How “Healthy” is the Keto Diet?

Recently, many people have been curious about a ketogenic diet. Most are asking if it’s safe and if it’s recommended for weight loss and better overall health.

Despite the recent hype, a ketogenic diet is not something new.

In medicine, it has been used for almost 100 years to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, especially in children. In the 1970s, Dr. Atkins popularized his very-low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss that began with a very strict two-week ketogenic phase. Over the years, other fad diets incorporated a similar approach to weight loss.

What is the Ketogenic Diet? 

A Ketogenic diet is a very low carb and high-fat diet that turns the body into a fat burning machine. There are approximately 6 versions of the ketogenic diet, the differences are solely based on the percentages of fat, protein, carbohydrates that are recommended. The body runs on carbohydrates for energy, with decreasing the body’s normal fuel source it will utilize fat. In absence of carbohydrate intake, the body breaks down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies (this is called ketosis). Since you must restrict carbohydrates (normally account for 50% or more of the average diet), this diet is rich in fats and some proteins.

The Pros.

There is solid evidence showing that a ketogenic diet reduces seizures in children, sometimes as effectively as medication. However, there are no human studies to support recommending ketosis to treat any other neurological condition (i.e. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s). In addition, weight loss is the primary reason people are interested in this diet. A ketogenic diet has been shown to improve blood sugars in people with type 2 diabetes, at least in short-term, because of the restriction of carbohydrates.

The Cons.

This diet is relatively restricting making it difficult to sustain over an extended period of time. In addition, the ketogenic diet restricts certain foods and food groups because of the number of carbohydrates that they contain, but some of these foods are essential for a well-balanced diet. These healthier food groups include fruits, carrots, beetroot, yam, sweet potatoes, potatoes, jaggery, grains and cereals, pulses, legumes, and milk. Other foods that are avoided are chocolate, sweets, honey, sugar, processed foods, carbonated drinks, and alcohol.

Fad diets come in all forms and advertise for quick weight loss. What those advertisements don’t tell you is that you must make lifestyle changes and healthier choices, including exercise to sustain that weight loss over time. You can identify fad diets when they will use vague terms, such as “addictive” and “toxic”, but can’t name exactly what they are. They will also ban foods (or even better –whole food groups), enlist exotic “superfoods” (such as powders, tonics, or supplements), use complex rules about food combinations or timing, a celebrity may endorse that diet or try to discredit others, and they may claim to be the cure all manner of a certain disease(s).

Next Steps.

If you have any questions about certain diets or what would be best for you, contact a medical physician or registered dietitian to learn if it is right for you. Remember, to have a healthy diet no food groups should be eliminated. There are no “good” or “bad” foods, and everything should be consumed in moderation!

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