The keto diet was originally designed to help children and some adults manage epileptic seizures but in recent years it has morphed into a popular weight loss plan even a lifestyle. There have also been some claims that it will cure what ails you.
I have been quietly observing the keto diet craze. I see so many people who have been successful achieving their healthy weight goals and I want to be supportive and encouraging. On the other hand, with all those college courses in biochemistry and physiology some of the hype does not make a lot of sense on how this can be a permanent lifestyle solution.
I recently spoke with my friend who has been successfully moving towards her healthy weight goals (not on the keto diet by the way) and she told me that she would love for me to write a blog post on the less positive side of the keto diet and that she was tired of hearing about it. And I started considering it (I am not one for controversy and my Midwestern upbringing doesn’t make it easy) then I ran into another dear friend who told me that she was moving towards her healthy weight goasl and I asked her “Are you doing the keto diet?” And she said, “Absolutely not! I would never go on a diet that eliminates healthy foods like fruits and vegetables”. And last night, I had a friend text me and ask “What do you think about the keto diet? I want a registered dietitian’s point of view”. She told me that she and her spouse followed it for two weeks and felt awful.
So I decided it is time to share my thoughts and feelings on the keto diet while encouraging everyone who struggles achieving their own personal healthy weight journey that there are individual ways to do it.
Here are just a few nutrition points before we get into the nitty gritty on keto:
Adding more fat to someone’s meal plan may help them feel more satisfied and there are lots of nutrition benefits to healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds that provide essential fatty acids. Here is a list of healthy fats.
Eating less calories than you need and exercising more can help someone move closer to healthy weight goals. Recent Study on eating less calories.
Eating a little more protein also helps someone feel full longer, I would buy that also. Here are a some health facts on high protein diet.
However, digger through all the hype and looking at some recent research, here are some possible darker sides of the keto diet:
- Most people probably never achieve ketosis, check out this recent article from Popular Science. Most of the weight loss by going on a very high fat diet is probably because of the lack of calories not necessarily the lack of carbs and going into ketosis. And the symptoms of ketoacidosis are not very desirable and most of the time you do feel bad when you are having them. In addition, not many people realize that high protein foods can actually be broken down into carbohydrates. As my college professor used to say “You are buying steak but getting baked potato”. Meaning, if your body needs carbs it’s preferred form of energy and it will find ways to get them so it will break down that filet mignon right into carbohydrates.
- But it’s the recent research study that made me take a double take. It looked at 25,000 Americans and found that the ones who ate the least amount of carbohydrates had a higher risk of dying in the next 6 years from heart disease, stroke and cancer. It might be okay in the short run to eat these low carb amounts to achieve weight but as soon as someone achieves their health goal, it’s important to switch over to a more balanced food meal plan.
Here are a few other eating habits that can help people feel satiated after a meal that the keto diet lacks and it may work better for many people. It promotes more fruits, vegetables and even a few if you want them whole grains. These habits may have more of an impact on many of us than focusing all about the fat and protein:
- High fiber foods provide the body a level of fullness. For many people, high fiber is much more effective than a low carb, high fat and high protein diet plus it provides more of the nutrients that you need. So why do we not hear more about it? It just doesn’t sound as much of a quick fix and it may be a little slower and more permanent. Here is a great article on some of the facts on fiber and a healthy weight.
- One of the tools that I love to share with clients is the ability to eat more, feel full but get less calories. I don’t know why a concept from a nutrition professor that has been around for years hasn’t taken off like the keto. It seems to me that everyone would want a full, colorful and flavorful plate. Check out this review from the Center for Disease Control on the Volumetrics and let me know if you love the concept!
- Unless we permanently change habits that contribute to a problem behavior, we probably won’t get where we want to be over the long term. Food behavioral habits are a big piece of our success. You need to access what you are doing and come up with solutions to change. Here are some great tips to get started: Harvard Tips for Permanent Behavior Change
Here are just a few recipe ideas to incorporate some of these healthy eating guidelines:
If you are insist on trying keto or stick with it, keep in mind that it probably is not a permanent way of eating but a temporary tool and long use may cause health issues.
If you want an alternative, healthy way to eat, I just want to remind you that we are all individuals and we all have personal ways of eating that work for us. And I want to leave you with a quote from my friend who had tried keto and felt terrible doing it so she stopped “I like the good old fashioned way of eating. Clean, whole foods. More fruits & vegetables. Less processed foods. Lifestyle change.” That sums it up nicely! Thank you dear friend for sharing your wisdom and the other friends who inspired me to write this post!
I hope that this post sharing some of the latest research on keto is helpful on how it may or may not be for you. As a registered dietitian nutritionist living in Asheville, NC, I love sharing recipe ideas in my kitchen that help others reach a permanent healthy way of eating. I am so glad that you stopped by! Check out my recipe page, other blog posts and newsletter for more tasty ways to eat that include high fiber foods where you can often fill your plate full with fruits and vegetables and still reach your health goals!