When your body experiences the normal physiological state of ketosis, it burns fat, producing ketones as a by-product. Ketosis should not be confused with the life-threatening condition seen in Type 1 diabetics called ketoacidosis. When you're in ketosis, ketones and the fat you eat and have stored in your body become the primary source of fuel for your brain, heart and muscles. Ketogenic diets can help epileptics better control their seizures, and many dieters use these diets to induce fat burning. Ketosis has an appetite-suppressing effect, which can help you stick to your diet. Always consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.
Eliminate Carbohydrate-Rich Foods
To achieve a state of ketosis, you need to reduce your carb intake below 50 g a day, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization. Most Americans eat an average of 300 g of carbs a day, so the sugar obtained from the digestion of carbohydrates constitutes their main source of energy. To help your body switch into fat-burning mode and enter ketosis, eliminate all grains, including breakfast cereals, breads, pasta, rice and granola bars; sugar in desserts, baked goods, jams, syrups and drinks; starchy vegetables, such as mashed potatoes, french fries, baked potatoes and corn; fruits; and milk and yogurt.
Limit Your Carbs
You can get up to 50 g of carbohydrates a day from nonstarchy vegetables, such as broccoli, artichokes, kale, tomatoes and mushrooms. Most nonstarchy vegetables contain less than 5 g of carbs per cup, but the carb content varies among vegetables. Keep track of your carb intake to stay within the limit. You may also include small amounts of nuts and nut butter. An ounce of nuts and 2 tbsp. of nut butter contain less than 5 g of carbs, with the exception of cashews, which have a higher carb content. Fresh cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese also provides small amounts of carbohydrates. Count them as part of your daily carb intake.
Moderate Protein and High Fat
Besides nonstachy vegetables, each of your meals should include a moderate serving of protein and a high amount of fat. For most dieters, a serving of 4 to 6 oz. of protein is appropriate, although the serving may need to be adjusted depending on your height, weight and activity level. Protein is mainly found in eggs, cheese, meat, poultry, fish and seafood. At each meal, add about 1 to 2 tbsp. of fat from butter; full-fat, low-carb mayonnaise; full-fat, low-carb salad dressing; cream; coconut oil or olive oil. You can also boost your fat intake with avocado, bacon or fattier cuts of meat.
Your ketogenic menu should be based on 1 to 2 cups of nonstarchy vegetables, 4 to 6 oz. of protein and 1 to 2 tbsp. of fat at each meal. For breakfast, this could be eggs cooked in coconut oil, served with bacon or sausages and roasted tomatoes, or cheesy scrambled eggs with spinach and mushrooms cooked in olive oil. For lunch, you could have a pile of leafy greens topped with slices of chicken or beef, a few nuts or avocado slices and either low-carb, full-fat salad dressing or vinaigrette made with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For dinner, grill a salmon fillet, a couple of pork chops or a steak. Serve with a cream-based sauce and broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus topped with butter. Keep your snacks low in carbs by nibbling on a few olives, hard cheese, hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon or canned tuna. You can also have nuts or nut butter, provided they fit in your carbohydrate budget.
- The Charlie Foundation: Ketogenic Diet
- Protein Power; Metabolism and Ketosis; Michael R. Eades; May 2007
- FAO; Chapter 2 -- The Role of Carbohydrates in Maintenance of Health; 1998
- "Annals of Internal Medicine"; A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia; William S. Yancy Jr., et al; May 2004
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient Data Laboratory