Is Keto Healthy? – Keto Diet Pros and Cons

Is keto healthy? Made famous by celebs like Halle Berry, Kourtney Kardashian, and Jenna Jameson, the ketogenic diet commonly known as the “keto diet or just keto” is one of the most argued diet plans for weight loss and overall good health.

keto diet

Studies show that the keto diet is an effective weight loss diet [1] and that this diet type has some significant health benefits against type 2 diabetes [2], cancer [3], epilepsy [4], and Alzheimer’s disease [5]. Do some risks accompany these health benefits? Or is keto entirely safe for everyone? Well, let’s find out.

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What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is a diet that is very low in carbohydrates, but high in fats. It is related to the Atkins, Low carb, Paleo, and South Beach diets, which are low in carbs and high in proteins and are sometimes referred to as keto diets.

However, unlike these diets that focus on proteins as the main calorie source, the true ketogenic diet is different, as it focuses on fat, which supplies up to 80% of daily calories.

When on keto, you will typically get 70 to 80 percent of your daily calories from fat, 5 to 10 percent from carbohydrates, and 10 to 20 percent from protein, says Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

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    Types of keto diets

    There are several different types of ketogenic diets including

    1. The standard ketogenic diet (SKD):

    Which constitutes a very low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet, in the proportions of 10% of daily calories from carbs, 20% from proteins, and 70% from fats.

    2. Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD):

    This one allows for breaks of higher-carb refeeds. For example, 5 keto days followed by 2 high carb days.

    3. Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD):

    Designed mostly for athletes, it consists of 10% of calories from carbohydrates, 60% of calories from fats, and 30% of calories from proteins.

    4. High protein ketogenic diet:

    Best for bodybuilders, it is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more calories from proteins in the ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.

    5. Strict ketogenic diet:

    Used mostly in the treatment of epilepsy, it constitutes 90% of daily calories come from fat, 6% from protein, and just 4% from carbs.

    • low carb family meals
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    • Healthy keto diets
    • Healthy keto diets
    • Healthy keto diets
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    • low carb family meals
    • low carb family meals
    • Healthy keto diets

    How does keto work?

    The goal of keto diets is to force your body into using a different type of fuel, which is fat. Normally, the body relies on sugar (glucose) that comes from carbohydrates (such as grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits) as its primary source of energy.

    However, the drastic cut down of carbohydrates, and the high fat intake when on the keto diet, put your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

    This is a state in which your body becomes very efficient at burning fat for energy. Ketogenic diets can lead to significant reductions in weight, blood sugar, and insulin levels [6, 7, 8].

    It will typically take a few days to reach a state of ketosis, and it will require that you deprive yourself of carbohydrates, fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day.

    Did You Know?

    12.9 million Americans follow the keto diet each year [9]

    What is Ketosis?

    The metabolic state in which your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbs is called ketosis. It can occur when you significantly reduce your consumption of carbohydrates.

    This will limit your body’s supply of glucose, which is its main source of energy, forcing your body to rely on your fat reserves for energy.

    The best way to attain ketosis is through a ketogenic diet, which aims at limiting carb consumption to around 20 to 50 grams per day and filling up on fats, such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils [10].

    Also, getting to keto faster will require that you moderate your protein consumption since protein can be converted into glucose if consumed in excess amounts [11].

    Practicing intermittent fasting could also help you enter ketosis faster.

    Measuring the number of ketones in your blood, urine, and breath, can help you determine whether you have entered ketosis.

    What can you eat on keto?

    Eggs: pastured or omega-3 whole eggs

    Healthy keto diets
    pescatarian diet

    Fatty fish: like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel

    Butter and cream: grass-fed butter and heavy cream

    Healthy keto diets
    Healthy keto diets

    Condiments: salt, pepper, herbs, and spices

    Low-carb veggies: green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.

    Healthy keto diets
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    Meat: red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey

    Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.

    Healthy keto diets
    Healthy keto diets

    Cheese: unprocessed cheeses like cheddar, goat, cream, blue, or mozzarella

    Avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole

    Healthy keto diets
    Healthy Oils

    Healthy oils: extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil

    What can’t you eat on the keto diet?

    Grains or starches: wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.

    Fruits: all fruits, except small portions of berries like strawberries

    Sugary foods: soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.

    Beans or legumes: peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.

    Unhealthy fats: processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.

    Low-fat or diet products: low-fat mayonnaise, salad dressings, and condiments

    Alcohol: beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks

    Root vegetables and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.

    Sauces: barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc.

    Did You Know?

