Various fad diets come and go and the latest trend is the ketogenic diet – also known as just “keto.”
People who go on keto diets tend to drop weight pretty rapidly and the regimen has been linked to lower blood-sugar levels thanks to the absence of carbs – which are essentially sugars.
The main thrust of the diet is that when your body doesn’t have carbohydrates to burn for fuel it starts burning fat instead, which in turn produces ketone molecules.
Once your body gets used to burning fat for fuel instead of carbs you’ve reached a “ketosis”, when you will continue using fat to fuel your body until you start eating carbs again.
What you can eat
Keto is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs. Under the diet you can eat:
Meat – Beef, steak, sausage, pork, bacon, chicken and turkey.
Fatty fish – Salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
Dairy products – Butter, whole milk, yogurt, eggs and cheese.
Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
Healthy oils – Extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
Avocados – Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
Veggies – Green vegetables, onions, asparagus, broccoli, peppers, etc.
Effects on health
The effects on health are a mixed bag and there are both benefits and drawbacks.
One of the key outcomes is weight loss, and people who stick to this type of diet can see drastic reductions in amount of fat they carry.
Numerous studies have shown that a ketogenic diet reduces seizures in children with epilepsy.
A ketogenic diet also has been shown to improve blood-sugar control for patients with type 2 diabetes, at least in the short term.
Other studies have shown the keto diet can help people with heart disease by reducing body fat, blood pressure and blood sugar.
Most people who try the keto diet say it’s difficult to stick to, particularly since carbs are such a significant part of the American diet (often as much as 50%, which is actually more than we should be eating).
Also, the diet includes plenty of red meat and lots of fatty, processed and salty foods, which are unhealthy and can cause higher cholesterol levels, build-up of plaque in arteries, high blood pressure, and more.
Doctors also say that not eating carbs for a sustained period time increases health risks and mortality.
They also say the diet is not nutritionally adequate since it forces you to cut out some essential parts of a healthy diet like fruits (and some vegetables), as well as complex carbohydrates like grains, breads, potatoes and rice. And not all complex carbs are created equal; high-fiber grains like brown rice and rye breads are extremely nutritious.
Finally, there have not been any studies on the effects of ketosis on people’s long-term health.