To Keto or Not to Keto…
You likely have heard about the ketogenic diet (keto or keto diet), the latest diet trend boasted for its impacts on weight and chronic diseases. Basically, it’s a super high in fat, moderate in protein and super low in carbohydrates. Keto staples consist in meat, fish, butter, eggs, cheese, heavy cream oils, nuts and seeds, avocados and low carb green vegetables. You cut out grains, rice, beans, potatoes, sweets, milk, cereals, and fruit.
Ketosis is a state that your body goes into when it doesn’t get enough carbohydrates. The body’s first line for fuel is carbohydrates which get broken down into glucose (sugar). Our bodies run on carbs to function on a daily basis. When it doesn’t get enough carbs, our bodies look for other ways to get energy. This is where fat comes in. Insulin levels drop without carbs and fat is released from our cells. The liver then turns the fat into ketones, our body’s second choice of energy source.
In order for you to be in ketosis, you need to eat around 75% or more of your calories from fat. That’s a ton of fat! Too much protein may kick you out of ketosis, so will having a slice of bread or a glass of wine. Keto macros look something like this: 75-80% fat; 15-20% protein; 5% carbohydrates. Compare this to the recommended diet of 20-35% fat, 10-35% protein, and 45-65% carbohydrates.
Many people experience the “keto flu” when transitioning into a ketogenic diet. Symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, confusion, muscle soreness, and insomnia. These symptoms are a result of a change in fluid and electrolyte balance in the body and usually improve within a week of transitioning into keto. To avoid the keto flu, you can try weaning yourself into the diet instead of cutting high-carb foods cold turkey.
Most people are using this diet for rapid weight loss. People likely will lose weight on a keto diet, as they are eliminating a major food group, limit your food options and limit food intake. We know increased protein intake may help you lose weight. The explanation as to why this diet leads to rapid weight loss is due to the loss of water weight. Another concern is the loss of muscle mass and the depletion of glycogen stores. Glycogen stores sugars and water. So when the stores are depleted, we flush out excess water. So basically you are losing water initially instead of fat.
There are many health benefits associated with decreased processed foods and refined sugars. It is important to understand how restrictive this diet really is. It requires a lot of work, meal planning and may not be suitable to your lifestyle.
Restrictive diets often provide short term results which are not sustainable long term. This in turn may results in regaining the weight initially lost and sometimes even gaining more weight than where you started. Health is not just about your physical health. Following a restrictive eating patterns may impact your emotional and mental wellbeing.
Currently, there are no conclusive evidence that supports ketogenic diets are superior to a healthy balanced diet that includes carbohydrates – except in certain clinical trials of pediatric epilepsy and metabolic disorders. The research is still small-scale and limited. We really just don’t know if the ketogenic diet is right for everyone or even if its safe long-term. We need more in-depth, long-term research to truly evaluate the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet. I would recommend going to a dietitian to gather all the information and then decide whether this is the right lifestyle for you, though I’m a big believer that everything can be enjoyed in moderation.
Angel Fonseca is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorWest Community Health Centre.
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