Is Keto All It Is Hyped Up To Be?

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Did you know that the ketogenic diet was originally introduced in the 1920s as a therapeutic diet to control seizures in those with epilepsy? It wasn’t until recently that it gained popularity in the diet world, driven by the claim that it elevates fat burning for fuel.  I want to take some time to go over the pros and cons of the diet.

But first, what exactly characterizes the keto diet? It is a high-fat, very low-carbohydrate diet, with moderate protein. To put it into perspective, it limits carbohydrate intake to 20 to 50 g per day, much less than the recommended 130 g for adults. The goal is to feed the body such minimal carbs that it has no choice but to burn fat for fuel, also known as ketosis. What many people don’t know is that maintaining ketosis is extremely difficult. Even a slight overfeed of carbs will halt the process (which means, no cheat days- you are either in ketosis or out of it).

There are a few benefits from living in ketosis. People in ketosis can burn fat more efficiently, which can lead to fat loss quicker than a normal balanced diet. It also has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and have anti-aging benefits. However, this comes at a cost:

1- In compliance with the low carb allowance, keto dieters could miss out on the numerous health benefits of fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables if they do not strategically plan their nutrition. 

2- In addition, there is a risk in consuming most of your calories from fat, especially if saturated fat intake is not being properly monitored. Saturated fat contributes to increased LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which has impacts on heart health. 

3- Keto can be a hard new nutrition norm to get used to. This will make social gatherings, eating out, and traveling a lot harder. Even the slightest change in carb intake to tip a person out of ketosis can lead to weight regain, leaving many keto dieters successful for a short term, but back to square 1 in the long term.

Instead, what has been associated with positive health outcomes is adopting a well-balanced diet that incorporates a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and fish -- with room for indulgences, of course! The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all diet.  It is a matter of finding the proper balance that fits your individual nutrition needs. So, before you sprint to the pantry to toss out all of your bread, pasta and potatoes, consider focusing more on eating in a balanced and mindful way that doesn’t leave you feeling deprived.

Hi, my name is Katelyn Greenleaf, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist

NuLeaf Nutrition strives to...

1. Provide scientifically-backed information to help athletes find a nutrition plan that fits their individual health/fitness goals.

2. Educate people in achieving optimal nutrition in attempts to prevent the development of chronic diseases. 

3. Improve total health by emphasizing balance in the diet and physical activity.

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