bad as previously believed. There is actually a tiny little bit of evidence that a keto diet may improve triglyceride, HDL and LDL levels. Like here and here. An even more recent study found that a keto diet improved triglyceride, HDL and LDL levels. We’ll definitely have to wait to see how that research unfolds because there is definitely a lot of competing elements at play.
Thank you for creating this list! I have an article from Bodybuilding.com to advise how to prepare and be successful before giving up on this plan but the food list was quite short. My trainer suggested this eating plan for me so I found your list so I can go purchase the foods now. I believe I have my macro counts right to start so wish me luck! And thanks again for sharing this !! Rebecca
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Jade, congratulations for your keto approach! I’ve had lots of sugar cravings & binging and keto was my solution for “cooling down” and getting back on track. I am also very careful with animal fat and I tend to get the fats from other sources – at least until further notice. I have also made a list of super-foods as I like to call them, vegetables high in micronutrients and low in carbs and also others high in fiber. I actually managed to search these foods in the USDA database and rank them from top to bottom, depending on the micronutrient. This way I know how to get the richest foods that are less calorie dense. I could say I’ve had some revelations along the way.
So for all the dangers you listed on this, my dietician prescribes this diet to everyone who comes into his office looking for weightloss, he has a stack of packets with standardized information regarding the specific diet. For what it’s worth, most of the side effects you listed, I did go through, although the sugar withdrawal was the worst, but after a couple weeks, that passed too. Now I’m on the same 1200 calorie, <20g carb, 0 sugar diet, and it feels VERY sustainable. The only thing I really miss is pizza, and even then, there are keto friendly chicken based crusts that really hit the spot. I guess one thing that sticks out to me is my doctor told me that the human body doesn't need any sugar to survive, and while he makes the distinction between simple and complex carbs, still cuts them out in a normal keto diet style (no potatoes, corn, most beans in larger quantities, etc). Should I be concerned about my doctor? He came as a referral and has a large track record of long term success with his patients.
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Here’s why. All of these effects take time, but a reasonable explanation as to why the keto diet leads to rapid weight loss is due to the loss of water weight. One of the concerns with the keto diet is the loss of muscle mass and the depletion of glycogen stores. Glycogen, which stores our glucose, also stores water, so when stores are depleted, we flush out excess water. In other words, that rapid weight loss isn’t fat, it’s just water.
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Sustainable is Key. Thank you for the article, it explained so much! I have been inclined to follow this diet but what has worked for me before is a diet that’s called “The AntiDiet” and is simply starting your day with fruits, while strictly separating complex carbs and proteins during lunch and dinner, and still being opened to consume all kinds of food. I had been trying the Whole30 for so long and so many times and I simply can’t, does not make sense for me and so does Keto in the sense of overloading on fats and meat. Thank you!
The volumes of knowledge on display here make this book a mainstay in the field of ketogenic dieting. This also makes it a really great option for anyone who’s interested in this high-fat diet. While this book is a superb document for anyone looking to enjoy the keto diet, don’t be scared as there is nothing too crazy in here! One of the best keto cookbooks for anyone just starting out and looking to learn the ropes.
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There are numerous benefits that come with being on keto: from weight loss and increased energy levels to therapeutic medical applications. Most anyone can safely benefit from eating a low-carb, high-fat diet. Below, you’ll find a short list of the benefits you can receive from a ketogenic diet. For a more comprehensive list, you can also read our in-depth article here >
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Anyways, I am feeling so much better without the weight, my sleep apnea is gone, my blood glucose is lower and the edema in my legs is gone. But I do have concerns about the saturated fat, my HDL/LDL and I do not like the “nail polish breath”. Once I reach my goal, I plan to transition to more of a Mediterranean style diet but still with logging and I hope to be able to keep the weight off.