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The ketogenic diet (KD) has been around for over 90 years, but has been making a return to the popular diet scene.

In short, it is a low carbohydrate, high protein, moderate fat diet.

Sound like a lot of other diets out there? Well, it has some similarities. But, KD is stricter on the amounts of carbohydrate allowed.

How does it work?

In a ‘normal’ diet, we eat carbohydrates…. Carbs are broken down into glucose…. Glucose is used for energy.

When carbohydrates are not eaten, the different availability of nutrients for energy forces the body to use fat instead of carbohydrate. Fat is converted to fatty acids and ketones in the liver.

The increase in ketones produced puts the body into a metabolic state called “ketosis.” In this stage, you stop burning carbohydrates as fuel and instead turn to the burning of what are known as ketones therefore you lose fat.

What foods can you eat?

Eat more of the vegetables or proteins (chicken, fish, eggs, sprouts, spinach etc). All meals should include plenty of water and are allowed unsweetened tea or coffee. 

What NOT to eat?

The main thing is to stay away from carbs. Avoid all fruits, starches (roti, breads, pasta, rice, cereal, potato, beans) and alcohol.

How can you do it?

Types of There are several levels of ketogenic diets:
  • Standard ketogenic diet (SKD) – the most researched of the ketogenic diets, it includes 75% calories from fat, 20% from protein and 5% from carbohydrate. 
  • Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) –same as the SKD, but allows carbohydrate to be eaten before and after workouts to be used for energy, and improve athletic performance. So, the percentage of calories from carbs will be higher than the SKD.
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) – this plan allows for a less rigid lifestyle and an easier social life, with 5-6 days of low carb intake and 1-2 days of high carb intake.
  • High protein ketogenic diet (HPKD) – a higher protein version of the SKD; 60% calories from fat, 35% from protein and 5% from carbohydrate. 

Sample Menu for SKD

  • Breakfast – Omelet with 4 eggs onions, peppers and tomatoes / whey protein
  • Lunch – Salad greens, whole avocado and grilled chicken / lentils soup (Indian dal and brown rice) 
  • Dinner – Salmon / any lentils preparation, steamed spinach and veg soup.

This example includes approximately 1300 calories. You may need more calories. Lentils and whey protein with milk are high carb foods but I have included them for vegetarians so that they can meet their protein requirements. 

How does it help you lose weight?

Carbohydrates are not around for energy use, so your body shifts to using fats for energy. These fats come from both the food you eat, and the fat stored in your body.

If you eat enough protein, the muscle stores in your body will be spared and not used for energy.

The calorie level of the SKD is typically low, which can also help you lose weight.  


  • The low calorie nature of the diet might decrease your metabolism, and lead to the “yo-yo” dieting scenario. Decreasing your metabolism is something you do not want to happen.
  • It has been suspected that a ketosis metabolic state and inadequate dietary calcium can lead to brittle bones. 
  • Increased risk of bone fracture and osteoporosis is a possibility with long-term KD.
  • Several food groups are missing from the KD, so some vitamins and mineral are also missing, such as thiamin, folate, iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium. 
  • A multi-vitamin/mineral supplement should be considered if you’re on the KD long-term.
  • Other unpleasant side effects – headache, “foggy brain,” bad breath, fatigue, irritability, and fruity-smelling urine. 


  • Overall it seems to be a very good diet for people who want to lose weight fast.  
  • To sum up, for fast fat loss (short term), this diet would rate 4 out of 5. 
  • It is good for breaking weight loss plateau.
  • Studies are not available to evaluate long-term use of the ketogenic diet. 
  • The KD probably will not lead to long-term weight loss. 
  • A healthy, well-balanced lifestyle is a better idea if you want long-term success.

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Written by Jennifer Bowers , Doctorate in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with over 25 years of experience in clinical nutrition.

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