As we start 2018, many of us are making a fresh round of New Year resolutions. One of the most perpetual themes is to get our body healthier and in a better shape with an attentive eye for what to eat and what diet to follow. For anyone looking for expert guidance, the newly published “Best Diet Ranking’ by the US News and World Report has provided us with something old and something new.
To no one’s surprise, the tried and true healthy diet took the top spot. Amongst the highly recommended winners, such as Mediterranean, DASH, and Weight Watchers diet, there is a consistent message that once again focuses on the need of a balanced diet that is low in calories and sugar with moderate healthy fat and protein intake. Interestingly, for the first time, the ranking included the so-called “Keto diet”. Contrary to the popular perception, the keto diet was ranked dead last as the least healthy diet and was the #23 out of 30 best diets for weight loss. I am sure it has turned a few heads for its provocative nature, but its performance (or lack thereof) shouldn’t have come as a surprise once we take a closer look of this diet.
For the keto diet to work, two things need to happen: first, one needs to limit calorie consumption (this is no different from any other diet plans. In order to lose weight, one has to decrease calories); and second one need to restrict carbohydrate intake to deprive our body of glucose and force it to use an alternative molecule called “ketone” to generate energy. Since ketone is generated by breaking down fat, the process of ketogenesis purportedly burns more fat from our body. However, it is nearly impossible to stick to this kind of diet for long periods of time because one has to restrict his or her daily total carbohydrate intake below roughly 20 to 30 gram (which is less than 5 % of the total daily calorie count.) To illustrate how extreme this carb limitation is, consider that a medium size apple has about 25 gram of sugar alone, and a cup of almond or broccoli salad has 20 grams of carbs. The rest of your calories would have to come from meat, egg, butter, oil, cheese, fish, and lettuce with very little fruit and vegetable. It is truly like eating a butter on butter diet. It may produce a rapid weight loss over a couple of weeks due to the lack of any other carb-loaded sustenance, but, most people later gain back the weight they lost because they simply could not keep eating only fats. It is also important to point out that the type of rapid weight fluctuations incident to the Keto Diet is associated with increased mortality.
In addition, there are many potential health problems attached to this type of diet Here are a few examples:
- In order to follow a high fat and protein diet, one has to rely heavily on meat products, especially processed meat, which is known to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease as well as overall mortality.
- Many people on keto diet often eat low quality, processed, or fried food that contain high levels of harmful trans fats which can cause cardiovascular diseases.
- Eating too many green leaf vegetables can lead to bloating, cramping, gas, and constipation. Lack of fruit and other vegetables likely would lead to nutrient deficiencies cuasing people have to rely on vitamins and mineral supplements. Not to even mention the unpleasant side effects such as fatigue, bad breath, kidney damage, and sleep problems. More importantly, we simply do not have any data on what the long-term effect of keto diet on human body.
The bottom line is, in seeking a healthy diet, there are many more credible and proven alternatives to choose from. One should choose a diet that he or she can stick with long term. We should also take stock of the mounting scientific evidences that recommend limiting overall calorie intake, picking whole foods over processed foods or refined ingredients (such as protein extracts and added sugar), replacing meat and other animal products with more plant based foods, having balanced food sources, and not eating too much of one thing.
At Karuna, we strongly advocate for a low calorie and balanced nutrition based on whole plant foods without any added sugar or protein extracts. For more information, please visit us at www.mykaruna.com.