The ketogenic diet is one of the stayers of modern diet trends – well, we say ‘modern’, but did you know it’s actually been around since the 1920s? Keto has surged in popularity in recent years, so what’s with all the fuss?
What started out as a pretty extreme and controversial diet has tipped over into the mainstream and become one of the most popular weight-loss diets in the last decade or so, so let’s take a look at how keto has managed to stand the test of time, and help you decide whether or not this is the diet for you.
Keto is a dietary choice that forces our body to use fat as fuel, rather than glucose. By massively restricting our carbohydrate intake (we’re talking less than 20g/day), upping our consumption of high-fat foods and consuming moderate levels of protein, we’re triggering the creation of something called ‘ketones’. Ketones are an alternative energy source that can be used as fuel.
So, eating lots of fatty meats, cheese, eggs, butter, poultry, oils, nuts and seeds – sounds OK so far, right? You’ll also need to cut out things like whole grains, fruit, legumes, many vegetables and most dairy… less appealing? We hear you.
One of the big downsides to keto is that you’re limiting the source for so many essential vitamins and minerals. Most people can get the results they’re after without going to the extremes of a ketogenic diet. As always, any big changes to your diet should only be made in consultation with a dietician.
The case for keto can be presented pretty convincingly if you only look at the pros. There’s a long list of possible benefits, but it’s so important to remember that every body is different – we won’t all respond in the same way to changes in diet.
The main seller is weight loss. Because we’re burning fat stores to power our workouts and keep our body running throughout the day, people on a strict keto diet can see faster weight loss than what they might expect. And there are other potential benefits, too:
You’ll eat less processed foods as keto requires people to consume mostly whole foods.
Improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms and cholesterol profile are common, especially in people who have carbohydrate intolerances.
Low-carb means lowered insulin levels, and therefore lower blood glucose levels.
Keto is also popular with strength and endurance athletes thanks to its potential to help people reach a low body fat percentage.
Not so fast. With any diet, there are pros and cons. On top of some of the potential benefits of keto, it’s important that we understand the risks, too:
You can miss out on important nutrients due to the foods you’ve cut out of your diet.
A keto diet is generally low in fiber.
Eating too much meat isn’t a great thing for our bodies, nor is it positive for the planet.
A reduced intake of prebiotic foods like fruits and vegetables can have negative effects on your gut health.
Food is supposed to be fun! A strict diet like keto can take the joy out of food.
People often feel nauseous, constipated, irritable and have problems sleeping in the early stages of a ketogenic diet.
So now you’ve got the full picture, it’s up to you to decide whether or not keto is for you. Just remember, there are no shortcuts to reaching your health and fitness goals.
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