By Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD – Updated May 2018
To go into ketosis, and stay there, most people need to eat fewer than 20 net grams of carbs each day. What does that look like on a plate?
What looks more appetizing and filling: a plate overflowing with above ground vegetables, or a half of a hamburger bun – naked?
It is easy to see how consuming 20 grams of vegetables, even with the sweet taste of cherry tomatoes or sweet peppers, is not only very satisfying but also chock full of vitamins and minerals.
But that naked half bun? Add the other half, the ketchup, and other fixings and soon it is easy to see that you will be well over your daily carb count.
That is why regular bread is never a recommended part of a keto diet. It is pretty much impossible to eat it and stay below 20 grams of carbs..
High carb foods: here’s 20 grams
So what does 20 grams of carbs look like for potatoes, pasta, rice or bread?
It is one potato, a small serving of pasta (about 1/2 cup), about 1/2 cup of white rice, and that half bun.
It won’t take much of any of these foods to exceed your daily carb limit and take you out of ketosis.
What to eat instead? Try cauliflower – riced, mashed, au gratin and many other ways — which makes a great replacement for rice or potatoes.
Low-carb food: here’s 20 grams
Compare that half of a hamburger bun or miserly portion of pasta to 20 grams of various vegetables, nuts and berries.
Betcha can’t eat 20 grams of spinach in one go! That plate on the bottom right isn’t even 20 grams, it is about 5! It was all we could fit on the plate. Spinach has 1.4 grams of carbs in 100 grams of leaves. You would have to eat about three pounds (1.5 kilos) of spinach to get to 20 grams.
Berries and nuts do have more grams of carbs per serving, so be careful:, they can add up to over 20 grams if you munch mindlessly.
Moderate low carb eating: What does 50 grams look like?
If you occasionally want to come out of ketosis, or “carb up”, eating 50 grams of carbs means you’re still staying relatively low carb.
Here’s 50 grams of refined or higher carb foods: three slices of bread, three potatoes, a cup of rice and a cup of pasta.
50 grams of carbs in low-carb foods
Here’s 50 grams of lower carb foods like vegetables, nuts and berries. That a lot of food on a plate.
Very low-carb foods
Some foods, like high fat dairy, meat, fish, cheese have almost no carbs. To eat 20 grams of net carbs is almost impossible if you stick to them. No wonder you can eat your fill of these foods and still lose weight. Here’s how much you’d need to eat to hit the daily limit:
Meat – an almost infinite amount (meat is virtually free of carbs)
Fish – an almost infinite amount
Olive oil – an infinite amount
Coconut fat – an infinite amount
Butter – 44 pounds (20 kilos)
Eggs – 30 eggs (one egg contains less than 1 gram of carbs)
Avocado – 7 avocados (net carbs per avocado: 3)
Cheese – 3 pounds (1.5 kilo)
Béarnaise sauce – 2 pounds (1 kilo)
1 cup heavy whipping cream or sour cream
2 tbsp green pesto
½ lemon, the juice
30 oz. chicken thighs
3 tbsp butter
1 lb cauliflower
4 oz. cherry tomatoes
7 oz. shredded cheese
salt and pepper
by Anne Aobadia, Emma Shevtzoff (Photo)
RecipesMain coursesKeto chicken casserole
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Mix cream (or sour cream) with pesto and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and fry in butter until they turn a nice golden brown.
Place the chicken in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish, and pour in the cream mixture.
Chop the leek and cherry tomatoes. Chop the cauliflower into small florets. Top chicken with leek, tomatoes and cauliflower.
Sprinkle cheese on top and bake in the middle of the oven for at least 30 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. If the casserole is at risk of burning before it’s done, cover it with a piece of aluminum foil, lower the heat and let cook for a bit longer.
Green it up! A rich dish like this only gets better served with a side of fresh leafy greens. Dress them with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.
The science behind the Ketogenic Diet:
The keto diet causes the human body to enter a state of ketosis which means that the body produces energy by the process known as ketogenesis. ketogenesis occurs mainly in the liver, where fat is metabolized to produce ketone bodies which are used to power the body. Ketogenesis depends on the levels of carbohydrate that is available. If an adequate amount of carbohydrate is available, the body metabolizes it and uses it immediately, as fuel. If excess carbohydrate is available, a portion is metabolized to produce energy for immediate use, a potion is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles for use between meals when necessary and the excess carbohydrate is converted to fat by the liver and stored in fat calls.
The body cannot burn fat directly, it needs to use glucose or convert fat to ketones.
The Keto diet transforms the body into a fat burning machine by forcing it to run almost entirely on ketones produced from fat. It has been proven to cause weight loss while enhancing performance and improving health.
The Keto diet may even help to prevent age-related conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and certain types of cancers. Researchers have found, in a recent study conducted in the UK, that the ketone known as β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB) protects cells in the body from ‘internal stress’ that causes genetic damage in cells that result in ageing.
