Thoughts on the Keto diet.
I have many friends and family who have tried the Ketogenic diet. Even with many people I know doing this, I will always speak truth from what I know or have researched on a health topic when someone asks even if that means agreeing, or disagreeing. I know many who have enjoyed the Keto diet, have felt great on it and had good results following the correct way to do it. I also know many who did not do well on it, felt badly and had a hard time adjusting once transitioning off Keto. I believe bio-individuality is key, meaning not everything is meant for everyone.
I have seen many great functional medicine physicians, PhD’s and other nutritionist discuss and share how the Keto diet can be successful , WHEN done correctly and for a short term only. However, the majority of people do not follow it correctly as they use bacon, butter, cheese, and lots of red & processed meats as the foundation for this diet. I don’t believe these are better choices for the body than eating a variety of vegetables, organic/ grass-fed and plant-based protein, fruits, healthy fats and YES… more than 5% of a days calories made up of complex carbohydrates. In a given day, the Keto diet suggests 80-85% of calories come from fat, 10% from protein, and only 5% from carbs.
This often means cutting out even starchy vegetables, grains and energy-producing complex carbohydrates.
If choosing to follow Keto, there are a few experts I would follow and stick to their teaching IF you choose to do it at all: Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Mark Hyman or Dr. Josh Axe.
I personally believe you can make healthy changes to your diet that incorporate more healthy fats without basically eliminating one of the 3 crucial macro-nutrients, (carbohydrates) to burn fat and lose weight, which are the top reasons most people want to try the Keto diet.
Here are the problematic issues I see with the Keto diet:
- It was designed back in the 1920’s as a treatment for epilepsy in children, not for weight loss, or a long-term way of living.
- Shifting your body into Ketosis can be harsh on the body, and the organs:
-“Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred energy source. When we don’t have an adequate supply, it turns to other less efficient fuel sources like fats & proteins. These 2 fuel sources should be saved for emergencies, but instead have become the mainstay of the American diet. We can break them down, but at what price? The price of our body’s thinking we are in crisis. (Extreme fasting, starving.)
Surely burning fat is a good thing? Yes, if you have excess fat, getting rid of it is a key component in achieving optimal health. The question now becomes how to lose the fat in a healthy & safe way.
You could restrict carbohydrates and/ or your calories. This would cause you body to be unhappy on 2 counts :
1)It would be starving ( if you limit calories) and 2) it wouldn’t have the preferred energy source.
So the body shifts into a default mode, a condition known as Ketosis. This is a state where fat is broken for energy. The byproducts of this type of fat breakdown are ketones.
Excess accumulation of ketones stresses not only our kidneys, which ultimately need to excrete them, but also our liver that works to produce them & our bones that work to neutralize them. (Ketones are acidic).
In a study titled ,”The effect of 6-month adherence to a very low carbohydrate diet program” in the American Journal of Medicine, they showed after 3 weeks on a high-protein, low-carb diet people urinated 50% more calcium than they did prior to starting the diet. Other side effects of Ketosis include constipation, bad breath, fatigue, weakness, headaches, nausea, vomiting & possible cognitive damage.” – Keep it Simple, Keep it Whole, Dr. Pulde & Dr. Lederman.
I should pause here and state the importance of clarifying what “carbohydrates” we are speaking of when we talk about macro-nutrients and healthy carbohydrates that help create energy, or ATP for the brain. We aren’t talking about “refined” white bread, pasta, cereal, pastries, and processed chips/cookies and snack foods, we are talking about nutritious “complex” carbohydrates that take longer for the body to break down and absorb. They provide a steadier source of energy and a more stable rise in blood sugar. Healthy complex carbs consist of foods like: sweet potatoes, quinoa, gluten free oats, wild rice, and root & starchy vegetables as just a few examples.
- Complex carbohydrates are important for the body as they provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Complex carbohydrates are turned to glucose (blood sugar) in the body and are used as energy. Glucose is used in the cells of the body and in the brain, which is why I believe they are important to keep in the diet ( even if you want to consume LOW amounts) instead of eliminating them completely. We need them to create energy, and for all those with high active lifestyles… complex carbs are NOT your enemy.
This is especially true for athletes and why I incorporate them into my diet.
- Keto was never meant to do long-term, as the body will likely have a hard time adjusting once even healthy complex carbohydrates are added back in. Resistance, weight gain and the “yo-yo” effect are possible results when coming off if staying on too long. Short -term is better IF one chooses to try Keto.
- Keto can increase consuming more toxins, antibiotics, steroids, and genetically modified foods. Unless you choose grass-fed, organic, non-gmo and hormone free meat sources …. most people are doing more harm than good by eating these “unclean” meat sources sold at grocery stores instead of local organic farms. The majority of meats we eat in America are simply not top quality by how animals are treated and raised.
- Meat and dairy are the 2 hardest foods for the gut to digest, which also puts more strain on the liver to process as well. It makes the body work harder to break these down during digestion. It also creates more IGF-1 (immune growth factor ) that can be linked to different kinds of cancer.
- We are seeing a huge rise in Colorectal cancer, which can correlate back to the fatty meats, & carcinogenic effects of the highly processed meats the majority of Americans are eating in mass amounts while adding more of this to their Keto plan.
Benefits of Keto IF done correctly:
- Keto can be beneficial in the short-term for helping people lose weight, improve mental clarity, reverse insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and possibly decrease symptoms of poly-cystic ovary syndrome. There is even some research now beginning to look at the Keto diet and neurological conditions like ALS and Parkinson’s.
- Because Keto shifts your body to burn fat for energy, it can help burn fat already stored; making it easy to lose weight in some people but not all. With anything in life, this is about bio-individuality, it may be good for some…but not everyone.
- Possible blood sugar stabilization as those on Keto cut out most all forms of carbohydrates, as well as a potential to prevent certain types of cancer, says Dr. Colin Champ, oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
- Keto could be more beneficial to men short-term, than women. Dr. Sara Gottfried, author of ” The Hormone Cure” states that half of her female patients do well being on Keto, and the other half do not. She says it could be due to our sex hormones, and men having a higher level of testosterone which might give an advantage to weight-loss in general.
While I see some benefits of doing Keto correctly … in my personal opinion, nothing will provide more success than eating plant-based, whole-foods with grass-fed organic meats and quality complex carbohydrates. I’m all about the basics of what can be maintained long-term day in and day out. I don’t like anything that isn’t realistic, and can’t be maintained long term.
As a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, my focus is on plant-based, whole-food nutrition so naturally my professional opinion will always align with that thought process.