When a diet focuses on eating whole foods, it’s easy to assume the diet is healthy. While eating a spinach, egg and cheese omelette for breakfast is better than eating a loaf of Wonder Bread, might there still be problems lurking in the whole food diets that have gained such popularity in the last decade?
We’ve looked at three of the most popular diets out there – Keto, Whole30 and Paleo – and asked Brent Wilson, who is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, for his real opinion. In this post, we will be focusing on the truth about Keto.
The Keto diet is a low-carb (or no-carb), high-fat diet, which forces the body into a state of ketosis, causing blood sugar levels to drop, which then burns fat for energy instead of sugar.
You might be familiar with ketoacidosis, which affects many people with type 1 diabetes. Ketosis is a milder form of ketoacidosis. While ketosis has been proven to encourage weight loss, some experts also argue it causes muscle loss.
One of the benefits of the Keto diet is how quickly you can see results. In fact, Keto is the No. 2 diet in the “Best Fast Weight-Loss Diet” category in the annual rankings of U.S. News and World Report.
On the Keto diet, you need to get 60-80 percent of your calories from fat, and the rest should mostly come from protein. You can have about 5-10 percent of your daily calories come from carbs, but they need to be healthy carbs like leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables. This strict diet has to be followed faithfully with no cheating, or the body won’t stay in ketosis.
Your diet will focus on fish and seafood, meat, cheese, poultry, eggs, plain yogurt, a few low-carb vegetables, and a lot of healthy fats like avocados and olive oil. Foods that are no-no’s include grains (including bread and pasta), legumes, starchy vegetables, almost all fruits (a few berries in small portions are allowed) and anything with added sugar.
As you can see, the Keto diet generally involves eating a lot of saturated fat and animal protein, which can raise LDL cholesterol levels and is a risk factor for heart disease. Some dieters might have a tendency to rely heavily on the least-healthy fats and protein like cheese and nitrate-packed processed meat, which might negatively impact heart health.
Some nutrition experts have suggested that Keto is best for those who are significantly overweight, and the diet should only be used for brief periods under clinical supervision.
What our dietitian, Brent Wilson, says: “I love that Keto raises awareness of our country’s excessive carbohydrate intake, especially from refined carbs and simple sugars. It’s a huge reason why we have such a great prevalence of diabetes and obesity. But I don’t like how the extreme carb restriction will limit someone’s vegetable intake. I do agree with its focus on eating more fats, but I wish it would provide more education on the proper types of fats. Many will add processed meats and cheese to eat more fat, but instead I strongly recommend increasing grass-fed meats naturally high in omega-3’s, grass-fed butter, fatty fish and monounsaturated fats like avocado and olive oil.”