The Keto Diet: All the Rage, but is it Safe?

By Liesel Sumpter

Atkins, South Beach, Paleo… now Keto. These are just a few types of low-carbohydrate diets that have been popular throughout the years.

The newest craze – The Keto Diet – promises dieters quick weight loss and supposed additional health benefits.

But it has left a lot of nutrition and medical professionals asking, “Is it safe?”

What is The Keto Diet?

The Keto Diet stresses low-carbohydrate, high-fat eating with the goal of sending your body into a state called “ketosis.”

Ketosis occurs when the body has been deprived of glucose (which comes most easily from carbohydrate foods) and instead must create an alternative fuel source from stored fat, which are called ketone bodies.

Our bodies need adequate glucose since it’s the number one source of energy for the brain. Our brains can’t store glucose, so they demand a steady source throughout the day to keep our minds sharp and our bodies energized.

The standard Keto diet plan requires very low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat eating:

  • 75% fat
    • 20% protein
    • 5% carbohydrates

To see what a drastic contrast this is to what health professionals have identified our bodies need, check out the recommendations from the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine:

  • 20-35% fat
    • 10-35% protein
    • 45-65% carbohydrate

Even more shocking is how many nutritious, carbohydrate-containing foods the Keto diet tells dieters to cut out.

For example, the Keto diet avoids all fruit, root vegetables, beans and legumes, and grains and starches.

However, any nutrition professional well-educated on the current USDA MyPlate guidelines will tell you that these carbohydrate-containing foods are full of essential nutrients and enhance your overall diet. Plus, they are healthy and enjoyable foods!

After removing these foods, the Keto diet has dieters eat mostly high-fat meat, dairy products, and condiments. Keto meal plans are full of red meat, butter, cream, and cheese.

While there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about these foods, the American Heart Association clearly recommends limiting saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, and high-fat dairy products to decrease the risk of heart disease.

It leaves us wondering if the Keto diet really encourages the consumption of healthy foods in a well-balanced diet?

Do Dietitians Recommend The Keto Diet?

By far the most common reason people are attracted to the Keto diet is because it claims quick weight loss.

Our culture often looks for the quick fix with the least amount of work or long-term commitment. Since it seems like every celebrity or Instagram star is promoting easy weight-loss like on the Keto diet, our nation has jumped on board.

However, talk to a registered dietitian and they would tell you that creating healthy habits for lifelong change is a much better option.

The greatest problem most nutrition professionals agree upon about the Keto diet is the way it removes so many beneficial foods and replaces them with high-fat foods. Since fruits, root vegetables, legumes, and grains have been removed, Keto dieters are at risk of developing deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals.

 Other side effects include hunger, fatigue, irritability, and a general feeling of “fogginess” since the brain isn’t receiving enough glucose for adequate energy. While some Keto followers claim this is normal, these side effects likely won’t go away for consistent Keto dieters.

Instead of emphasizing balance, moderation, variety, and physical activity, the Keto diet pushes weight loss.

A Better Way to Live Well…

While the lure of quick weight loss may seem enticing enough to get you to follow the tight restrictions of the Keto diet… beware.

The disproportionate macronutrient requirements and inevitable side effects are not supportive of long-term health.

Even though your sorority sister or your great-aunt may say the Keto diet changed their life, remember that everyone reacts differently to a diet.

Ultimately the only fool-proof way to eat is to listen to your body and follow a diet that works for the long-term, includes exercise, and meets your long-term health goals.

And most importantly, allows you to enjoy food!

References:

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/keto-diet-is-gaining-popularity-but-is-it-safe-121914#10

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/verylowcarbohydrate-ketogenic-diet-v-lowfat-diet-for-longterm-weight-loss-a-metaanalysis-of-randomised-controlled-trials/6FD9F975BAFF1D46F84C8BA9CE860783

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101#foods-to-avoid

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16004827

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations

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