Is the Ketogenic Diet Safe for Weight Loss?

The ketogenic diet is way outside the norm for many people. We would like to go over the basics of the ketogenic diet, if it is safe for weight loss, and concerns surrounding the eating style.

The ketogenic diet is high in fat, low in carbohydrates and moderate in protein intake.
Ketosis occurs when the body gets few carbohydrates and must burn fat for energy. This process is the same one that takes place when someone is fasting or starving.

Is the ketogenic diet safe for weight loss? Most experts say so, though there are a few dissenters. Here’s some information to help you decide if the ketogenic diet can help you lose weight.

How Does the Ketogenic Diet Help You Lose Weight?

One study showed that a ketogenic diet helped people lose 2.2 times more weight than a low-fat, restricted calorie diet. When fat is increased and carbohydrates reduced, your body turns fats into ketones, molecules that give your brain energy. This state is known as ketosis.

Your body becomes accustomed to burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates after a few weeks on a ketogenic diet.

Research shows that low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets offer superior results to other types of diets, including low-fat diets. In one study, a group of people on a low-carb diet lost 7.3% of their total body weight, compared to 4.5% for people on a low-fat diet.

There are four versions of the Ketogenic diet:

  • The standard ketogenic diet contains 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates.
  • A high-protein ketogenic diet is 60% fat, 30% protein and 10% carbohydrates, so it’s not that different from the standard keto diet.
  • The cyclical ketogenic diet allows more flexibility in your weekly eating habits. You can dedicate five days a week to the ketogenic diet and two days to a higher-carbohydrate total.
  • A targeted ketogenic diet lets you add carbohydrates around workout times.

What Foods Belong to the Ketogenic Diet?

The Ketogenic diet includes all healthy whole foods except fruits. Though, you can eat a few berries occasionally. Here’s a list of foods you can eat on the ketogenic diet:

Seafood

Seafood and shellfish contain few carbohydrates. Sardines, salmon and other fatty fish are high in B vitamins, and Omega 3’s to give you more energy while lowering your blood pressure. Research has also shown that regular fish consumption reduces the chance of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Low-Carbohydrate Vegetables

You can eat most veggies on the ketogenic diet, except for beets, potatoes, and other high-starch root vegetables. Spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, cucumbers, and celery are high in fiber and low in calories and can be eaten as a side dish or included in recipes for main dishes.

Meat and Poultry

Meat and poultry contain no carbohydrates and are rich in vitamins. Choose from the following types of meat and poultry on a ketogenic diet:

  • Grass-fed beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Bacon*
  • Ham
  • Pork
  • Duck
  • Ground beef

Always choose unprocessed meat for the best nutritional value. You can include bacon in moderation in a ketogenic diet. It contains Omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and selenium, so it does offer more than sodium and saturated fat. Always be sure to eat plenty of antioxidant-rich vegetables and berries to reduce the effects of the nitrates in bacon.

Eggs

One large egg contains one gram of carbohydrates and 61% of the daily value for protein. While eggs get a bad rap for high cholesterol, studies show they can positively alter LDL cholesterol and reduce the chance of heart disease.

Berries

While most fruits are restricted on a ketogenic diet, high-antioxidant blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are allowed. High in fiber and low in carbs, berries also contain lots of Vitamin C, folate and potassium. Cherries, kiwi, plums, peaches, and cantaloupes can occasionally be eaten on a ketogenic diet, as they contain moderate amounts of carbohydrates.

You can drink coffee and tea on a ketogenic diet, but avoid putting sugar or milk in the beverages.

Foods to Avoid

Starch and carbohydrates aren’t allowed on the ketogenic diet. They include all grains, even whole wheat, and products made from grains, like pizza. Avoid bread, baked goods, crackers, potatoes and all types of pasta.

Avoid candy, sugar, soft drinks, puddings, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup and ice cream.

Replace refined fats and oils, such as corn, safflower, cottonseed, and soybean oil with olive oil. Avoid margarine and use full-fat butter instead.

Don’t eat factory-farmed pork or fish. Farmed fish may contain PCBs, and farmed pork may have omega six fatty acids.

Refrain from alcohol, including wine and beer.

No bananas, mangoes or other tropical fruit; no fruit juice of any kind.

No legumes or soy.

No milk except raw, full-fat milk. Pasteurized milk is difficult to digest.

As you can see, there’s not much difference between a ketogenic diet and a more standard, healthy diet free from processed foods. Since there are a few versions of the ketogenic diet, you can adjust the amount of carbs to meet your nutrition and weight loss goals.

Other Advantages of the Ketogenic Diet

Ketogenic diets may help people with epilepsy, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome or Alzheimer’s. The ketogenic diet is used to treat children with epilepsy by letting the part of the brain that burns ketones to work more effectively.

You’ll lose more belly fat with a ketogenic diet. Visceral fat in your abdominal cavity lodges around organs and cause inflammation that leads to metabolic syndrome.

Low-carb diets are more effective at reducing fat than other diets, especially belly fat. You’ll still need to exercise to tighten up the abdominal area, but a ketogenic diet will help whittle down your midsection.

Ketogenic diets also help lower triglycerides, fat molecules in the blood. Carbohydrates are one of the causes of elevated triglycerides, which cause heart disease.

Precautions

It may take one to two weeks for the body to adjust to a low-carbohydrate diet. This adjustment period may be uncomfortable for some people, particularly those who are used to eating lots of bread and baked goods.

When a ketogenic diet is too strict, you can develop ketoacidosis. Ketones multiply ion your blood, and this may cause coma or death. People with diabetes can get ketoacidosis (DKA) if they don’t take enough insulin, get injured, or don’t drink enough fluids.

Following any of the ketogenic diets shouldn’t cause problems for most people. All low-carb diets allow some carbohydrates, and can easily be adjusted to add more. You can always try out a ketogenic or low-carb diet by reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat by a small percentage each week.

TFT Team

Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.