Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard a lot of buzz around Keto. I can’t get through one scroll of Instagram without an advertisement for the latest bar, drink, or snack that is keto friendly. Nor has there been this much buzz about a diet sinceAtkin’s by which an entirely new industry is built upon providing products to cater to its disciples.
But what exactly is a keto and why are people so fanatical about it?
The ketogenic diet consists of a high amount of fat (60-75%), moderate protein intake (15-30%) and very low carbohydrates (5-10%). These numbers are known as your macros (short for macronutrients). The diet aims to get your body to burn fat for fuel (which produces an acid byproduct in the liver known asketones – thus the name of the diet) as opposed to carbohydrates. Proponents claim the diet turns your body into a fat burning machine. It seems many people, particularly men, shed pounds rather quickly when adhering to a ketogenic diet.
It also seems keto is the way to go ifsuperior brain power is your goal. People report less brain fog, more clarity and better focus on a keto diet. After all, the keto diet was originally intended to help decrease seizures in patients with epilepsy.
In addition, people report less cravings and more stable moods. No more of those late afternoon "crashes", where your most productive activity becomes scrolling through Facebook.
A keto diet can also be anti-inflammatory since it eliminates many foods that can cause inflammation in the body – particularly grains, legumes and sugar. However, most research concludes that eating a diet of unprocessed foods found in nature is really the best way to go to keep inflammation at bay.
The biggest downside of a keto diet? Like any other food plan that necessitates a restriction of a certain food group – in this case, anything with carbohydrates including fruit and my favorite,sweet potatoes - meals are going to take a lot of planning. Otherwise you will likely fall into unhealthy food substitutes such as processed bars and shakes. It may also be a good option for someone that truly needs to be gluten-free.
However, a keto diet should not be an excuse to stuff your face with bacon and steak. Cooking meat at high temperatures has been shown to produce carcinogenic substances that can lead to cancer. Although the "fat is BAD" paradigm is as outdated as the scrunchie, an excess of fat - and likely cholesterol if you’re eating a lot of eggs, cheese and dairy products - can lead to a host of other health concerns, including heart disease. Better off sticking to thehealthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, coconut and fish high inomega-3 (such as salmon).
Also, there is no "kind of" with keto like there can be with other diets (like I’m "kind of" avegan.) Because keto relies more upon a science of numbers than an ideology, you’re either in ketosis or you're not and it’s much more difficult to stay on the bandwagon. If you’re not following the diet to a “t”, you’ll likely just end up eating a bunch of extra calories. So don’t think about touching that bread basket at dinner.
In addition there are no long-term studies on keto or its effects on health. Meaning what may seem like a great idea to reach your quick weight loss or performance goals, the research on what all that fat does to a body over many years is inconclusive.
Personally, I can’t see how a diet that restricts anything found in Mother Nature is what is intended for everyone. At the end of the day, although I do try to limit mysugar intake, I’m a big fan of everything in moderation. Eat. Mostly plants. Not too much. Wise words from Michael Pollan. Sometimes a diet that cuts out an entire food group can turn into aneating disorder in another box.
Bottom Line: Everyone is different not only in their body chemistry but also their preferences and tolerance. If you’re interested in a ketogenic lifestyle, give it a shot for a couple of weeks to see how you feel - and be realistic about your ability to maintain it.
Jennifer Galardi is a writer, teacher, and wellness coach based in Los Angeles. She's passionate about yoga, meditation, and her sweet kitty Zeus.