The ketogenic diet has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. This trendy eating plan, also known simply as the keto diet, touts a variety of positive effects on the body ranging from rapid weight loss to improved blood sugar control.
However, like many popular diet trends, the keto diet has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore the pros and cons of the keto diet to see if it is the right fit for supporting your health and wellness goals.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet. Like many other popular diet trends, the keto diet restricts carb intake. However, what separates keto from other low carb diets like Atkins and Paleo is its focus on high fat foods.
While most other low carb diets center around protein, keto emphasizes foods that are high in fat. In fact, a standard keto diet generally contains a whopping 70% to 80% of daily calories from fat, 10% to 20% from protein, and only 5% to 10% from carbohydrates.
When you restrict your carbohydrate intake and replace it with fat, your body will begin to burn body fat for fuel, which forces your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. While in ketosis, your body will rely on ketones, a source of energy that your liver produces from stored fat.
Keto Diet Pros and Cons
You may be wondering, does the keto diet work for weight loss? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. In fact, the evidence to support the keto diet as a weight loss tool is conflicting.
Let’s take a detailed dive into the pros and cons of the keto diet to further investigate the advantages and disadvantages of this wildly popular eating trend.
Keto Diet Pros
Initial rapid weight loss
Most people are drawn to the keto diet in hopes of losing weight and when it comes to initial, rapid weight loss, keto is a clear front-runner. When you deprive your body of carbs, the main source of energy for your brain and other critical organs, an alternative fuel called ketones is produced from stored fat.
Additionally, when you restrict carbohydrate foods, you’ll begin to rely on high-fat and high-protein foods which leads to more satiety, or feelings of fullness. Furthermore, while following a keto diet, many people remain in a calorie deficit which can promote additional weight loss.
One older study examined the effects of a very low carbohydrate diet on body composition and cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers found that people following a keto diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a low calorie, low fat diet and also improved their triglyceride and HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
It’s important to note that many of the studies evaluating the benefits of the keto diet on weight loss are short term. Therefore, it is difficult to determine if the keto diet is a sustainable weight loss solution.
May be effective in managing epilepsy
The keto diet has been used for decades as a way to manage seizures in some people with epilepsy. While the mechanism of action isn’t fully understood, scientists theorize that the low carb and high fat diet changes the “excitability” in the brain reducing its tendency to produce seizure activity.
One 2019 study noted that the ketogenic diet may be helpful in the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy as it may reduce seizure frequency while improving cognitive functioning.
Possible increased satiety and decreased hunger between meals
There’s no shortage of high-fat foods to choose from while following a keto diet. Foods high in fat can help boost satiety which can prevent overeating and excessive snacking between meals.
One 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis found that people following a keto diet reported significantly less hunger and increased satiety compared with baseline, despite adhering to a calorie restriction and experiencing significant weight loss.
Improved blood sugar control
There is some evidence to suggest that following a keto diet may help improve blood sugar control, particularly for people with diabetes. Restricting carbohydrate intake can help lower large spikes in blood sugar, which may lead to a reduction in the need for insulin.
One 2018 study found that people with diabetes who followed a keto diet experienced low rates of hypoglycemia and were able to improve their blood sugar control.
Keto Diet Cons
While the keto diet may have some health benefits, there are some adverse effects to consider.
The keto flu is a cluster of symptoms that appear as a side effect of ketosis. These symptoms, which often mimic those of the flu, are a result of your body adapting to a drastic reduction in carbohydrate intake.
Symptoms of keto flu can range from mild to severe and can appear within days of beginning the diet and may last up to a week or more.
Common symptoms of the keto flu may include:
- Stomach pain
- Trouble sleeping
If you’re like most people, the idea of giving up carbs for life can feel very daunting. Similarly, much of the research suggests that forgoing carbs forever is very difficult to sustain.
One 2015 review found that only 45% of study participants were able to stick with a keto diet citing that the side effects, the cravings, and feelings of isolation made it nearly impossible to adhere to.
Your ability to stick with a diet long-term is likely more important than the type of diet you choose to follow. Therefore, when choosing an eating plan, make sure that it’s something you’re comfortable with for the long haul. To make life easier, we create a keto diet grocery list with ideas for every meal and every snack time!
It may come as no surprise but eliminating an entire food group can affect the quality of your diet and lead to deficits in your nutrient profile. The keto diet restricts the intake of most fruits, some vegetables, whole grains, and legumes which all provide an array of important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.
Research has shown that following a very low carbohydrate diet like the keto diet may lead to deficiencies in thiamin, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.
Moreover, ketogenic diets are typically low in important dietary fiber needed for healthy intestinal functioning. Fiber is also needed for the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in your colon. SCFAs have far-reaching health benefits including enhancing nutrient absorption, helping you feel fuller for longer and supporting your immune system.
Is keto right for you?
The keto diet has been solidly researched as a way to effectively manage seizure activity in some people with epilepsy. Additionally, if you’re looking for a quick and possibly short-term weight loss solution, then keto will likely deliver. The keto diet emphasizes high fat foods which can help increase satiety and reduce overeating.
While some people may flourish when following a keto diet, others may find it too restrictive to adhere to for years on end. Also, the diet eliminates a wide variety of healthy foods leaving you susceptible to nutrition deficiencies.
Before changing your diet it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional, like a registered dietitian, to ensure it is safe for you and will meet your unique needs.
If you do choose to try out the keto diet, make sure to add Chomps Beef Jerky to your snack time routine!
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