Summer is coming to an end and I am sure we have all enjoyed going to the beach, swimming and enjoying time in the sun! Now that we are preparing for the next sunny season, this is the time when many people want to try out fad diets in an attempt to lose weight to achieve their ideal “summer body”. One diet that has been popular for weight loss is the keto diet. The keto diet is composed of a low carb, but high fat and protein diet. Typically, the main source of energy for our body is through carbohydrates. When our body doesn’t have sufficient carbohydrates to use as an energy source, it uses protein and then fat. When the fat is burned, it produces a product called ketones, which are used to fuel our body when carbohydrates aren’t available. Although this may seem like a desirable outcome, there are both pros and cons of this diet that must be addressed and considered.
Let’s dig into the positives of this diet first. The keto diet may result in short-term weight loss. This is likely due to fat and protein allowing people to feel fuller for longer, leading people to eat less throughout the day. You might also notice the drop in numbers on the scale due to water loss. Not only will protein and fat help people to stay full for longer, those on the keto diet still get to enjoy foods that they may not be willing to cut out on other fad diets, for example: red meats, dairy, and butter are still viable food options while on the keto diet, and weight loss may still be seen. Another benefit is specifically for those who may have epilepsy. A lower-carb, high-fat diet such as the keto diet can reduce the amount of seizures that epilepsy patients may experience. Those who are following this diet with medical intention are always monitored closely by a healthcare team. More research is still needed in order to determine other potential benefits for following the ketogenic diet.
Like many fad diets, unfortunately there are serious risks surrounding the keto diet. Since eating diets high in fat and proteins are encouraged on this diet, people may eat lots of foods that are high in saturated fats such as butter, red meats and coconut oil. A diet that is too high in saturated fats and excessive protein can lead to various health issues related to our heart, kidneys, and other vital organs. Those who choose a diet low in carbohydrates may also be missing essential nutrients that come from veggies, legumes and whole grains, leading to harmful nutrient deficiencies.
Not only are there potential health risks to this diet, but there may also be negative social aspects and risks of disordered eating. Those on a keto diet may find it challenging to enjoy meals with other people, due to the restrictions on carbohydrates. Eating meals with people and enjoying your food together are big part of connecting with others and can help contribute to improvements in lifestyle. Since the keto diet involves cutting out an entire food group, this can lead to developing a harmful relationship with food and disordered eating habits. This diet reinforces the false idea that certain foods are seen as “bad” and therefore should not be consumed. However, everyone should enjoy what they eat, be connected to their food and have a positive relationship with food.
Like all diets, there are pros and cons that need to be considered, and not every diet is one-size-fits all. Before jumping into this diet, speak to a dietitian to ensure that this diet is right for you and your health goals!