Being a holistic nutritionist, I see a lot of clients that are looking for a better approach to food, nutrition and health. Many of these people want to lose weight, have more energy, and generally feel good, like themselves again. In the process, they’ve done a lot of work before seeing me, tried numerous fad diets, cleanses, and supplements looking for the answer.
One question I get often from new people I meet to clients I have seen for years are my thoughts on Keto and if it might be right for them. Because most my clients (men and women) come to me to balance hormones (even if they don’t know it when they first see me), generally my answer is that Keto is Not for them.
But I don’t want to assume that’s the answer for everyone, so, let’s talk about what the Keto diet is, who it was designed for and is good for and those it might not.
The Keto diet gets its origins all the way back in 1924 when Dr. Russell Wilder of the Mayo Clinic developed it to help control and decrease seizures in their epileptic patients. The keto diet is generally broken up into 5-10% carbohydrates, 15-30% protein and 65-85% fat. This allows your body to be starved of glucose, the body’s preferred source of fuel from carbohydrates (sugar), and go into a state of ketosis, where it will use fat for energy instead. If you are new to trying this, you need to do this diet strictly for 6 weeks to become fat-adapted.
Here’s who could benefit from Keto, if you have or are struggling with:
Diabetes (type 2)
Extreme weight loss
Blood sugar issues
Brain injury or neurological or mental health
What I like about Keto:
I love that it doesn’t focus on calories. I usually only talk about calories in terms of making sure you are eating enough with my clients. But I NEVER ask or want them counting calories.
It gives us permission to eat good quality fat. Enough with the low-fat, non-fat diets! Fat is one of our 3 macronutrients our bodies NEED to live. It’s so important for being able to absorb our fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K as well as stabilizing our blood sugar, making us feel satisfied and slowing down digestion so we aren’t needing to snack all day!
Here’s who should NOT be going on the Keto diet:
Those on medications for diabetes or high blood pressure
Someone struggling with addiction or in recovery
Women wanting to get pregnant, currently pregnant or breast feeding
Those with Thyroid issues, especially hyper or hypo
Anyone who has imbalanced hormones
Fatigue, possible adrenal issues
Those without a gallbladder
If you don’t sleep well or get enough sleep
Are very stressed out
Has an eating disorder or is recovering from one or has disordered tendencies
Loves to exercise 3-6 times a week, mostly high intensity or elite athletes
Those wanting to gain weight or muscle
Those with a tendency towards constipation
What I do NOT love about Keto:
It seems like another fad diet to me. I get very concern in the aftermath and with our emotional and mental health around our success with diets like these.
It’s so strict it most likely need professional assistance. I think the goal is to learn how to eat in everyday life so you don’t need a professional unless you want that.
Most people think they are in ketosis but you must measure it, and it can get expensive.
It doesn’t address any underlying causes. What’s really going on that you need to look at and fix first?
You may not be counting calories but now you are counting macronutrients. Which for some people can be just as triggering. I believe in learning balance so we can live with freedom around our food.
Just like any diet you can do this very unhealthy and think you are doing good. Have you heard of Junk Food Keto? Simply because your macro numbers are falling in range for ketosis doesn’t mean you are eating foods that are nourishing you. Just like simply being a vegan doesn’t make you healthy!
You’re eliminating large groups of foods that are healthy and will give you a variety of nutrients we need, like pretty much all fruit, whole grains and legumes and some good veggies. This really could lead to constipation too. Some of these starchy foods are full of good natural fiber!
Demonizing any type of food is never good. The aim should be balance, rather than labeling anything” good” and “bad”. The Keto diet nearly eliminates one entire macronutrient group. Carbohydrates are wonderful and provide value to our bodies. Of course I am talking not about refined or processed carbs (like white bread, cookies and cake) but complex carbs like fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes. These food provide a variety of nutrients plus B vitamins, fiber which can slow down digestion and help regulate blood sugar, improve mood and provides us with fuel and energy. That being said, I think most of Americans eat too much carbs as a whole group, especially the refined and processed types. I think for a good balance, aiming between 20-40% daily carbs in the whole complex variety is great!
If you don’t break down your fats this diet is not for you. A great test is if you take a high quality omega 3 or fish oil and have yucky burps after taking it, you probably need help breaking down your fats.
There is also little research out there about the long-term effect of this diet. When we put the body into an unnatural metabolic state over time it could burden our liver and kidneys. I am always skeptical of not knowing what the long-term results are or an extreme diet shift.
Remember Atkins? The difference between Atkins and Keto is that in Atkins you were allow to eat as much protein and fat as you liked as long as your carbs were between 20-25 grams daily (in phase 1 of atkins), not percentage based as it is in Keto. The effects are similar here, you will be in ketosis, most likely. But in Atkins there are 4 phases and in phases 2, 3, and 4 you are going back to glucose for fuel. And after a few longer term studies were done it came out that Atkins increased your chances of heart failure, disease and cancer.
Then the question is if we are using Keto as a short-term diet, that’s great if once it’s over old habits don’t surface and all the work that was done gets undone. I believe that what we really need is learn to eat a balanced diet, address any emotional, psychological issues that might be underlying and implement healthy lifestyle habits that will help you live a long healthy, happy and full life!
Still have questions? Let me know!
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash