What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet has been around for more than 90 years, first designed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic as a treatment for epilepsy. As more anti-seizure medications hit the market, the ketogenic diet became less popular. In 1994, the Abraham family started The Charlie Foundation promoting the ketogenic diet after their young son Charlie recovered completely from daily seizures while on the diet.

The ketogenic diet isn’t just a treatment for seizures, however. It is also ideal for weight loss, reducing glucose levels, and improving insulin resistance.

Also known as a low-carb diet or the low carb, high fat (LCHF) diet, the ketogenic diet is high in fat, adequate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. When net carb intake is reduced and healthy fat intake increases, it changes the way energy is used in the body. Fat is now converted in the liver into fatty acids and ketone bodies, which are used as energy.

When you consume high amounts of carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin. Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy, so it will be chosen over any other energy source, such as fat. Essentially, a diet that is high in carbs means the body burns glucose for energy, leaving your fat stores untouched.

By reducing carb intake, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis. During ketosis, we produce ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver.

The goal of the ketogenic diet is to force your body into ketosis through starvation of carbohydrates, which means your body will begin to burn fat for energy, rather than glucose.

What Do I Eat on the Ketogenic Diet?

What you eat depends how fast you want to get into a ketogenic state. The more restrictive you are on your carbohydrates (less than 25g per day), the faster you will enter ketosis. Normally, anywhere between 20-30g of net carbs (total dietary carbohydrates minus the total fiber) is recommended for weight loss, but the lower you keep your glucose levels, the better the overall results will be.

On the ketogenic diet, your macronutrient intake should be around 60-80 percent fats, 20-30 percent protein, and five percent carbohydrate.

Limit your carbs and think about eating 100 percent Paleo — no beans, grains or legumes, and have most of your calories come mostly from vegetables, nuts. Avoid refined carbohydrates such as wheat (breads, pastas, cereals), starch (potatoes, beans, legumes), and fruit.

Eat plenty of dark green, leafy vegetables. Most of your meals should include a protein with vegetables, and an extra side of fat. For example: chicken breast basted in olive oil, with a side of broccoli and cheese. Steak topped with butter, and a side of spinach sautéed in olive oil. Feeling hungry throughout the day? Snack on nuts, seeds, cheeses, or almond butter to curb your appetite.

Betty Murray, CN, IFMCP, CHC is a Certified Nutritionist & Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner with the Institute for Functional Medicine, founder of the Dallas-based functional medicine clinic Living Well Dallas and Executive Director of the the Functional Medicine Association of North Texas. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutrition for autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, MTHFR and weight loss.  You can find her book “Cleanse: Detox Your Body, Mind & Spirit” on Amazon here.

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