What Is the Keto Diet?

By author photo Karen Stafford

health

One of the most popular diet trends in recent times has been the ketogenic diet, or keto diet: from personal trainers to sports people to celebrities, many have been spruiking the diet.

Although it may seem relatively new, the keto diet was actually developed in the 1920s to treat children with severe epilepsy, and was followed under close medical supervision. Now, it’s making waves as a diet for weight loss.


Should You Try the Keto Diet?

These days, the keto diet is typically a very low-carb, high-fat diet. It involves drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and putting your body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is when your body primarily uses fat for energy. Breaking down fat – from food or stored fat – for energy produces ketones, which your body can use for energy in the absence of glucose.

The keto diet is much stricter than many low-carb diets out there. You’re limited to around 20-50 grams of carbohydrate per day, which means you’re getting less than 10% of your energy from carbohydrates. This means your intake of starchy vegetables, fruit, dairy, wholegrains and legumes are all very limited; to the equivalent of a small tub of yoghurt, an apple and half a medium potato per day, in fact.

The keto diet often results in very rapid weight loss, initially. A lot of this can be attributed to losing stored water. Carbohydrates are stored in the body with water, so when it is broken down your body also loses a lot of water.

The keto diet will make you lose weight, mostly due to a reduction in your total energy intake, a vital component of any diet; cutting out carbs naturally means cutting kilojoules. Ketosis and a high-fat diet can also reduce your appetite, causing you to eat less.


What are the downsides?

While the keto diet can result in weight loss, there are some downsides.

Often called the ‘keto flu,’ some side effects of ketosis are headaches, nausea, fatigue and bad breath.

The keto diet is also restrictive. If you’re a carb lover you will find it hard. It instils a mentality that certain foods are ‘bad,’ and there are strict food rules you have to follow. These can cause people to become anxious when making food choices and lead to an overall poor relationship with food.

The foods you are cutting out are highly nutritious: fruit, starchy veggies, wholegrains, dairy and legumes are all valuable parts of a healthy and well-balanced diet. Unless you have an intolerance to any of these, you don’t have to cut them out.

The keto diet also lacks fibre, which can cause digestive issues, and some emerging research highlights the potential effect of a lack of fibre on the gut microbiome.

Depending on your current diet, adopting the keto diet can be extreme, which is never a good approach to losing weight. Consider whether the changes are too drastic or unsustainable for you. If it seems too hard, it’s likely you’ll rebound and put all the weight back on.


Make Sustainable Lifestyle Changes

At the end of the day, when choosing a way of eating, one of most important questions to ask yourself is ‘can I eat this way forever?’

If a diet makes you feel restricted, anxious or if there are unpleasant side effects, it’s probably not for you. Sustainability is one of the most important things to consider when making lifestyle changes.

Look for ways of eating that provide you with everything you need, not only nutritionally but in terms of the foods you love and can’t go without. Look for a diet that allows you to still do the things you enjoy, like socialising and enjoying food with family and friends.

The key to maintaining a healthy weight in the long term is an eating pattern that is sustainable over time.

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