The ketogenic or keto diet has taken Pakistan and the world by storm. But first, a little bit about the makings of it - keto is a high fat and low carbohydrate diet that decreases blood sugar and insulin levels which puts you into ketosis.
However, despite its avid popularity, it is not recommended as a healthy way to lose weight nor to maintain that weight loss.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is the process of utilising fat for fuel instead of carbs. Many people, looking to lose weight, incorporate this method in their diet in order to shed pounds quickly - not a sustainable or safe way to lose weight in the long-term.
Why is it harmful?
Although it is important to consume healthy fats as our hormones and brain are made out of fat, too much of anything is almost always a bad idea. Balance is essentially key when consuming healthy foods.
The other reason is that consuming a high-fat diet long-term can negatively impact the liver. The liver has to exert more effort to process the extra fats leading to liver toxicity. Liver toxicity is harmful and may disturb body functions such as sleep, the digestive system, the immune system, and the metabolism.
Additionally, limiting carbohydrates can lead to a decrease in serotonin and thyroid hormone production. Serotonin is a hormone responsible for sleep and mood.
Without a proper carbohydrate intake, one might notice getting cranky and may experience trouble falling and/or staying asleep. Good quality sleep is absolutely essential for proper human growth hormone production in order to support our bodies' detoxification processes.
Thyroid hormones control the rate at which the heart beats and the speed at which one burn calories. Low thyroid hormone has also been linked to infertility.
The keto diet has severe long-term health implications and therefore should not be encouraged without the surveillance of a healthcare practitioner.
In fact, the keto diet was used to help epilepsy patients manage their seizures. It was not designed as a quick weight loss fix like it is being utilized currently.
Furthermore, the notorious Atkins diet – another fad diet popular a few decades ago – was in fact a variation of the keto diet that also promoted a high fat and low carb way of eating.
The founder of the Atkins diet, Robert Atkins, actually died overweight at 258 pounds. Many have speculated that he was overweight due to constant dieting, which eventually badly damaged and deregulated his metabolism.
Dietary alternatives to keto:
Alternately, here are a few dietary suggestions one can add to their diets instead of turning to keto.
Fruits are usually demonised by the keto diet when in fact they are incredibly beneficial as they are high in vitamins and minerals. Eating a wide variety of fruits can help meet the daily micronutrient need. Fruits are also easily digestible carbohydrates that can provide a natural boost of energy.
Sweet potatoes are also another incredible food that is limited in the keto diet. I recommend sweet potatoes as they are rich in antioxidants and may also offer cancer-fighting benefits. They are also an abundant source of potassium which supports the proper functioning of nerves and muscles.
Beetroot is another nutrient-dense starchy vegetable that is looked down upon in the keto diet. Beetroot has a plentiful amount of folate (vitamin B9), fiber, and manganese. These nutrients can help to reduce blood pressure, improve blood circulation blood flow, and increase stamina.
It is highly recommended to skip all such fad diets and prioritize long-term health and wellness over quick fixes. Prioritizing a balanced way of eating that includes all the macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats).
All in all, moderation is key when approaching any dietary strategies and routines.
The writer is a certified functional nutritionist