Some diets come and go, but keto seems to be sticking around. Although some people in the health community see it as a fad, there is much more to it. In fact, I don’t think that the keto diet is going anywhere. In this article you’ll find out exactly why as we explore the answer to this question: is the keto diet healthy?
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet, also called the keto diet, is a diet that essentially eliminates ( well, drastically reduces ) the amount of carbohydrates in ones diet. Typically this means under 50 grams (net) carbohydrates each day.
Our bodies rely on carbohydrates for glucose, which the body uses for energy. In the absence of this, the body will use ketones or stored fat. Your body essentially goes through a metabolic shift in which it goes from relying on carbohydrates for energy to instead being fat-fuelled. Once your body makes that metabolic shift (this can take up to 2 weeks), you are in ketosis. On a keto diet, 70-80% of your calories should come from fat.
What are the Benefits of going Keto?
Why would someone want to do the keto diet? There are actually a couple of main reasons why you might decide to try the ketogenic diet.
Thinking of trying the keto diet to lose weight? The keto diet has been shown to be an effective tool for weight loss. On the keto diet, the body burns fat for fuel. This can include stored fat. It works well if you stick to the diet properly, and it’s relatively safe for most people.
Not only does it help with weight loss, but one study showed that those who lost weight on the keto diet also lowered their blood glucose levels. It is also thought that the satiating nature of a high fat diet also helps with weight loss as well.
Enhanced Brain Function
The keto diet may enhance brain function. One animal study showed that a ketogenic diet improved neurovascular function in mice. Given that the brain is made up of 60% fat, and that fat is an important component of the brain-vital myelin sheath, it’s no surprise that a high-fat diet could boost your brain health.
The keto diet may also be neuroprotective and improve cognitive performance. The studies are preliminary, but promising. This could translate to having less mental fatigue and better focus day-to-day.
The mechanisms behind why this happens is not yet fully understood. Because a high fat diet lowers insulin levels and regulates blood sugar levels, it’s common for individuals to report feeling as though they simply “think clearer”.
The keto diet could be a way to improve your gut health. Mice who were put on the diet had healthier gut microbiome. After 3 weeks the mice showed a complete shift in their gut biome bacteria, both in number and in type. In general they has less diversity in bacteria, but they also had more healthy bacteria present in their gut as well.
What are the Side Effects of the Keto Diet?
There are a couple of things to take into consideration before you embark on the keto journey. As with any diet, there are benefits but there are also some downfalls.
The Diet is Restrictive
This degree of restriction, in the long term, is difficult for most people. Although there are some great recipes for keto-friendly meals, you might have to give up some of your favourite foods. This includes high carbohydrate foods like potatoes, bananas, dates, oats, and more. For this reason, many people use it as a short-term weight loss strategy but don’t stick to it long term.
That being said, due to the restrictive nature of this diet, it also might not be suitable for some people with past eating disorder issues. If you have any concerns about this you should contact your personal health professional.
One overlooked aspect of the keto diet is that quality really does matter. Because this diet relies heavily on protein (animal meat in the majority of cases) , the quality of that protein is important to focus on. High processed protein options like bacon and sandwich meats are not something to be relied on in the keto diet.
If you decide to go keto, keep in mind the quality of your fats and protein sources. Go for organic whenever possible. Opt for grass-fed beef if you can. Choose healthy fat sources like avocado, coconut oil, as well as good quality nuts and seeds. Don’t use this diet as an excuse to lower the quality of your food!
The transition into ketosis can be tough. The process is often referred to as the “keto flu” because the symptoms can mimic the flu. Symptoms include:
- Brain Fog
- Muscle Pain
- Difficulty Sleeping
The symptoms experienced really vary individually. Symptoms can be mild or severe and usually last between 7-14 days. Think of it as a “withdrawal” from carbohydrates – the body reacts in a sort of state of shock while going through the metabolic shift required to be in ketosis.
The keto diet can help with weight loss, cognitive function, and may also improve your gut health. However, it is also restrictive, can be expensive, and also might be difficult to transition into.
Is the keto diet healthy? For those with whom the pros outweigh the cons, then it might be something worth trying. It is safe for most people.
Tons of people swear by it, but the truth is that you might not really know how well it suits you until you try it for yourself.
Ready to take the next step? Be sure to read my article on How to go Keto – The Right Way for some helpful tips!