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What is the Keto Diet?

What is the Keto Diet? 5 pros and cons of this weight-loss plan

The keto diet seems to be all the rage right now. With so many people boasting about its benefits, you may be tempted to jump on the bandwagon. However, before beginning a new diet, it’s always a good idea to do your research and weigh the pros and cons. It’s also advisable that you speak to your doctor about whether or not it is a good plan for you.

Below we’ve listed some pros and cons of the keto diet below, so you can decide if it’s the right diet for you. We also discuss what the keto diet is all about, and what foods the diet allows and restricts. 

The keto diet explained

A “ketogenic” or “keto” diet is so named because it causes your body to produce small fuel molecules called “ketones”. Ketones are an alternative fuel source for your body that can be used when glucose is in short supply.

Carbohydrates are usually the main source of fuel for your body and brain. On the keto diet, however, carbohydrates are severely restricted to force your body to find fuel elsewhere. It does this by breaking down fat into compounds (ketones), which it uses for fuel. When this happens, your body starts to become more efficient at burning fat for energy. 

Foods that you avoid

A keto diet involves an elimination of the following food groups:

  • Sugary foods: fruit juice, soda, smoothies, ice cream cake, sweets, etc.
  • Grains or starches: wheat-based products such as pasta, rice, or cereal
  • Some condiments and sauces: barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, 
  • Fruit: all fruit, with the exception of small portions of berries 
  • Beans or legumes: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, etc
  • Root vegetables: carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and parsnips
  • Low fat or diet products: low-fat mayonnaise, salad dressings, tomato sauce, etc.
  • Unhealthy fats: processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
  • Alcohol: beer, wine, and liquor
  • Sugar-free foods: sugar-free sweets, syrups, puddings, sweeteners, desserts, etc.

Foods that you can eat

These are the food groups that you can eat on a keto diet:

  • Meat: steak, red meat, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey
  • Fatty fish: tuna, salmon, trout, and mackerel
  • Eggs: pasteurized or whole eggs
  • Cream and butter: grass-fed heavy cream and butter 
  • Cheese: unprocessed cheeses like goat, cheddar, cream, blue, or mozzarella
  • Nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds
  • Healthy fats: coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil
  • Avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
  • Low carb veggies: green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Condiments: salt, pepper, herbs, and spices

5 Possible pros of the keto diet

  • Can lead to weight loss: The keto diet may help promote weight loss. It does this by reducing appetite and boosting metabolism. The Keto diets consist of foods that fill a person up, and this may reduce hunger-stimulating hormones. 
  • May help with heart health: When a person follows the ketogenic diet, it is important that they choose healthy foods. Some evidence shows that eating healthy fats, such as avocados instead of less healthy fats, and avoiding bad fats, can help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol.
  • May help with Type 2 diabetes: Carb restriction can have a direct impact on glucose concentrations, lowering them over time. It may be a straightforward way to get diabetes under control. However, one should always consult a registered dietitian or doctor before utilising this strategy. A general healthy diet and carb control can give the same results.
  • May help with epilepsy: There is some evidence that a keto diet can be effective for patients with epilepsy. However, epilepsy as a treatment option for helping seizures must be recommended by a doctor. 
  • May help prevent cancer: There have even been some studies showing that very low carbohydrate diets can be used effectively in the prevention of various cancers; however, this topic requires more research.

5 Possible cons of the keto diet

  • Can cause nutrient deficiencies: Since whole food groups like fruit and whole grains are excluded, it may lead to nutrient deficiencies. This especially happens if the diet isn’t followed correctly or without proper guidance. 
  • Can cause the flu: During the diet transition you may experience uncomfortable side effects from significantly cutting carbs, sometimes called the “Keto Flu”. Hunger, fatigue, irritability, nausea, headaches, constipation and brain “fog” may last days. Sleep and proper hydration may help, but it may not be a pleasant transition into the diet.
  • It may be difficult to stick to: Following a very high-fat diet may be challenging to maintain. Keeping yourself satisfied with a limited variety of food groups is not always easy, especially in the beginning. It may be hard to resist your favourite foods such as fruit, rice dishes, ice cream, or sweets
  • It can affect your gut health: You may start to feel constipated since removing whole grain and fruits from your diet will significantly lower your fibre intake. 
  • The diet isn’t suitable for everyone: This diet is not recommended for those with diseases of the pancreas, liver, thyroid, kidney or gallbladder, kidney stones, high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes or an eating disorder. Breastfeeding mothers should also avoid this diet.

Some final thoughts

As with all diets, what works for one may not work for another. When following a new diet, you should take your health history, preferences, goals, activity level, and special health needs into consideration. When followed consistently with appropriate monitoring, the keto diet can lead to some health benefits. However, there are also some possible risks. 

For the safe approach, always refer to your doctor or dietician before beginning a new diet or lifestyle plan.  If you need help getting access to quality and affordable and medical care, Affinity Health can help. We can provide you with either a day-to-day plan, a hospital plan, or a combination of both for complete peace of mind.  

Contact Affinity Health today, and our helpful agents will get in touch with you. We will take you through all the available options to find a medical cover that is customised for you and your loved ones.