These days it seems that the keto diet is being talked about everywhere you turn – on TV, on the internet, in magazines and even at the grocery store. There are celebrities who swear by it and others who have tried and then sworn off the diet. So is the keto diet right for you or not?
As with any diet, before you jump in, it’s a good idea to learn a little about how it works, the benefits and possible risks. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the keto diet.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that is popularly used for short-term weight loss. It has many similarities to other low-carb diets like the Atkins diet. It was in fact adapted from the ketogenic diets that have been used therapeutically to control neurological conditions. In 2012, Italian doctors tried it as a weight loss method and found it to be effective in the short term up to one year.
The keto diet works by substituting the carbohydrates your body uses for fuel with proteins. After a few days, your body runs out of stored carbohydrates like glucose and sugar, and starts using body fat for fuel instead. This process is called nutritional ketosis, when the liver starts producing ketones, which are fatty acid substances that provide energy to the body.
Doctors have also found that ketosis can reduce the amount of blood sugar and insulin, which means that it might be a treatment for controlling diabetes. The keto diet may also be used under medical supervision for the treatment of other conditions like obesity, epilepsy, seizures, and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, medical research on the health benefits of the keto diet is at an early stage, so it’s best regarded as a short-term weight loss program for now.
What can you eat on the keto diet?
The keto diet consists mostly of proteins and fats. This includes meats like chicken and bacon, and fats like butter, cream, nuts, avocado, cheese and olive and coconut oil. Your protein intake should be around 30% of your diet.
The amount of carbohydrates you can eat are strictly limited to 50 grams a day or less. This includes both healthy carbs from sources like whole grains, milk, beans, fruit and vegetables and unhealthy carbs like white bread, pizza and starchy and sugary foods.
What are the pros and cons of the keto diet?
Before deciding if it’s right for you, it’s a good idea to know the pros and cons of the keto diet. What are the health and weight loss benefits, side effects, and possible risks?
1. You are allowed to eat fatty foods
Boredom is a common reason why people fail to stick to diets and weight loss programs. Add to that cravings for all kinds of delicious foods that are disallowed, and following your diet becomes an exercise in self-control and discipline.
With the keto diet, however, you can actually indulge in fatty foods like bacon, chicken, butter and cream. This makes it easier to follow than other diets where you have to reduce your intake of food and count calories.
2. Reduced appetite
The high-fat keto diet works naturally to reduce appetite, because fats and proteins fill you up faster. People on the keto diet automatically reduce their intake of calories without needing to count or restrict themselves. So the hunger pangs that most people associate with dieting just don’t happen on the keto diet.
3. You can see quick results with short-term weight loss
Numerous studies have shown that the keto diet helps in weight loss in the short term. Most people will lose about four pounds in the first week, though a lot of that is water weight. Typically, people lose a pound or two a week thereafter.
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4. Snacking is allowed
Because you don’t have to count calories and limit your food intake, you can snack during the day. And it doesn’t have to be just celery sticks – you can go for cheese, nuts, special energy bars or keto fat bombs which are small, intense desserts. You can even eat out because most restaurants have at least some items that fit the keto diet.
1. Side effects
For the first few days, people on the keto diet may suffer some side effects while the body gets used to the new diet. The side effects can include low energy, lack of focus, sleep and digestive problems, and nausea.
There is also the keto flu, which generally goes away after a week or so. Physical performance during exercise and athletics may also suffer a small decline, in terms of endurance, energy and exhaustion.
2. The long-term weight loss results are not known
Since the keto diet has been introduced only recently, there has not been enough time for researchers to determine if the weight loss can be maintained in the long term.
3. It doesn’t support overall health
The keto diet can be good for quick and short term weight loss, but may not maintain overall health in the long term. In particular, it doesn’t support strong bones, or heart, brain, colon and gut health. Since you’re getting most of your calories from fats, there is a risk of developing plaque in your arteries over time.
4. It’s difficult to follow for a long time
Even if you’re not a big fan of pizza or pasta, it’s difficult to stay away from breads, fruits and vegetables for ever without creating some health problems.
Should you try the keto diet?
Now that you know the pros and cons of the keto diet, should you go ahead with it? That depends of course on your reasons for dieting. If your goal is rapid weight loss, the keto diet does show quick results. It can also help people who are trying to manage diabetes or improve their metabolism.
If, on the other hand, you want to change your diet as part of your transition to a healthier lifestyle, you’d be better off with a more balanced approach. The keto diet is also not the best choice for athletes who need to build muscle or optimize performance.