The keto diet has become incredibly popular in recent years, but like other diets that involve cutting carbohydrates down severely, it has also been a subject of controversy. The keto diet, short for Ketogenic Diet, has proven effective in helping reduce epileptic episodes [link: https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/news/study-shows-that-ketogenic-diet-may-be-feasible-and-effective-in-adults-with-epilepsy-12-04-2016#.XgHSLkf7Q2w] and as a fast weight loss diet, but is it safe to eat long-term and is it right for you? Let’s take a closer look.
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet is a diet in which you reduce carbohydrate intake to a minimum (typically 50g a day) to encourage your body to use fat stores and your intake of fat and protein for energy instead of carbohydrates – a process called ketosis (hence the name).
When your body uses these less-easily accessed energy sources, it has to work much harder to fuel processes in the body. The “ideal” breakdown of macronutrients for a keto diet is 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates, though those who follow the diet often tweak it to make it a more sustainable diet.
Pros and Cons of a Keto Diet
Now that we all know exactly what a keto diet is, let’s breakdown the pros and cons.
- It’s a hard diet to stick to – your carbohydrate intake will purely come from what is in your protein and fat-focused foods, and perhaps a few vegetables.
- Many people don’t function well on the true ketogenic diet; they experience brain fog, headaches, and fatigue.
- Keeping the weight off is hard. If you’re someone who loves high carbohydrate foods like pasta and bread, you’ll struggle not to fall off the wagon and binge after your diet.
- It limits your intake of healthy foods. Vegetables, and fruit to a lesser extent, are extremely important in giving you the nutrients you need to function and thrive. Meat and high-fat foods just don’t contain these nutrients.
- If you stick to the diet you will lose weight. A simple search of Reddit will show you anecdotal evidence, but there is also plenty of evidence to be found in scientific studies.
- Keto is an effective way to lower cholesterol levels. This study by Kuwait University [link: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/] showed that when obese patients were put on a 24-week keto diet, consuming just 30g of carbs a day, 83 patients lost significant weight, cholesterol decreased, and blood glucose levels decreased.
- It’s good for your brain – keto has proven to be an effective treatment for epilepsy patients and in reducing migraines. The high-fat content of the diet helps reduce inflammation in the brain that triggers the migraines.
- Studies are showing that reduced carbohydrate intake [link: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267662/] may be effective in the treatment and prevention of cancers.
- It’s a great diet for those who love meats and dairy and have struggled to lose weight in the past. Most other diets focus on balance and cutting out calorie-dense fatty foods like cheese and red meat, but keto allows you to eat these relatively freely.
While an extreme ketogenic diet might not be easy to adhere to for long periods of time, a modified version of the keto diet that makes it more sustainable for day-to-day life has proven effective for many. It’s important to remember that any diet geared toward losing excess weight, dropping blood glucose levels and cholesterol is better than doing nothing, so if the keto diet is the one that fits your habits and goals best, there’s no reason not to try it.
However, you should also consider upping your vegetable intake to ensure you are properly fueling your body from a nutritional standpoint. There are numerous different healthy diets so take what works for you and leave what doesn’t for flexibility that makes a healthy diet a way of life for you.