It’s a new year, which means you’re already dealing with the unfortunate influx of dieting suggestions from Instagram ads and TV commercials, not to mention the very existence of the concept of “New Year’s Resolutions” as a whole. And while, personally, I am not interested in all that noise, I do still have questions about it. The biggest one right now: What the heck is keto? Over the past few years, I’ve seen more and more “keto-friendly” things in the supermarket and find myself asking the same few questions: What does it mean to be on a keto diet? What does “keto-friendly” mean? And is it actually good for you? So, without further ado, let’s explore the key(to) points of keto.
What does it mean to be on a keto diet?
A keto diet (or a ketogenic diet, if you’re fancy) is essentially a low-carb, high-fat diet. The idea is that if you reduce your carb intake and replace it with fat intake, your body will enter a state called ketosis, which is “when the body begins to burn fat instead of glucose as its primary energy source,” according to the New York Times. There have also been studies to determine whether abiding by a low-carb diet like the keto diet might help lower blood sugar and insulin levels and help prevent certain diseases. We’ll get to that.
What foods are keto-friendly? Can keto people basically eat whatever they want besides carbs?
Seafood, avocado, cheese, eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, chicken, non-starchy veggies, dark chocolate, olive oil, butter… the list could go on. Basically, any high-fat foods with limited protein and no carbs are best for keto people. But there are also packaged foods that make this same “keto-friendly” claim, and I have always wondered what the difference is. Turns out, it’s just foods that are very low carb and (usually) high fat. So, yes, there are keto-friendly yogurts and ice creams that are specifically designed to be high-fat and low-carb, and there are crackers made out of nuts instead of grains, but there are also things like string cheese, olives, nut butters, and pork rinds that already exist and happen to fit the bill. It’s all a bit restrictive but there are still some good things out there that people on keto can enjoy. But now for the elephant in the room…
Is it actually good for you?
It’s a bit unclear. According to the Mayo Clinic, there aren’t a whole lot of studies yet that show robust and consistent benefits from the keto diet. Keto has been shown to reduce the frequency of seizures for young people with epilepsy (fun fact), and Mayo Clinic also says that “some early research suggests it may have benefits for blood sugar control among people with diabetes.” However, when it comes to weight loss, there isn’t really any study showing this consistent benefit yet. In fact, Mayo Clinic also pointed out some very real downsides to this diet, which include “constipation, headaches, bad breath, and more.” It could also make it difficult to meet your micronutrient needs. And perhaps the biggest concern is that “the high level of unhealthy saturated fat—combined with limits on nutrient-rich fruits, veggies, and grains is a concern for long-term heart health.” So, there’s a lot to think about here.
In general, it’s always good advice to talk to your doctor before attempting any drastic diet changes like this, but, hey. If the keto diet is right for you and your specific needs, then you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of super delicious keto-friendly foods out there. We even have a few lists of them here at Sporked!