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Is the Keto Diet Right for You?
Are you interested in losing weight? Tired of low-fat or no-fat diets and craving your high-fat meat? You might consider going on the keto diet, the new kid on the block. Endorsed by many celebrities, including Halle Berry, LeBron James and Kim Kardashian among others, the keto diet has been the subject of much debate among dieticians and doctors. Wondering if the keto diet is safe and right for you?
What is the ketogenic diet anyway?
You must be aware that the body uses sugar in the form of glycogen to function. The keto diet, which is extremely limited in sugar, forces your body to use fat for fuel instead of sugar, since it is not getting enough sugar. When the body does not get enough sugar for fuel, the liver is forced to convert the available fat into ketones, which are used by the body as fuel – hence the term ketogenic.
This diet is a high fat diet with moderate amounts of protein. Depending on your carbohydrate intake, the body reaches a state of ketosis in less than a week and stays there. Since fat is used instead of sugar for fuel in the body, weight loss is dramatic without any supposed restriction of calories.
The keto diet is such that you should aim to get 60-75% of your daily calories from fat, 15-30% from protein and only 5-10% from carbohydrates. This usually means that you can only eat 20-50 grams of carbohydrates in a day.
What can you eat on this diet?
The diet is a high-fat diet somewhat reminiscent of Atkins. However, there is a greater emphasis on fats, usually ‘good’ fats. On the keto diet you can have
You can also get a wide variety of snacks that are meant for keto followers. As you can see from this list, fruits are limited. You can have low sugar fruits in limited quantity (mostly berries) but will have to give up your favorite fruits as these are all sweet and/or starchy.
This diet contains no grains of any kind, starchy vegetables such as potatoes (and all tubers), no sugar or sweets, no bread and cakes, no beans and lentils, no pasta, no pizza and burgers, and very little alcohol. It also means no coffee with milk or tea with milk – in fact, no milk and ice cream and milk-based desserts.
Many of these have solutions as you can get carb free pasta and pizza, you can get cauliflower rice and now there are even restaurants that cater to keto lovers.
What are the benefits of the keto diet?
If you are wondering if this diet is safe, its proponents and those who have achieved their weight loss goals will definitely agree that it is safe. Among the benefits of the keto diet, you can expect:
Reduced or no sugar spikes
Seizure controlling effect
Blood pressure is normalized in patients with high blood pressure
Reduced migraine attacks
Type 2 diabetes patients on this diet may be able to reduce their medication
Some benefits for those suffering from cancer
Apart from the first four, there is insufficient evidence to support its effectiveness or otherwise for other diseases, as much more long-term research is required.
Are there any side effects of this diet?
When you start the keto diet, you may suffer from what is called the keto flu. These symptoms may not occur in all people and usually start a few days after dieting when your body is in a state of ketosis. Some of the side effects are:
Cramps and abdominal pain
Diarrhea and/or constipation
Dizziness and poor concentration
Carbohydrate and sugar cravings
It may take up to a week to taper off as your body adjusts to the new diet regimen. You may also suffer from other problems when you start the keto diet – you may find that you have increased urination, so it is important to stay well hydrated. You may also suffer from keto breath when your body reaches optimal ketosis and you may use mouthwash or brush your teeth more often.
Usually the side effects are temporary and once your body has acclimated to the new diet these should disappear.
How safe is the keto diet?
Like any diet that restricts foods in specific categories, the keto diet is not without its risks. Since you don’t have to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, beans and lentils and other foods, you can suffer from a lack of many essential nutrients. Since the diet is high in saturated fat, and if you indulge in the ‘bad’ fats, you can have high cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease.
In the long term, the keto diet can also cause many nutritional deficiencies, as you cannot eat grains, many fruits and vegetables and miss out on fiber as well as important vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants among other things. You may suffer from gastrointestinal problems, decreased bone density (no dairy products and other sources of calcium), and kidney and liver problems (the diet stresses both organs).
Is the keto diet safe for you?
If you are willing to give up your usual supplements and really want to lose weight, you may be tempted to try the keto diet. The biggest problem with this diet is poor patient compliance thanks to the carbohydrate restriction, so you need to be sure you can live with your food choices. If you simply find it too difficult to follow, you can go on a version of the modified keto diet that offers more carbohydrates.
But the keto diet is definitely effective in helping you lose weight. According to a recent study, many of the obese patients who were followed were successful in losing weight. Any problems they faced were temporary. If you have no significant health issues other than obesity and have had no success losing weight on a conventional diet, the keto diet may be a viable option. You must be absolutely determined to lose weight and be prepared to go on a restricted diet as specified. Even if you have any medical problems, you can take your doctor’s advice and a nutritionist’s guidance and go on this diet.
Another study that was conducted over a longer period of time found that going on a keto diet is beneficial for weight loss and also results in reduced cholesterol levels with a decrease in bad cholesterol and an increase in good cholesterol.
Is the keto diet safe for you? Most doctors and nutritionists agree that the keto diet is good for short-term weight loss. As for the long term, more studies are needed. Keep in mind that obesity is not a suitable choice as it comes with its own risk of health problems.
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