Keto Diet: Should You Try It Out?
With influential celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian being big fans, it’s no wonder that so many people are looking to adopt the keto diet. But what exactly is this new form of eating and what are its effects on the body? We went and uncovered all the details so you can make an informed choice.
What is the keto diet?
The ketogenic diet (more commonly known as the keto diet) is a low-carb diet that requires you to severely reduce your intake of glucose by restricting your consumption of foods with sugar and starch (carbohydrates). This form of eating was originally designed in the 1920s for patients with epilepsy as cutting out foods that provided carbohydrates for a brief period of time helped reduce the amount of seizures patients suffered.
The ketogenic diet derives its name from molecules called ketones which – as Monique Piderit (a registered dietitian from Nutritional Solutions) explains – are the body’s alternative source of fuel.
“When you drastically cut carbs from the diet and eat more fat (or are starving with very little food), the body makes ketones. Ketone bodies such as acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate are normal metabolic by-products made by the liver and exported into the blood to serve as an energy source during these times. Studies have shown that the brain (which normally uses glucose for energy) can readily use ketone bodies as an alternative fuel. Ketosis is this metabolic state where your body switches from using glucose as energy to using ketone bodies, which come from body fat.”
With ketones, fat burning increases dramatically, which is why so many people see the keto diet as the best way to lose weight.
More on ketosis
Once the levels of ketone in the blood rise to a certain point, you officially enter into a state of ketosis. Ketosis – accompanied by possible symptoms of the ‘Keto Flu’ that include dry mouth, increased urination and bad breath- results in swift and regular weight loss. People often enter into ketosis at different rates, usually after 3–4 days. However, there is a risk of you never entering ketosis, as Piderit explains.
“Those on a ketogenic diet are probably never really getting into ketosis. A ketogenic diet is very difficult to prepare and follow. It is challenging and if you’re not challenged by it, you’re doing it wrong. It involves eating a lot of rich, heavy foods with little variety like fatty cuts of meat and rich gravy on cauliflower. Since you’re only allowed 20g of carbs per day, you’re over your limit after eating just one banana (15 – 20g of carbs depending on size of banana) and close to being over with just 1 glass of milk (12g of carbs per glass). Because of this, some even revert to taking ketone supplements.”
Eating on a Keto diet
“A typical ketogenic diet is very high in fat (about 80% of total energy intake) very low in carbohydrates (5% of energy intake or around 20 – 50g of carbs per day) and low protein of about 15% of total energy for the day. Starvation can also initiate ketone production as the body breaks down fat stores for energy, as can prolonged physical exercise performed in the fasted state which stimulates ketogenesis during exercise It is estimated that we need about 5 days of eating this way to induce ketosis.” explains Piderit.
High-fat, low-carb foods that you can enjoy on a keto diet include; chicken, turkey, fatty fish like salmon and trout, pastured or omega-3 whole eggs, unprocessed cheese, nuts and seeds like almonds, , flaxseeds and chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil and veggies that include green vegetables, tomatoes, onions and peppers.
Foods that you need to stay clear off includes all processed foods, sweetened and caloric beverages, including alcohol and milk, wheat-based products, rice, pasta, all fruit, except small portions of berries, beans and legumes and low-fat products.
Should you adopt the keto lifestyle?
The keto diet was initially designed to aid weight loss and, according to multiple studies, it does that quite well. Furthermore, by moderating the intake of carbohydrates, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Obesity Reviews found that the diet improves the risk factors – such as HDL levels, blood pressure – for heart disease. It’s also works particularly well for diabetics, as it strictly controls carbohydrate intake.
However, fitness personality Julian Michaels recently shared with PeopleTV that she believes that the keto diet is nothing but an extremely unhealthy fad due to its restrictions.
“When you’re not eating one of those macronutrients, you are quite literally starving your cells and disabling them from functioning in their proper way,” she said.
It seems that Piderit shares her sentiment.
“Life is not just about weight loss. It’s about living and being healthy. We worry about the long-term use of this diet.”
One of Piderit’s particular concerns is the long-term effect the diet can have on gut health,
“Those on ketogenic diets risk digestive problems and imbalances in the healthy bacteria of the gut. This is because fibre intake is very low as fibre is found in foods like wholegrains, bran, fruit and vegetables, carbs which are so drastically limited on this diet.”
Furthermore, she doesn’t believe that your body should be void of glucose as in its absence; your body will start breaking down the amino acids in proteins to make it. She admits that too much glucose isn’t good for you, but you require some to ensure the normal functionality of your cells.
Also, although the diet encourages the consumption of healthy fats, Piderit believes that in order to reach the very high fat intake (80%+), you might end up eating the wrong ones. As opposed to severely restricting different types of food from your diet the best thing you can do for your health as well as maintain the results you’re looking for is to exercise regularly and eat a clean, balanced diet. Click here for Harvard Health Publishing’s take on this diet.
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