To Keto or not to Keto?

Ketogenic diets are rising in popularity at the moment, while they were originally designed for epileptic patients to calm their seizures, many people now follow a keto diet with the aim of losing fat. Considered an extreme low carb, high fat diet, it can seem like a crazy diet choice, and it certainly isn’t an easy one to follow, especially for the carb-lovers out there. So what exactly does going “keto” mean and are there actually any benefits?

What is it?

A ketogenic is a very low carbohydrate, high fat diet. It is designed to make your body use fat as its main fuel source instead of its normal choice, carbohydrate. The protein content is fairly similar to any other diet, it is just the fat and carb that change. The very low carb content makes your body produce something called ketones for energy. Normally our bodies break down carbohydrate to glucose which is our usual fuel source. When there is little carb available, the body can instead convert fat in to ketone bodies and enter a state of ketosis where it is using ketones for energy instead of glucose. People claim to have more stable energy levels, less brain fog, better appetite control and often weight loss – sounds amazing right?!

The Basics

  • A diet of 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carb (usual diet is 50% carbs)
  • Lots of full fat dairy
  • Lots of oils
  • Lots of nuts and seeds
  • Higher fat cuts of meat
  • No root vegetables
  • No legumes or beans
  • No fruit other than berries
  • No sugar
  • No bread, pasta, rice or grains
  • Limited alcohol

The Effects

  • Quicker initial weight loss than a traditional diet
  • Similar weight loss long-term compared to a standard diet
  • Improved blood glucose control – good for diabetes prevention
  • Slightly improved blood lipids – good for cardiovascular disease risk

The Verdict

Most people recommend the keto diet for weight loss, in the short term, people do often lose more weight with a keto diet than a normal diet. However, this effect evens out long-term and the amount of weight lost is usually the same so a ketogenic diet offers no benefit over a standard diet for weight loss!

One of the main concerns with a high fat diet is that it is dangerous for cardiovascular disease risk, however many studies show that a keto diet does not worsen the blood lipids, in fact it often slightly improves them. It also improves blood glucose control and may be useful for managing diabetes, so overall it definitely has a few benefits.

At the end of the day, any conscious effort to improve your diet often has great results. Just focusing on what you eat in general usually will make you pick healthier choices. The concern with a keto diet is that it is highly restrictive and promotes cutting out of nutritious food groups such as fruit, legumes and whole grains.

There is no problem with a keto diet if people are eating plenty of the vegetables they are allowed to eat, the issue arises when people take keto to just mean lots of meat and dairy as they may be skipping out on vital nutrients and fibre. The true issue here is that for most people this is a totally restrictive an unsustainable diet, the best diet is one that you can stick to and one that lets you eat food that you enjoy!

Keto foods may be right for some people, but things like parties and meals out become much trickier and less enjoyable if you are having to avoid all carbs altogether. Finding a balanced diet that works for you is the most important thing!

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