August 18th, 2019
Ah, the keto diet, where you can eat ALL the bacon and butter your heart desires while still getting visible abs… Yeah - not so much.
What is the keto diet?
The ketogenic diet prescribes extremely high fat intake, moderate protein intake and extremely low carbohydrate intake. The purpose of this breakdown is to force your body to burn fats instead of carbohydrates for energy. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body (this is particularly important in fuelling brain function). However, if little to no carbohydrate remains in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source.
Our ancestors kicked off ketogenesis the old fashioned way - ya know, by starving. About 72 hours into starvation, ketogenesis is happening and you’re in ketosis. Ketosis is essentially an effect of fasting. Sound fun yet?
Here’s what you can eat on a ketogenic diet:
- Small amounts of protein such as: meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs
- Large amounts of high fat foods such as: Avocado, coconut, oils, nuts, bacon, egg yolks, butter and cheese
- Very small amounts of low carb vegetables such as: Leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cucumber, celery, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and zucchini.
Here’s what you can’t eat on a ketogenic diet:
- Most dairy (except for high fat items like butter and cheese)
- Bean and legumes
- Starchy vegetables
- Slightly sweet veggies such as winter squash, beets or carrots
- Most processed foods with notable exceptions like pork rinds
Keto and Digestion
One thing we need for healthy digestion is fiber, something the keto diet lacks. Every time I have someone come into my office on the ketogenic diet the first question I ask is: How’s your digestion? There’s normally a long pause and they look at the floor mumbling “not good”. Think about this for a second, if your diet consists of things like cheese and meat in excess but restricts something like broccoli and Brussels sprouts how can this actually be good? We need fiber for healthy digestion. We all know what it feels like when we haven’t been eating enough vegetables or we eat way too much cheese at a party, we feel gross, bloated and constipated. So - let me get this straight - you’re doing the keto diet to lose weight but you can’t poop? Well friends, without pooping you certainly can’t lose weight! To rely on a slew of fiber pills and drinks isn’t the answer, nor is it healthy for you. Keto does a number on your breath and body odor as well.
So why go to all this effort?
Well for certain groups of people the keto diet may be helpful. For other people it may not be helpful - or may even be harmful. In 95% of the cases we usually see the latter. If you have a condition like epilepsy, metabolic syndrome, PCOS or diabetes then of course, working with your doctor and beginning a ketogenic diet for medical purposes can be 100 percent necessary.
If you are looking to do the ketogenic diet for no other reason than losing fat, there is no real advantage. Why? Because it just isn’t sustainable long term. Sure, you could lose a few pounds and inches during the initial switch (like ANY fad diet), but the second you start incorporating carbs back into your diet, you’ll regain everything you lost. You can’t eat keto forever, and it would be dangerous to in most cases. Studies show time and time again that the high-fat, meat-heavy diet causes other long-term effects, especially in people with additional risk factors like heart disease.
Sure, have your bacon and your butter. But when it comes down to a long term, sustainable solution - the ketogenic diet is the most restrictive and limited diet there is. If you are okay with kissing any and all carbs goodbye forever, then maybe - just maybe this could work for you. But if you’d like to have sweet potatoes, grains, fruit and save yourself from a deep dive into your family’s cardiac history, this isn’t for you.
All this to say, instead of relying on yet another fad diet, find a diet that is sustainable for you, one you can stick to and follow forever. ANY diet works if it puts you in a caloric deficit. We just caution folks when it comes to demonizing or cutting out entire food groups. With keto you are cutting carbs as a food group which puts you in a caloric deficit, sure. But who wants to live like that?
If you’d rather explore a way to eat that fuels you, satisfies your cravings, keeps you balanced and meets your goals (yep there is such a thing) - give us a call. We’d love to help!