How to Do the Ketosis Diet

By Jody Braverman

The ketosis, or ketogenic, diet has been used for many decades in the treatment of epilepsy, and more recently as a weight-loss strategy. The diet is very low in carbohydrates, which causes the body to burn fat stores for fuel. A study published in Experimental & Clinical Cardiology in 2004 showed the beneficial effects of a long-term ketosis diet on weight and body mass index in obese participants. There are some side effects to be aware of, however. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet significantly.

All About Ketosis

Carbs are your body's main source of fuel. They power all your physiological functions as well as your daily activities. But your body can also use fat for fuel when carbs aren't available. Eating fewer than 20 grams of carbs a day can result in a state called ketosis, in which your body is breaking down stored fat to use for energy.

Diet Pros

The 2004 Experimental & Clinical Cardiology study results showed significant loss of body weight and body fat. It also showed markedly improved cholesterol profiles, with a significant increase in high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol, and significant decreases in low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol. Triglycerides and blood glucose also decreased significantly after 24 weeks.

Diet Cons

The amount of carbs you can eat on a ketosis diet is well below the amount recommended for health by national guidelines. The process of breaking down fat for fuel causes substances called ketones to build up in the blood. Side effects can include nausea, mental and physical fatigue, headaches, and bad breath. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May 2006 showed potential negative effects of a ketogenic diet on emotions, mood state and the desire to be physically active.

What You Can Eat

Staying below 20 grams of carbs a severely limits your food options. You can have meat, fish and poultry; eggs; most cheeses; healthy fats from vegetables oils, nuts and avocados; seeds; and nonstarchy vegetables such as lettuce, mushrooms and tomatoes. For breakfast, you can have an omelet made with one egg yolk and a couple of egg whites, stuffed with sauteed mushrooms and spinach. For lunch, top salad greens with light tuna canned in water, chopped celery and tomatoes and avocado slices. At dinner, a fillet of fish or a lean sirloin steak and a side of steamed broccoli keeps you under your carb limit for the day.

Foods to Avoid

You need to avoid most processed foods, dairy, grains, fruit, sweets and starchy vegetables on a ketosis diet. Processed foods like pasta, chips and granola bars are chock-full of carbs, as is dairy, which contains carbs in the form of the milk sugar, lactose. Even healthy whole grains and fruit are off-limits when you're trying to achieve ketosis. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, squash, peas and corn also offer essential nutrients, but they are too high in carbs to keep you under the 20-gram limit. Anything containing added sugar, such as ice cream, cookies, candy or sweetened beverages, is a no-no.

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