Among the plenty different diets that I hear about from time to time, I happened to observe the new trend of the ketogenic or simply “Keto” diet and the countless relevant recipes that are more and more spread. Like most diets, it also promises a quick weight loss, by actually eating many fatty foods…Is that true though? And from the moment that we start eating a lot of fats, what is it that we limit into our diet? Is it a diet appropriate for everyone? Could it have any negative effects on our body? I guess that like me, you also have several relevant questions…So, shall we go answer them?
So, what is the ketogenic diet? Firstly, it has been around since 1920, when people used it as a therapy for patients who suffered from epilepsy. It is a diet high in fats, medium in protein consumption and very low in carb consumption -specifically 5 to 10% of the daily intake. The truth is that it sounds pretty hard for someone to follow this in his everyday life since carbs are the body’s main source of energy. The goal of this diet, though, is to burn fat instead of glucose. So, the body enters a process of ketosis, meaning that instead of carbs, it uses fat as fuel. For this exact reason, the consumption of carbs is very limited in this particular diet.
Which are, though, the positive elements of this particular diet?
1. Quick weight loss. Due to the very low carb consumption and the limited energy intake, relevant studies show that the specific way of eating helped overweight and obese people to lose weight quickly, despite the increased intake of fatty foods.
2. High consumption of fatty foods, that most of us love very much! We surely refer to foods that contain “good fatty acids”, like the Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The foods that this particular diet lets us consume in large quantities are not other than avocados, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, the various nut or seed butters (almond, peanut butter, tahini) and of course, the olive oil.
3. It decreases the chance of getting cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. According to the relevant studies that have looked into the effects of the ketogenic diet (and generally of all these diets that have low carb consumption, like the Atkins diet or some other variations of the ketogenic diet), these diets seem to help in increasing the good cholesterol and decreasing triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. There are, also, positive indications that they decrease the symptoms of certain diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. There definitely has to be more research in order to find out if this is true for everyone or just for people who have some particular characteristics.
On the other hand, which are the negative elements?
1. Unfortunately, the lifestyle does not change. It would be good not to follow diets that limit significantly one of the macronutrients; instead of that, we should generally follow a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Studies show that diets which limit significantly the calories or carbs (in this particular case), protein-fats (in other cases) it is pretty hard to be followed for a long period of time… While when we go back to our old lifestyle, we end up eating whatever is in front of us, without any limit or measure!
2. It causes -at least initially- an intense fatigue feeling. Due to the sudden decrease in energy intake and the different consumption of macronutrients, the body is feeling, at least initially, intense fatigue and in some way, a brain fog. These symptoms disappear later when the body enters the ketosis process completely. But, they can reappear each time someone stops and restarts the particular diet.
3. It can cause a deficiency in various vitamins and minerals. For this reason, it would be good to take blood tests regularly, and the diet shouldn’t be followed without a specialist’s supervision. Moreover, it is very possible that, initially, a great percentage of water will be lost from the body, since these diets -the express or fad type- due to the low carb consumption, they tend to drain carb stocks in the liver and muscles, resulting in water loss from the body.
Even though this diet is considered to help in weight loss within a short period of time -before you make any decision regarding which diet you’d better follow- ask yourselves… Is it a change that I can follow for long? Can it become a lifestyle? This should be your goal if you want to lose weight and follow a better and healthier lifestyle with positive effects on your body. It’s a given that not all diets are appropriate for everyone and that’s why -as I mentioned above- it would be good to check with a specialist before starting and making any decisions!
This article was written in collaboration with Kitchen Lab’s Sports Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.