Keto Diet: Fad or Fact? Your Essential Guide
When people hear the word ‘diet’, they often roll their eyes and think “fad weight loss,” “temporary,” or “scam.” The word diet has a lot of negative connotations in Western societies where we are bombarded by media telling us we need to be thin to be beautiful.
The weight loss industry has given the word ‘diet’ a bad name by promising for years with diet fads such as the grapefruit juice diet, the cabbage soup diet or various protein shake diets promising to shed our body of that unwanted fat. These diets may have worked for some people, but the sustainability of living of cabbage or grapefruit your whole life is unrealistic; As soon as people stop their fad diet and return to their regular eating habits the kilos return.
However, from a biologists point of view, the word ‘diet’ actually just refers to what we eat. Everything we consume is part of our diet. For this reason, the term ‘diet’ shouldn’t make you immediately roll your eyes. But you should always be sceptical about whether it is a healthy option for you or not.
Why Be Sceptical of Healthy Diet Claims?
Supposedly trustworthy diet sources have been leading us astray through our education systems, medical establishments and the media for decades. For example, The Heart Foundation has been indoctrinating us to believe all fat is bad for us. Another great example is The Food Pyramid most of us grew up learning which featured carbohydrates at the bottom of the triangle. Fun fact about The Food Pyramid, it was designed by politicians in the US to keep the food production industry happy rather than by nutritionists with people’s health in mind.
Basically, the more you look at the current standards for a healthy diet, the more you will find strange political reasons for why diet recommendations currently focus on low-fat and high-carbohydrates rather than sound scientific backing.
Possibly one of the strangest influences fighting low-carbohydrate diets started with Kellogg’s cereal to stop people masturbating. John Harvey Kellogg, the co-founder of the Kellogg Company was a Seventh-day Adventist who believed masturbation was evil. The Adventists believed that eating meat and saturated fat would cause people to succumb to their desires aka masturbating… Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.
Related: 3 Diet Myths That Cause Depression
If you want to learn more about this super weird story listen to this Diet Doctor podcast with Dr. Gary Fetkte and his wife Belinda from Australia who were persecuted for trying to teach people about nutrition and low-carbohydrate diets.
Basically, most of the ‘healthy diet’ information we have been fed all our lives is based on religious and political agendas rather than nutritional ones. So how do we know what to trust? And how is the increasingly popular keto diet any different?
What does the Keto Diet involve?
People on a ketogenic diet or keto for short eat a lot of healthy fats, think avocados, olives and all those delicious oils, moderate protein and low amounts of carbohydrates. The fat- protein- carbohydrate goal ratios is 70-90% fat, 10-20% protein and 10-5% carbohydrates. People following a keto diet typically also practice intermittent fasting where they consume nothing but water and tea or coffee without milk.
Producing ketones are the ultimate goal in a keto diet. Ketones are an alternative energy source to glucose. Ketone metabolism helps improve physical performance and are readily used by the brain. Fasting is an integral part of a keto diet to help reset the glucose metabolism system and stimulate the production and use of ketones.
History of the Keto Diet
The history of the keto diet is less sinister than the high-carbohydrate diets we covered above. The name ketogenic diet goes back much further than when Dr. Wilder coined the name in 1921. Before the days of wheat cultivation and pre-packaged supermarket foods, our ancestors naturally lived off versions of what we now refer to as keto or paleo diets. Human cave dwellers around the world evolved as hunter-gatherers, living off meat, berries, and vegetables. Fasting for long periods was commonplace when food was not available.
The modern keto diet became popular in the 1920s as a treatment for children with epilepsy. Since then, science has branched out to explore the physical, neurological and neuromuscular therapeutic properties of ketosis. In the past two decades, the keto diet has become increasingly popular as food medicine and a lifestyle choice to combat obesity, regulate mood and aid chronic diseases such as type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
What Foods Do People Eat on a Keto Diet?
The basis of a keto meal uses high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate foods. Western food culture is highly focused on pre-packaged foods with added sugar and a side of bread, potatoes, beans or rice. Removing these foods can make keto diets seem very restricting at first, but once you break it down, you will see there are a wide variety of options.
