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The keto diet currently appears to be the most hyped and followed diet. You’ve most likely seen the name on health food products and heard your mum, uncle, friend, or co-worker rave about how great they feel on it. Low-carb diets are nothing new, but keto differs as it is more extreme. The diet requires you to drastically limit your carbohydrate intake (e.g. bread, rice, starchy vegetables, fruit) and replace it with fat. If followed religiously, it puts your body into ketosis which is when your body switches from burning carbohydrates to burning fat for energy. It is a strategy used by doctors to manage infants and children with epilepsy. However, in the past few years, it has exploded in popularity among people who are trying to shed some weight.
The keto diet pros and cons:
- In the short term, keto has helped people lose weight.
- Foods high in fat are shown to help regulate appetite and can help stop you from overeating.
- It may also help regulate blood sugar levels.
- It is very restrictive in what you can eat.
- It eliminates a whole food group i.e. carbohydrates.
- Can be high in saturated fat.
- No long term evidence that the diet is safe.
The keto diet has helped many lose weight in the short term and may help with controlling your appetite and blood sugar management, however, it is very restrictive which can make it harder to stick to in the long term.
Carbohydrates have been eliminated in many diets and keto is no exception. While we know some carbohydrates should be limited, e.g. sugar, with keto you will have to eliminate even the healthy carbohydrates including whole grains, legumes, most fruit, and some vegetables. Not only may you miss out on essential vitamins and minerals you also miss out on fibre, which makes it harder to stay regular and impacts overall bowel health.
Also, it is very easy to consume too much saturated fat if you are eating a lot of animal-based fat found in meat and butter This can raise your ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. Whether you are or are not on the keto diet, you should focus on choosing heart healthy unsaturated fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds and limit saturated fats like butter, coconut oil and fat from meat.
Keto focuses on weight loss rather than eating healthily and its long-term effects aren’t yet known. You can continue to eat carbohydrates and still lose weight. The Ministry of Health recommends following the healthy plate model.That is half your plate is filled with vegetables, a quarter with protein (e.g. legumes, lean meats) and a quarter with carbohydrates (e.g. rice, potatoes, pasta).