What is the keto diet?
The keto or ketogenic diet advocates for extremely low carbohydrate intake, moderate protein and high fat intake.
Depriving your body of carbohydrates, such as on the keto diet, will cause the body to switch to an alternative fuel source, which in this case are ketones. When the cells in your body no longer have their preferred fuel source (glucose, from carbohydrates), your body will start breaking down fat and amino acids to become rearranged into ketone bodies. Your brain runs exclusively on either glucose (from carbohydrates) or ketones to stay alive.
What foods are not permitted on the keto diet?
The keto diet advocates for extremely low carbohydrate intake, typically allowing only 5% total caloric intake from carbohydrates. This goes against current National health guidelines which suggest 45-65% of total calories coming from carbohydrates. This means that someone following a ketogenic diet and consuming 2000 calories per day can only consume 100 kcal of carbohydrates per day (i.e 1 large banana, ¾ cup of rice).
Carbohydrates are important because they are our bodies preferred energy source. The subunit of carbohydrates, glucose is metabolized in our body to produce an important energy molecule (ATP) to help our body carry out necessary reactions and functions to say alive.
Some sources of carbohydrates include :
Bread & more
The keto diet also promotes lower protein intake, at 20% of total calories compared to the National health guidelines which recommend 10-35% of total calories coming from protein.
Fat intake on a keto diet may be as high as 75% of total caloric intake. While some of these fats may be high-quality plant based fats (i.e. nuts/seeds, avocado), most of those following a keto diet will consume animal based fats. Animal based fats, such as those from butter, lard, cheese, bacon and eggs are often high in saturated fat, increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease.
What’s the hype surrounding the keto diet?
Supporters of the keto diet often report new found effects such as improved concentration, focus, weight loss and an overall "better" feeling. While singular studies may support some of these findings, it is important to not change your entire diet based off a single study.
Currently, neurologists use the ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy. Unless you have been recommended to follow a ketogenic diet by your doctor, most health care professionals, especially Dietitians, recommend to avoid the keto diet and follow a balanced, healthy diet instead.
Whats the bottom line?
While the keto diet has created some hype surrounding its potential benefits for some, it’s extremely restrictive nature does not make it a sustainable, or realistic diet. By focusing on a balanced and non-restrictive diet (yes, you can still eat carbohydrates and be healthy!), you will have a better chance at achieving a healthy relationship with food. Remember, the best diet is one where you can enjoy a variety of healthful foods which includes indulgent foods in moderation. Achieving this balance ultimately becomes a lifestyle, rather than a diet, which is integral for a life long enjoyment of food.
Holwegner, A. (Septemeber 2018). To Keto or Not To Keto, That Is the Question: A Dietitians Thoughts About the Keto Diet. Health Stand Nutrition Counselling. Retreived from https://www.healthstandnutrition.com/ketodiet/