When thinking about keto meals, think of food packed full of flavour and all the delicious fats we have been told for decades we shouldn’t be eating. Keto recipes utilize lashings of cold-pressed oils, butter from grass-fed cows, herbs, and spices to create decadent and satisfying meals.
High-Fat Keto Foods
- Full fat butter and ghee
- Cold-pressed oils such as olive, avocado, coconut and flaxseed
- MCT oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Coconut cream, full-fat milk, and yoghurt
- Full fat unsweetened Greek yoghurt
- Cottage cheese
Related: The Science of Meditation and Yoga: An Easy Guide
Keto Protein Sources
Ideally, anyone should choose to eat organic grass-fed, pasture-raised, free-range sources of meat and eggs. These protein sources are both environmentally friendly and have animal welfare benefits. Additionally, animals who live in a diverse environment with low-stress levels produce healthier meat, dairy and eggs with higher nutritional value than those grain-fed, caged or raised in barns.
- Pork and bacon
- Nuts and seeds
Fruits and vegetables
As a general rule, anything green will meet low-carbohydrate vegetable requirements. Modern-day fruits are bred to contain a high sugar content to suit the human sweet-tooth, so they should be eaten in small amounts, ideally towards the end of the day. Small amounts of berries provide a great source of antioxidants.
- Lemons and limes
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower
Keto carbohydrate alternatives
One of the hardest parts about following a keto diet can be avoiding carbohydrates. Pasta and bread simply make convenient bases for delicious sauces. Every good keto dieter keeps delicious alternatives like these on hand.
- Shirataki noodles
- Zucchini noodles
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Cauliflower rice
Keto suitable sweeteners
Following a keto diet doesn’t mean people have to abandon their sweet cravings completely. In fact, many people report noticing the natural sweetness in foods once they have detoxed from sugar. These suitable keto sweeteners keep sweet teeth content.
- Dark chocolate (80%+
Benefits of a Keto Diet
Dr. Micheal R. Eades explains that “On a low-carb diet your body burns fat for energy.” A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that men who followed a keto diet lost more weight over the long term than men on a low-fat diet. Another study found that obese men following a keto diet lost two kilos more over four weeks compared to those still consuming carbohydrates.
However, weight loss is only one of the benefits of following a keto diet. Consuming a keto diet reduces inflammation in the body —one of the leading causes of numerous modern-day diseases. Following a keto diet can also increase the body’s production of antioxidants. Antioxidants assist natural detoxification processes, fight cell damage caused by free radicals and support mitochondrial function, the body’s energy-producing powerhouses.
People following a keto diet often experience:
- Weight loss
- Reduced feelings of hunger
- Enhanced mental performance
- Improved physical endurance
- Stabilized blood glucose levels which can reduce cravings
- Lower overall caloric intake
- Reduced fatigue
Keto diets may benefit people with:
- Type II diabetes
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Brain trauma
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Cardiovascular disease
Is a Keto Diet the Solution?
With a growing body of scientific evidence supportive of the keto diet, it is becoming less of a fad and more of a mainstream healthy lifestyle option. The evidence suggests that infrequent, high-fat, low carbohydrate meals are simply good for humans physical and mental health.
Personally, I don’t believe dieting solely for weight loss is a sustainable practice. This is where other diets fail in the past. The key is to focus on something else, such as mental clarity or enhanced energy levels with weight loss being a convenient side effect.
Since the keto diet can be quite constricting, and awkward when eating out, many people use it as a form of detox for six weeks or so before returning to a healthy, balanced low-carbohydrate diet. This is how I have been using the keto diet for the last two years. I must say when I am on it; I feel physically and mentally a lot healthier. But don’t just take my word for it. Try it for yourself and see how you feel.
Important tip: Ensure you stay on a strict keto diet for the first six weeks before you decide how you feel about it. Many people give up before this time, don’t fully detox from their previous diet or enter ketosis then judge it for not working. When at the end of the day they didn’t give it a good chance.