The Keto Diet: Is It Right for You?

avocado, salmon, beef, nuts

You’ve probably heard your friends talking about the latest fad diet: the Keto Diet. It isn’t actually new. In fact, this type of diet has been prescribed for treatment of pediatric epilepsy as early as 1921. But does it also work for weight loss?

What is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic (“keto”) diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet. It is rich in meats and fats, and carbohydrate intake is limited to no more than 50 grams each day. It similar to the very low carbohydrate Atkins Diet, which gained popularity in the 1970s for weight loss.

The Keto Diet is rich in meats, fish, nuts, seeds, butter, cheese, and fibrous vegetables. Foods high in carbohydrates, such as fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, and grains are eliminated while on the Keto Diet.

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

When you dramatically reduce your carbohydrate intake, your cells do not have enough circulating blood sugar (which comes from carbohydrates in your diet) for energy. This causes your body to release ketone bodies (broken down from stored body fat) into your bloodstream for your body to use for energy. This process is called ketosis. It usually takes 2–4 days of eating no more than 20–50 grams of carbohydrates each day for the body to use ketone bodies for energy instead of circulating blood sugar.  The result is the loss of stored body fat with minimal hunger.

How Effective Is It for Weight Loss?

Research has shown that a low-carbohydrate diet is very effective for rapid, short-term weight loss compared to traditional weight reduction diets. However, over time, traditional weight loss diets (such as a low-fat diet or the Mediterranean Diet) appear to be equally effective. Research has also shown that the Keto Diet can reduce blood sugar levels for people living with type 2 diabetes.

Are There Any Side Effects to Following the Keto Diet?

Careful diet planning is key to ensuring you are not consuming too much red meat, sodium, processed meats, or saturated fat. Some people report it is difficult to stick to on a long-term basis, since the typical American diet is at least 50 percent carbohydrates. Reported side effects from the ketosis process include nausea, fatigue, bad breath, and constipation.

Is the Keto Diet Right for Me?

If you want to lose weight, a low-carbohydrate diet such as the Keto Diet can be an effective tool for jump-starting your weight loss. Proper planning can ensure your diet remains balanced in vitamins and essential nutrients while following the very low carbohydrate phase of this diet. However, decades of research supports a balanced diet rich in unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, and healthy fats found in nuts, seeds, and oils to be the most effective for health and longevity.

Interested in learning more about nutrition and health? Consider enrolling in HSC 403: Nutrition for Wellness.

Carmen Roberts, MS, RD, LDN
About Carmen Roberts, MS, RD, LDN 2 Articles
Carmen received her undergraduate degree in dietetics from James Madison University in Virginia and her master’s degree in health education and administration from Towson University in Maryland. She is an instructor in Excelsior College’s School of Health Sciences. Carmen has over 20 years of experience in nutritional counseling, education, writing, and program management and is a certified specialist in adult weight management. She enjoys educating her students and clients about how nutrition affects the body and its role in overall health and wellness.