     The Ketogenic diet is more effective than a low-fat diet for obesity and diabetes [12]

    Healthy keto snacks

    Let’s see some healthy approved keto snacks you can eat between meals if you are hungry.

    90% dark chocolate

    Cheese

    Beef jerky

    A handful of nuts or seeds

    Strawberries and plain cottage cheese

    Keto sushi bites

    Fatty meat or fish

    One or two hard-boiled or deviled eggs

    Keto-friendly snack bars

    Olives

    Full-fat Greek yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder

    Bell peppers and guacamole

    Celery with salsa and guacamole

    Smaller portions of leftover meals

    • healthy keto snacks
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    • Healthy Fruits

    Benefits of the Keto Diet

    1. Weight loss:

    The ketogenic diet may help promote weight loss by boosting metabolism and reducing appetite since the diet consists of foods that fill a person up and may reduce the effects of the hunger-stimulating hormone.

    You can literally lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake.

    2013 study of 13 different randomized controlled trials, found that people following ketogenic diets lost 2 pounds (lbs) more than those following low-fat diets over 1 year.

    A similar study demonstrated that people following a ketogenic diet lost 5 lbs more than those following low-fat diets after 6 months.

    2. Reduce seizures:

    According to the epilepsy foundation, ketosis can help reduce seizures in epileptic patients especially if they have not responded to other treatment methods. A 2019 study backs this suggestion.

    3. Brain protection:

    According to research, the ketones generated during ketosis have some beneficial effects on the brain like improving the outcomes of traumatic brain injuries [13].

    4. Heart disease:

    Cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar can be improved with the keto diet [14, 15].

    A 2017 study showed that some humans on a healthy keto diet experienced a significant drop in levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides, and an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol.

    5. Reduce the risk of certain cancers:

    According to some research, the diet can slow tumor growth [16, 17, 18]. Studies in this area are however limited and a lot of work is still being carried out.

    6. Alzheimer’s disease:

    Research suggests that the keto diet may help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression [19, 20, 21]. Again, more research is still needed.

    7. Improves PCOS symptoms:

    PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) is a hormonal disorder that can lead to excess male hormones, ovulatory dysfunction, and polycystic ovaries.

    People with PCOS are at risk of developing adverse effects such as skin problems and weight gain, when on a high-carbohydrate diet.

    A 2019 study found that the keto diet had beneficial effects on people with PCOS disorder and type 2 diabetes.

    An older 2005 study examined 5 women over 24 weeks and found that a ketogenic diet had improved; weight loss, hormone balance, ratios of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and levels of fasting insulin.

    Dangers of the keto diet

    Though the ketogenic diet has a number of health benefits, staying on it long-term can result in certain adverse effects.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans says most people should get 20 to 35 percent of their daily calories from fat, 45 to 65 percent from carbs, and 10 to 35 percent from protein, which is not the case with those on keto.

    Due to the high intake of fats, a drastic cut in carbs, and the elimination of certain food groups and nutrients, it is possible to develop the following complications on a long-term ketogenic diet;

    Kidney stones

    Mineral and vitamin deficiencies

    A buildup of fat in the liver

    Low protein in the blood

    Weight regain

    Keto flu are common adverse side effects that many people on the keto diet experience. These adverse effects may include:

    Fatigue

    Low blood sugar

    Low tolerance for exercise

    Constipation

    Headaches

    Nausea

    Vomiting

    However, these symptoms are especially common at the beginning of the diet as the body adjusts to its new energy source.

    Keto dieting can result in weight regain on resumption of a normal diet in the long run. A phenomenon referred to as “yo-yo dieting” or weight cycling.

    Did You Know?

    70% of keto dieters don’t track their blood ketone levels [22]

    Who should avoid the keto diet?

    Those with kidney disease or pancreatitis

    Women during pregnancy and breastfeeding

    People with diabetes who are insulin-dependent

    People who have eating disorders

    If you are on a type of medication called sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors for type 2 diabetes, you should also not follow a ketogenic diet. This medication increases the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that increases acidity in the blood [20, 21].

    Is Keto Healthy? The Bottom line

    The ketogenic diet was originally designed for children who suffered from epilepsy and in the process, it was seen to have other potential health benefits including weight loss and improving heart conditions.

    However, more research is being done to determine the safety of the keto diet in the long term.

    Moreover, as we saw earlier, not everyone is compatible with the keto diet.

    So, we strongly advise you to see your doctor before considering trying the keto diet.

    We equally advise you to incorporate some physical activity in your weight loss journey.

    Exercise is vital to achieving weight loss and maintaining it.