What is the Ketogenic Diet?

by Melissa Chichester

Whether you heard about it from friends and family or saw it while scrolling through your social media feed, by now it is likely that you have heard about the ketogenic diet and lifestyle. The ketogenic way of living is not new, but it has recently captured the attention of health enthusiasts and has quickly gained traction on social media. But is the ketogenic lifestyle all that it seems?

History of the ketogenic diet

The origins of the keto diet were not to benefit body composition but to rather assist with brain health, as studied by two French researchers in 1911. In the 1920s and 1930s, the ketogenic diet was recommended to medical patients as an epilepsy treatment. The use of keto was discontinued after a couple decades due to the advent of antiepileptic drugs, and until the year 2000, the ketogenic diet was not studied as frequently in the medical community. Today, the ketogenic diet is still used by some physicians as an epilepsy treatment in conjunction with other modern therapies.

How the ketogenic diet works

Individuals practicing the keto diet eat a low carb, high fat diet that consists of limiting carbohydrate intake. Depending on the individual, carbohydrates are restricted down to 50, 35, and even 25 grams of carbohydrates per day. The amount of carbohydrates depends on several factors, including age, weight, activity levels, and any health issues that need to be considered. The idea is that restricting carbohydrates puts the body into the metabolic state of ketosis. Some believe that while the body is in ketosis, it burns fat more efficiently. The keto diet is not the same as the paleo diet or Atkins, as it requires even lower carbohydrate consumption.

Pros of the ketogenic diet

While the keto diet for weight loss is still debated by researchers, there are some benefits to this way of eating. Benefits of the ketogenic diet include:

  • Eating more nutritious healthy fats, like avocados, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish.
  • Eliminating unhealthy sweets and pre-packaged foods in the diet, including candy, processed grains, and soft drinks full of sugar.

Cons of the ketogenic diet

Health is personal to each individual, and like any trend that comes along the ketogenic diet will not be for everyone. Here are some of the challenges of the ketogenic diet:

  • It requires extensive meal planning for all meals, therefore it can be difficult to follow.
  • The ketogenic diet is not convenient for individuals who are used to “grab-and-go” meals.
  • Getting enough fiber in the diet is challenging due to carbohydrate restriction.
  • It is highly restricted, which may frustrate people trying to make small lifestyle changes.
  • Not all fat will be heart healthy.

How to ease into the ketogenic diet

If you want to try the keto lifestyle but aren’t ready to dive in, there are many ways to make the transition easier. Easing into any lifestyle changes will help make those changes stick for the long run. Here are five tips to set yourself up for success in the ketogenic lifestyle:

1. Cut out all excess and processed sugar right away before limiting fruit intake.

2. Begin eating healthier fats like avocados and eggs.

3. Educate yourself as much as possible about the keto diet by listening to podcasts, watching videos, consulting your physician, and reading researched information.

4. Develop a list of foods you like that fit within the ketogenic lifestyle, and make a plan that fits into your lifestyle.

5. Drink more water.

Ketogenic diet grocery staples

Your grocery list may have some new staples while practicing the ketogenic diet or easing into it. Consider adding these keto-diet friendly additions to your pantry:

Coconut oil
Stevia powder
MCT oil
Bone broth
Raw mixed nuts
Flaxseed meal
Almond flour
Coconut flour
Hemp seeds


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01821.x

*Always consult a physician before beginning any dietary program.