The ketogenic diet seems to be one of the trendiest diets today. There are keto support groups, keto meal plans, and lots of testimonials where people claim they have lost over a hundred pounds. But like many popular diet plans, you have to take the hype with a grain of salt. We lay out the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet so you can decide if this is really for you.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet controls the number of carbohydrates and protein you can eat so that most of your daily calorie intake (actually, a stunning 70%) actually come from fat. In fact, strict keto followers will only allow themselves a maximum of 30 grams of carbohydrates, which is what you’d get from one apple.
This can be shocking when most of us grew up being told that we should avoid fat and gorge on healthy fruits and vegetables. But the ketogenic diet follows this principle: the body uses carbohydrates as the easiest source of energy, but when we cut our carbohydrate intake, we force it to break down fats for fuel.
While this works in principle, limiting or emphasizing any major food group can affect the body. So it’s important to view the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet against what it will do to your major organs.
What are the pros of the ketogenic diet?
First of all, cutting down your carbohydrate intake can actually be beneficial, especially for people who have diabetes. It lowers your insulin levels and prevents sugar crashes. Since the body takes longer to process the energy in proteins and fats, your energy levels stay constant throughout the day. In fact, most people say that since they started the ketogenic diet, they feel more alert and active.
Second of all, it can help you lose weight quickly. Let’s admit it: carbohydrates are often the biggest diet busters because you can eat so much and never feel full. Just think of the calories in your Frappuccino and donuts – and that’s just what you had for breakfast! That’s why people can gain weight without even noticing, and those extra pounds – and even obesity – can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke, affect your fertility, and contribute to kidney and liver toxicity.
Fatty foods, on the other hand, can be quite filling. Even half a serving of steak for lunch will make you feel full, so you’re not tempted to overeat in the middle of the afternoon. So for many people who feel starved or deprived when they’re on other diets, ketogenic diets are the perfect solution: they can eat heavy meals, but still lose weight.
What are the cons of the ketogenic diet?
Diets need to be sustainable so you don’t go on a rollercoaster of losing then regaining weight. Unfortunately, the ketogenic’s strict guidelines can be hard to do over a long period of time. You have to plan your meals (or even prepare separate meals if your family isn’t doing the diet with you), and read every label or ingredient to spot the “hidden” carbohydrates. (For example, ketchup and most sauces are a big no-no because of the sugar.)
Another thing to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of the ketogenic diet is that your body does need fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Cutting out major food groups deprives your body of vitamins and minerals it needs for healthy skin, digestion, immune system and more.