What's the Deal with the Ketogenic Diet?

The Ketogenic Diet is a high fat, low carb diet. On the standard keto diet, a person eats 75% of their calories from fat, 20% of their calories from protein and only 5% from carbs. This high fat intake forces your body into a state known as ketosis. In this state, your body switches from its natural tendency to burn carbohydrates for energy to burning fats. Fats are broken down into ketone bodies, which are then used as your body's primary form of energy. Using fat for energy- sounds appealing right?  Read on to learn why this may not be ideal for all. 

What’s with the hype?
The keto diet first gained popularity in the 1920’s as a treatment for epileptic patients. In the early 2000’s, the Atkins Diet revived the low-carb craze, setting the stage for the resurgence of the Keto diet in recent years. The popularity of the keto diet has led to everything from trendy new beverages like “keto coffee” (coffee served with a tablespoon of butter) and plenty of other celebrity-backed product endorsements.

Proponents of the keto diet believe that by forcing your body into ketosis, you can increase your energy levels and burn more fat, leading to weight loss. It is also believed that ketosis can improve cognitive function because ketone bodies may supply more oxygen to your brain per unit than glucose.

So, what can I eat on the Keto Diet?

  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Seafood
  • Cheese
  • Avocados
  • Meat and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Oils
  • Butter and ghee
  • Greek yogurt

Keto Pros?
There may be some merits to the Keto diet for certain populations. Research has shown that lower carbohydrate diets, like the keto diet, may improve insulin resistance in obese patients in the short term. Additional studies still need to be conducted to determine long term efficacy, though. There also needs to be more research conducted to see what the effects would be on healthy individuals following this diet in the long term as well. 

Keto Cons
However, many healthy plant foods are cut out of the Keto diet. When people hear the word ‘carbohydrate’ they often associate it with foods like white bread, potato chips, and muffins. And yes, these foods should be limited, but complex carbohydrates include beneficial food groups like specifically fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains and legumes. These foods are full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber, which have been shown to aid in weight loss, digestion, CVD risk reduction, Type 2 Diabetes risk reduction and more.

The Bottom Line
We could all benefit from cutting out processed and refined grains, but following a full Ketogenic Diet is likely not sustainable and can lack important nutrients. Also, if you are looking to follow a plant-based diet, the ketogenic diet will prove especially troublesome (no beans, legumes or whole grains). If you want to give keto a try, make sure you do it under the supervision of a doctor or registered dietitian.  

Photo Credit: The Huffington Post