You may have noticed that the latest diet to gain popularity is the Keto Diet. Butter in your coffee, bacon EVERYTHING, what’s not to like? And just like its predecessors (South Beach, Atkins, Paleo), the claims on immediate weight loss are astonishing and many people are hopping on the bandwagon without any real foresight. We’ve consulted Certified Toronto Nutritionist, Sarah Goldstein, to get the skinny on the Keto Diet.
So what is a keto diet?
The ketogenic diet is one that limits carbohydrate intake, and increases dietary fat – essentially a low carb, high fat diet. When you reduce carbohydrates (the body’s primary energy source), the body starts to burn fat for energy instead, which leads to ketosis. Ketosis is when your body becomes efficient at burning fat into ketones. Ketones are energy molecules in the blood (similar to blood sugars), which become fuel for the brain and body. The body will typically start to go into ketosis after 3 days of eating low carb, so it is often seen as a quick solution, especially for those with specific fitness or weight loss goals.
The ketogenic diet or “keto” diet, does not simply mean low carb, nor does it simply mean high fat. It is the intricate balance of reducing carbohydrates, and increasing healthy fat consumption. Problems can occur when you simply reduce carbohydrates without increasing fat or when you regally consume high amounts of carbohydrates with high amounts of fat.
What is in a keto meal?
A typical keto meal would be meat, poultry, fish or eggs with vegetables and fat from oils, butter and avocado. For instance, a breakfast could be eggs with smoked salmon and an avocado. For lunch, you can have a salad with chicken, avocado and an oil dressing. Alongside the keto diet, many foods are gaining popularity like organ meats, MCT oil, coconut oil, butter, low carb noodles like shirataki noodles and bulletproof coffee (coffee with a source of fat from either butter or coconut oil). It is important to keep in mind that the keto diet still needs to be balanced in its own right, and that it is important to consume high quality and nutrient dense foods including a lot of vegetables, while limiting inflammatory foods such as fast foods.
What are the benefits?
There are many therapeutic benefits to the ketogenic diet. Many people have found great success with weight loss, and there is evidence to suggest it can be helpful at managing diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. It can potentially lower the risk of heart disease and may benefit skin health, polycystic ovarian syndrome and Alzheimers.
What problems with the diet can occur?
Most Nutritionists will tell you that not one diet fits all – the same applies for the keto diet. It is important not to blindly follow any diet, but discuss your options with your healthcare practitioners. There are many cases where the keto diet would not work for an individual. Namely if someone has kidney or liver concerns. It has been shown to have adverse affects on anxiety, depression and osteoporosis. It has been connected to nutrient deficiencies, mineral deficiencies, gastrointestinal disturbances, thinning hair, increased bruising, menstrual irregularities, bacterial overgrowth and impaired cognition. Lastly, the diet is difficult to follow if vegetarian or vegan, as the bulk of foods are animal based.
If not followed properly you are also at risk for ketoacidosis, which is when ketones build up in your blood steam and become acidic. This can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigues, flushed skin, intestinal concerns/pain, breathing difficulties and the most extreme case, coma and death.
The research is still quite new, so the therapeutic benefits of this diet are still to be determined.
Get in touch with Sarah if you are interested in chatting with someone about your diet.