Ketogenic Diet: What It Is, How It Works & What You Should Know

Ketogenic Diet: What It Is, How It Works & What You Should Know

Ketogenic Diet

Have you ever eaten out with a friend who strictly says no to carbs and says yes and yes to anything rich in protein and fats? If you haven’t asked, they probably are on a Ketogenic Diet.

The Ketogenic Diet is a popular low-carb diet that has gained popularity over the years. It focuses on foods that have a high degree of healthful fats, a moderate amount of protein with the lowest amount of carbohydrates. This type of diet has the goal of getting in more calories from fat than from carbs to the body.

This article helps you explore everything you need to know about the Keto diet and what you need to do to start your ketogenic journey.

Photo by USC- University of Southern California

When did Ketogenic Diet start?

A “Ketogenic” Diet, most commonly known as Keto is a well-known low-carb dietary regimen that started in the 1920s. The Ketogenic Diet was initiated by several modern physicians to mimic the metabolism of fasting which turned out to be an effective treatment for epilepsy. The critical role that fasting plays in the treatment of disease was already known to humans thousands of years ago. This was primarily due to the detailed study ancient Greek and Indian physicians devoted much of their time to.

The dramatic decline of Ketogenic Diet

The rise of the modern era of antiepileptic drug treatment led to a dramatic decline in the Keto diet as an epilepsy treatment. Over the past years, however, the Ketogenic Diet found its way again in today’s modern society. This is widely due to its explosion in the use and scientific interest as an alternative to non-mainstream fasting. This specific type of diet has demonstrated success to individuals that want to substantially lose weight.

How does Ketogenic Diet Work?

Now that we know that the goal of this Ketogenic Diet is to put in more calories from fats than from carbs, we then ask the all-important questions: so what? What’s in it for me?

When you take in food that is high in carbs, your body will naturally produce both glucose and insulin. In a typical high-carb diet, your body will use the glucose to serve as your primary source of energy. Your fats, therefore, are not needed and will consequently be stored. In this Ketogenic type of diet, however, it aims to bring your body in a metabolic state called ketosis by lowering your carbs intake.

The Metabolic State of Ketosis

We know for a fact that our bodies ordinarily burn carbohydrates for energy. Hence, when you restrict your carb intake, your body will consequently break down stored fat. This then leads to your body to create molecules called ketones as fuel. This metabolic state of ketosis is a standard physiological process and hence not particularly harmful to your body in any way. It’s just that, with the Ketogenic Diet, this dietary regimen keeps your body in the metabolic state of ketosis all the time.

How Low-carb Do I Have To Get?

You may read up different versions of this type of diet when you look it up online. But generally, a Ketogenic Diet involves taking in foods that get the high 75 percent calories from fat, the moderate 20 percent from protein, and the lowest 5 percent from carbs.

Realistically speaking, that’s between 30 and 50 grams of carbs per day. This, however, depends on the calculation of your body fat percentage to figure out the approximate components of fat and protein in grams you can take in. Bluntly speaking, 50 grams of carbs is approximately as good as a ¼ cup of cooked quinoa. Yes, did I forget to mention that this type of diet requires the highest degree of diligence and sacrifice?

What To Eat While On A Ketogenic Diet

Like any other type of diet, the Ketogenic Diet will also require you to plan. This can be translated into having a workable and manageable diet plan. This means that your diet plan should cater to your body type and your specific preferences.

While this type of diet may require a high degree of sacrifice, how it works for you, however, cannot be pigeonholed into one definite and rigid process. This means that the type of food you take mainly depends on how fast you want to bring and keep your body into ketosis (ketogenic state). Hence, the more strict and restrictive you are when it comes to your carb intake, the quicker you allow your body to enter the state of ketosis. This way, it still allows you with a certain degree of flexibility about your whole dietary process.

The Ketogenic Diet necessarily involves a much different food pyramid than what we are typically accustomed to. If this entire idea seems to be overwhelming for you, you are not alone. Almost every person who started this Ketogenic journey felt the same way from the very beginning.

Limit Carbohydrate Intake To A Minimal Amount

As we said earlier, you want to limit your carbohydrate intake into a minimal amount. Hence, you mustn’t eat any concentrated carbohydrates like wheat, starch, or even fruit. But like any other general rules, this also admits of certain exceptions such as avocado, berries, and starfruits. But note that just because they are listed as exceptions does not also mean you can consume them all you want. It is equally important to note that these few exceptions should be consumed in moderation.

To give you an overview, here are some of the foods you need to hate or love as early as now:

Foods You Should Avoid On A Ketogenic Diet

Grains like wheat, corn, rice, cereal, and those belonging in the same food class. Pasta, bread, starches, and sugar in any form, like honey, agave, maple, syrup, and all others in the same class. Fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, and all others. Yes, it may even be your favorite fruit. You should also avoid starchy vegetables such as carrots, corn, and peas, and other root vegetables like potatoes and yams. And lastly, avoid processed foods, in general.

Again, while there may be exceptions, those few exceptions should be consumed in strict moderation.

