The ketogenic diet, or keto as it’s fondly called, has certainly established itself as more than just another internet fad or trend. Touted most for its weight loss benefits, it has gained unparalleled popularity in the United States and is consistently garnering a huge following all across the world.
This low carb, high (healthy) fat diet is primarily designed to induce ketosis, a state in which the body burns fat and produces ketones, which results in weight loss and eventually a host of other health benefits. To enable the body to reach a state of ketosis, a ketogenic diet ideally involves obtaining 75% of one’s daily calories from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbs (with minor variations from person to person).
While individual success stories of weight loss through keto abound on the internet and maybe even our friends-and-family circle, long-term scientific studies on the effects of keto (both positive and negative) are scarce.
If you’re planning to jump onto the keto bandwagon, or even otherwise, evaluating both the pros and cons of this diet is always a good idea, so that when you embark upon the keto journey, you will know what to expect.
What Are The Pros of Doing A Keto Diet?
Keto has become one of the most popular diets in the world. Admittedly, some of that is likely due to its promotion on social media. But that doesn’t mean it is just a fad diet. The keto diet is extremely effective for a range of purposes.
1. It Promotes Weight Loss
If there’s one thing keto has been hailed for, both among doctors and celebs alike, that is its weight loss benefits. And there are two ways mainly, through which keto promotes weight loss; one it keeps you satiated for longer and second it increases metabolism and energy expenditure.
A ketogenic diet tends to be more satiating than other diets. Since proteins and fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates, ketoers feel satiated for a longer period of time and don’t get the nagging hunger pangs that most dieters do. Moreover, following a ketogenic diet is also shown to lower ghrelin – the hunger-stimulating hormone.
Besides keeping you satiated for longer, keto also increases the body’s metabolic rate and energy expenditure. In one study, participants who followed keto were shown to expend around 57 calories more per day, because of the diet.
What also makes the keto diet optimum for weight loss is that, unlike other diets where you shed a few pounds and then gain twice as much, keto, with its high fat and low carb consumption helps keep the lost pounds at bay.
2. Offers Health Benefits Beyond Weight Loss
The health benefits of keto are certainly not limited to just weight loss. Its effects on the brain and overall health are also worth noting.
Studies have shown that a ketogenic diet might protect and even enhance brain activity and functions. This diet was initially developed in the 1920s to reduce brain seizures among children with epilepsy. It is also shown to enhance brain functioning by increasing the number of mitochondria or ‘energy factories’ in the brain cells and could possibly prevent Alzheimer’s.
Besides improving brain function, keto is also shown to be helpful in preventing certain types of cancer by selectively inducing metabolic oxidative stress in cancer cells.
For women with PCOS, a ketogenic diet can be helpful in curbing its symptoms. As PCOS is carbohydrate/insulin resistant, this low-carb diet can help reduce symptoms of PCOS.
3. Helps Regulate Blood Sugar
With a normal diet, the body’s ordinary go-to fuel source is carbs which are converted into glucose. So, a high-carb diet results in a spike in blood sugar levels. But because keto aims to induce ketosis and force the body to utilize ketones in absence of glucose for energy, it helps improve and regulate blood glucose (sugar) levels. Studies, in people with type 2 diabetes, have shown that they were able to lower their A1C and reduce or even discontinue diabetes medications, by following the low-carb ketogenic diet.
What Are The Cons of Doing A Keto Diet?
No diet is perfect, especially not ketogenic diets. Here are some of the major downsides of going keto:
1. It Can Cause Keto Flu
When you suddenly switch your proportion of carb intake and other macros, your body may experience what is now termed as “keto flu”. Keto flu is used to describe a list of varied symptoms that a new ketoer can face between two to seven days after starting the diet. These symptoms include, but are not limited to, headache, dizziness, brain fog, irritability, nausea, sleep difficulty, and constipation.
Keto flu is not found or defined in medical journals but is a term coined by ketoers to describe certain symptoms they commonly experienced when they began following the ketogenic diet.
2. You Might End Up Consuming Less Fats or an Excess of Unhealthy Fats
As the keto diet is majorly dependent on fat consumption, it is very important to get the balance right and also to consume the right kind of fat. If not monitored properly, you might end up not eating enough fat. The basic aim of keto is to enable the body to run on fat as opposed to glycogen. If you don’t consume sufficient fat then it will create an unhealthy deficit, the body will not go into ketosis and you will simply feel energy-deprived and hungry.
Alternatively, you can also end up consuming excess amounts of saturated (bad) fat. The first step when starting keto is to differentiate between good and bad fat. It is common to only monitor carb intake and not look at what type of fat you’re consuming. High consumption of saturated fat or trans-fat may lead to weight gain, high cholesterol, and heart diseases.
While you cannot – and you don’t have to – eliminate saturated fats from your diet, don’t let them make up the majority of your fat consumption. Instead fill up your plates with lean cuts of meat, fatty fish, eggs, olive oil, nuts and seeds, and low carb fruits and vegetables that are rich in unsaturated fats.
3. Difficult to Sustain
True talk; keto is a strict diet and can be overwhelming at times. Because of the strict food restrictions, it can be hard to sustain. Even a single cheat meal (that’s usually laden with carbs) can throw you off ketosis. So, if you want to stay on a keto diet successfully, you’ll need to learn to look away when that box of pizza is opened on a family movie night. However, on the flip side, most dishes that you crave for can be altered to be keto-friendly, if you have the right recipe.
How Can You Make Keto Sustainable And Easy For Yourself?
As mentioned above, keto can be highly restrictive and overwhelmingly intense. From social alienation to annoying persistent food cravings, a ketoer has to face it all. But if you want to sustain keto for the long term you need to work your way through these challenges and make it fun and adaptable to your lifestyle.
Here are some ways you can make this diet fun and sustainable and make losing weight or achieving any other health goal a piece of cake (keto-friendly, of course).
- Meal Prep: With keto, meal prep is the magic formula. It will not only help you save time and money but will also help keep your diet on track. When you have a fridge full of keto-friendly stuff ready to be cooked and served, keto will seem much more doable.
- Hone and flaunt your cooking skills: With keto, the safest and most accessible option is making meals yourself. Having ample keto recipes in your repertoire goes a long way in making keto sustainable. Fortunately, we have scoured the depths of the internet and compiled the most delectable, yummy, and keto-friendly recipes for you.
- Try Lazy Keto: Lazy keto is an easy-to-follow variation of traditional keto. In a lazy keto, you only have to pay attention to your carb intake. So, if plunging into the deep ocean of keto seems intimidating, you can start out with lazy keto which offers almost the same health benefits as traditional keto
- Treat yourself to a Keto Fat Bomb: If you want to sustain your keto, you need to be able to enjoy it. Keto fat bombs are bite-sized, delicious, and indulgent treats that you can snack on in between meals or reward yourself with when you’ve achieved a new keto milestone. They’re delectably indulgent and low on carbs, so they won’t derail your diet.
Our Thoughts on The Pros and Cons of Keto Diet
Keto isn’t like other dietary fads that’s going to disappear before you get a proper hang of it. It’s here to stay, and while long-term research on various aspects of keto (both positive and negative) is still underway, if we look beyond clinical trials, a lot of passionate ketoers testify about the goodness of this diet.
However, if you are planning to switch to a keto lifestyle, it is best to consult with your doctor before doing so.