“Keto” is trending in all corners of social media. Posts from celebrities, fitness gurus, wellness bloggers, and an especially popular paleo chef are bringing the ketogenic diet into the spotlight. I recently attended a webinar presented by SmartShape Centre for Weight Management addressing this question:

Is the ketogenic diet #fadorfuture?

The ketogenic diet (KD) is not a new concept. KD was used as far back as 460 BCE to treat epilepsy, and developed officially in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic in America.  Research has shown that the KD can be used to reduce seizure activity in both adults and children. Today—KD is still used for treatment-resistant or “difficult-to-manage” epilepsy, and it has shown potential in other areas of medicine as well. Believe it or not, clinical trials are currently underway to determine whether or not the ketogenic diet could treat brain cancer.

Other areas of research have investigated the KD’s potential to assist in weight loss and treat other conditions (i.e. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, autism, Type 2 diabetes, and PCOS). However, more studies are needed as most of this research has been done in animals.

So, what is the “keto,” or ketogenic diet?

The keto diet is a strict low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. Your liver converts some of the fat you’re eating into ketones, which your body can use instead of glucose (aka carbs) for energy. Higher fat diet=more ketones in your blood. This puts your body into a state of ketosis.

Ketosis—when your body adapts to burning fat as the primary fuel source instead of glucose.

Keto is not your average low-carb diet—it requires the dieter to be extremely disciplined, restricting daily carbohydrate intake to a maximum of 40 grams (or less). The level of carb restriction to reach ketosis will be different for each person, and it could be as low as 15-20g of carbohydrate a day.

The Calorie Breakdown*

Fat:   60% or more

Protein:   ~30% (~1g/kg of bodyweight)

Carbohydrate:   10% or less

* Must be individualised for each person

Here are some examples of 40g of carbohydrate:

=      2 apples 

=      About 1 cup of rice

=      About two-thirds of a café-style muffin

=      1 small iced chocolate or iced mocha

=      Two-thirds of a cup of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream

Eating more than 40 or 50g of carbs per day will bring your body out of ketosis.

Ketosis is not to be confused with the more harmful condition of “ketoacidosis,” which can occur in someone with uncontrolled Type 1 diabetes.

What foods are eliminated in the ketogenic diet?

·       Most fruits (except for small amounts of berries and small citrus fruits like limes, lemons, clementine)

·       Starchy vegetables including potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, corn, carrots, peas

·       Beans and legumes

·       Grains, including wholemeal and gluten free

·       Most dairy, except cheese (Hallelujah!)

·       Cakes, cookies, pastries, lollies, soft drink, etc.

What’s left to eat on the ketogenic diet?

·       Meat, poultry, fish, processed meats

·       Eggs

·       Nuts and seeds

·       Fats including oils, butter, margarine, mayonnaise

·       Low carbohydrate fruits (berries, small citrus, avocado, cucumber, tomato)

·       Non-starchy vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, capsicum, onion, garlic, leafy green vegetables, celery, zucchini squash, eggplant

Thoughts from a Student Dietitian:

I’ll admit, after attending the #fadorfuture webinar my attitude towards the keto diet has softened—meaning I won’t shout “ABSOLUTELY NOT” to my friends who ask me about it anymore. It can and should be used in areas where it has a positive treatment effect (i.e. epilepsy). But maintaining or even getting into a state of ketosis is simply not realistic for most of us—especially if we’re just trying to lose a few kilos.

The real world has birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, dinners out with friends—what do all of these things have in common? Carbs. So the likelihood that you will be able to follow the diet and stay in ketosis every day is pretty low.

If you’re interested in trying the ketogenic diet, I’d suggest going “keto-ish” first. Start by reducing added sugars from your diet (think less donuts, soft drinks, cakes, candy and the like). If you’re going okay with this, and you want to take it a step further reduce processed foods too (think less chips/crisps, fast food, fried food). Maybe you stop here because you’re seeing positive changes already. Maybe you want to keep going, and that is when I would say you’re ready to try the ketogenic diet.

I would never tell someone they “couldn’t” do a certain diet if their heart is set on it. Where there’s a will there’s a way, but I would encourage you to make an informed decision. You should know both the pros and the cons. Think about how the diet will affect your mental health, not just how it will affect your pant size.

Could the keto diet help you lose weight? If done consistently, yes.

Could the keto diet lead you to feel deprived, craving your favourite foods, and feeling guilty for overindulging or “falling off the wagon”? Most likely, yes.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, the most important thing you can do is find a healthy way of eating and exercising that you can stick with for longer than 2 weeks, which is about 13 days longer than I could eat “keto.”

- by Caitlynn Gillaspie