Foods You Should Eat On A Ketogenic Diet

Remember, the Ketogenic diet requires that you should focus on foods that are high in fat, moderate in protein, and super low in carbs. Hence, this is what your nutrient content should look like: Fats: 70%, Protein 25%, and Carbohydrates 5%. Here’s a list of ketogenic food for you to love or learn to love as early as now:

Oils & Fats.
As much as possible, try to source your fat from natural sources like nuts and meat. You can supplement these with monounsaturated and saturated fats such as butter, coconut oil, and olive oil.

For your protein content, try as much as possible to go for organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised meat. Good news! Most of the meats don’t have added sugar and hence can be consumed in moderate amounts. Remember the percentage allocation on food intake, protein should only be taken in moderate quantity. Hence too much protein on a ketogenic diet is also not advisable.

As much as possible, try to stick and buy only full-fat dairy items. Why? These harder cheese usually contain lesser carbs. It’s also vital for you to remember to avoid drinking milk since its sugar content adds up rather quickly. It can be consumed sparingly, however, for your coffee.

This type of food is technically allowed but must be consumed in moderate amounts. However, this should be avoided as a snack knowing how easy it is to eat far more than what you usually need to feel satisfied. Not all nuts are also preferable. Beware, cashew nuts are relatively high on carbs. Hence, you can opt for macadamia or pecan nuts instead. Indeed, it pays to be informed.

When it comes to your vegetable content, remember that it doesn’t matter whether it’s fresh or frozen. To be safe, you can lean towards choosing above-ground vegetables, most notably those that are leafy and green.

Try as much as possible to stick with the most basic and classic type of beverage: water. If you prefer to have it flavored, you can flavor it with lime/lemon juice or other stevia-based flavorings.
In totality, you can focus on eating foods that have low-carb content like eggs, fish, meat, vegetables, olive oil, or natural fats. That is if you want to have an effective keto diet. If you are a beginner, you can stick to eating foods containing less than 5% of carbohydrates.

What Are The Benefits Of A Ketogenic Diet?

Now after knowing what foods to love and avoid, other important questions that also seem to demand answers are these: what’s in it for me? What am I signing up for? Here’s a list of benefits as well as risks you should expect in starting your keto journey.
Photographer: Siora Photography | Source: Unsplash

Reduced Appetite & Weight Loss.

After knowing the types of food you should eat and avoid, this shouldn’t come off as a surprise anymore. The Ketogenic Diet’s food pyramid consists of foods that are supposed to fill you up and reduce your hunger-stimulating hormones. As such, strictly following your ketogenic diet may substantially reduce your appetite as well as promote weight loss.
Research shows that people who followed ketogenic diets lost more weight than those following simply low-fat diets in six months.
Photographer: Josh Riemer | Source: Unsplash

Enhanced Memory.

Don’t remember where you ate for lunch last Monday? Ketosis might just be perfect for you! Studies show that ketone levels have a positive correlation with memory performance for people who show cognitive problems. These findings can be attributed to a person’s deficient carb intake. These suggest that having deficient carbohydrate intake can improve a person’s short-term memory in adults, those who are at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. How is this so? It may be because being in the state of ketosis enhances a person’s energy metabolism as well as induces the reduction of inflammation, which both help to maintain and support brain function.
Photographer: Matt Chesin | Source: Unsplash


Two of the most increasing pervasive diseases across the world are obesity and diabetes. At the core of this complex Type, 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. This contributes to a larger quantity of carbohydrates to a person’s liver. Much of this carbohydrate is then converted to fat instead of it being converted to energy. The Ketogenic Diet helps improve glucose control as it helps stimulate insulin sensitivity.

What Are The Risks Of A Ketogenic Diet?

While this low-carb type of diet has a wide range of benefits, it is equally important to note that staying on this type of diet can have adverse effects on your health in the long-run. Like any other diets that come with significant returns and optimum health, the next question is: at what risks?

Difficult To Maintain

Professional dieticians believe that the Ketogenic Diet, a low-carb diet that is increasingly gaining popularity over the last years, is “extremely strict and difficult to maintain.” When we trace back its origins, we know that this type of diet was first introduced to manage and treat seizures in children with epilepsy. However, while this type of diet found its way to our modern society, it was mainly to promote weight loss and treat obesity of diabetes. This can become problematic. Why? Limited research has yet been conducted in terms of its effectiveness in treating obesity or diabetes.

In sum, the Ketogenic diet aims to bring and keep your body in the state of ketosis. Hence, the ketogenic diet requires you to maintain the general allocation of 75 percent calories from fat as compared to the normal allocation ranging around 20-35 percent, 15 percent from protein, and the remaining 5 percent from fats.

Quick Fix

According to a Wellness Dietician Mary Condon, RN, LDN, the Ketogenic Diet may indeed lead to substantial weight loss and decreased level of blood sugar. But these effects are but a quick fix. This type of diet is generally not sustainable, and most often than not, weight gain may come back, which could lead you to gain more than what you just lost.


What should be your takeaway? Before starting on your keto journey, it is highly recommended to discuss this dietary decision with your trusted dietician, doctor, or healthcare provider. This is especially true if you are someone trying to manage a health-related condition or problem.
Photographer: Online Marketing | Source: Unsplash

Before starting your keto diet journey, make sure to seek a comprehensive consultation to guarantee that embarking on a ketogenic diet journey is a safe and healthy decision for you. At the end of the day, there is indeed no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to food or even dietary regimen.