Ketogenic Diet Menu
Some people find it easy to follow a structured program. If you are that person, consider a meal plan for beginners. To achieve and maintain ketosis, consume of less than 50 grams of carbs per day, ideally below 20 grams is the optimum goal. The fewer carbs, the more effective.
Creating a keto meal plan on your own is not easy, especially since eating a diet high in fats doesn’t come naturally to many people accustomed to traditional carb-heavy diets.
Set yourself up for success:
Make a plan and set a start date
Stock up on allowed foods, plan meals and snack options
Confirm with your physician that you can safely adapt the Keto lifestyle and discuss how your body will change the way it metabolizes energy.
Consider bloodwork to check cholesterol, vitamin D, and other markers that may change while you are on the keto diet.
Ketogenic Diet Ratio
The ketogenic diet consists of a 70/20/10 ratio of healthy fats, protein and carbohydrate. The ideal macronutrient ration for each meal is 70-80 percent healthy fats, 20-25 percent protein and 5-10 percent carbohydrate.
A diet consisting of low levels of carbohydrate, approximately 5-10 percent, causes the liver to use the stored glycogen to produce fuel for the body. After the glycogen is depleted, the body turns to fat to produce acetyl-CoA which accumulates and then activates ketogenesis. The ketones that produce energy are acetoacetate and β-hydroxybutyrate. Ketone levels are regulated by both insulin which reduces ketone production and glucagon which stimulates the production of ketones.
The quickest way to achieve Ketosis is by fasting, which is unsustainable. The alternative is the ketogenic diet, consuming low levels of carbohydrates, enough to produce ketosis.
Most non-diabetics on a ketogenic diet reach a beta-hydroxybutyrate (B-OHB) level of 3 milimolar (mM) which is far below the unsafe level of 15(mM).
Ketogenic Food/Grocery List
The Ketogenic Diet Food List:
Leafy Green vegetables
Full-fat Dairy products
Nuts and Seeds
Fats such as Coconut Oil
Food to avoid while following the Keto Diet are:
Sugars including honey and maple syrup
Grains especially rice and wheat products
White or sweet potatoes
Root vegetables such as carrots,or beets
Pulses – beans, peas, lentils
Appetite control On the Keto diet, you eat if and when you are hungry. Your body burns fat 24-7 and having access to a supply of stored fat for energy should dramatically reduce the frequent that you experience the feeling of hunger. This makes intermittent fasting easy, speeds up weight loss and may also help to reverse type 2 diabetes. Feeling hungry less often can be a great benefit for those who suffer from addiction to food or sugar, and also those suffering from eating disorders such as bulimia.
Constant energy and mental performance
Ketosis results in a constant supply of ketones to the brain and the brain functions normally. Without sugar-highs resulting from carbohydrates, many have reported improved focus and concentration.
Stable blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes
A keto diet controls high insulin levels and is known for actually reversing type 2 diabetes. This has been found in multiple studies and reported by many on the Keto diet. It makes perfect sense because ketosis goes hand in hand with low blood-sugar levels.
Increased physical endurance
The Keto diet can improve physical endurance because of the constant access to the energy stored in fat cells. On a carbohydrate-rich diet, after the body uses the available carbohydrate, it turns to carbohydrate stored as glycogen which only lasts for a few hours of intense exercise.
The keto diet has been used as an effective treatment for epilepsy in children since the 1920s. Recently, the keto diet has also been proven beneficial for adults with epilepsy. Patients are free of Seizures on less medication or in some cases, come off medication completely.
Other benefits Additional benefits include:
normal blood pressure,
Improvement or no migraine headaches
Your brain stops working because if needs carbs. That’s wrong.
Ketosis, as a result of the Keto diet is very different from ketoacidosis which is a medical emergency.
Other myths based on misunderstanding- it kill your kidneys or destroy your bones? Will it stop your thyroid from working?
Ketogenic – 5 Health Conditions
Ketogenic eating have become incredibly popular. Early research suggests this high-fat, very low-carb eating may benefit several health conditions. Although some of the evidence is from case studies and animal research, results from human controlled studies are also promising.
Here are 5 health conditions that may benefit from a ketogenic eating.
1. Ketogenic eating hasbeen shown to reduce seizure frequency and severity in many children and adults with epilepsy who don’t respond well to drug therapy.
2. Ketogenic eating may reduce abdominal obesity, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar in people with metabolic syndrome.
3. People with certain types of glycogen storage disease may experience a dramatic improvement in symptoms while following a ketogenic plan. However, more research is needed.
4. Women with PCOS following a ketogenic plan may experience weight loss, reduction in insulin levels and improvement in reproductive hormone function.
5. Ketogenic eating has been shown to reduce blood sugar in people with diabetes. In some cases, values return to a normal range, and medications can be discontinued or reduced.
With respect to cancer and several other serious diseases on this list, a ketogenic eating should be undertaken only in addition to standard therapies under the supervision of a doctor or qualified healthcare provider.
Also, no one should consider the ketogenic eating a cure for any disease or disorder on its own. Nonetheless, the ketogenic eatings’ potential to improve health is very promising.
All evidence & citations are from US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health