Keto: Yes or No?

Dr. Natasha Turner’s take on the keto diet trend

What is the keto diet?

The keto diet that you’ve likely heard about is short for “ketogenic diet.” This eating plan is all about minimizing your carbs and upping your fats to get your body to use fat as a form of energy. That typically translates to: 60-75 per cent of your calories from fat, 15-30 per cent of your calories from protein, and 5-10 per cent of your calories from carbs.

After about two to seven days of following this eating routine, you go into something called ketosis, or the state your body enters when it doesn’t have enough carbs for your cells to use for energy. At that point, your body starts making ketones, or organic compounds that your body then uses in place of those missing carbs. Keto was designed to help people who suffer from seizure disorders—not to help people lose weight. That’s because both ketones and another chemical produced by the diet, called decanoic acid, may help minimize seizures.

But people who started following the keto diet noticed weight loss for a few reasons: when we eat carbs, our body retains fluid in order to store carbs for energy. When you consume fewer carbs, you lose this water weight. Also, it’s easy to go overboard on carbohydrates—but if you’re loading up on fat, it may help curb cravings since it keeps you satisfied. This diet plan basically involves almost complete removal of one food group– carbohydrates. Green vegetables are the only carbohydrate permitted on this diet.

Foods avoided on the keto diet

• All fruits

• All starchy vegetables

• All legumes

• All grains

• Low fat foods

• All foods containing sugar or sweeteners

Who benefits from the keto diet?

This diet was not created as a weight loss diet, but as a diet for seizure patients because of the impact of ketones on the brain.

Who doesn’t benefit from the keto diet?

For most people, keto it is not the ideal approach as it is hard, and hard on your body, to sustain it for a long period.

• Type 1 diabetes and kidney disease patients must use caution and should avoid the keto diet without medical guidance.

• This diet is especially harmful and not recommended for women. A high fat diet spurs estrogen production in the body. High estrogen is linked to an increased breast cancer risk. Depending on the types of fats consumed in excess daily, an increased risk of heart disease may also occur in relation to the high fat intake.

• Research indicates that the keto diet can be associated with a loss of muscle mass due to insufficient protein intake. This dietary approach, therefore, is not ideal for anyone who wants to age well and maintain strength.

• With respect to athletes: after 30 days on the keto diet, most report a noticeable decrease in energy and performance, although many use it for an initial approach to drop body fat.

• This diet has documented findings and concerns related to the risk of nutrient deficiency as the food selections are limited and an entire food group is eliminated.

Dr. Turner’s suggestions to those on keto or  committed to trying it

It is not necessary to eat a high fat, moderate protein and restricted carb diet (including only green vegetables) to get into ketosis. In fact, we can eat less or move more to get into ketosis, which simply refers to the state in which your body is burning fat.

I suggest getting into to ketosis by consuming fewer calories–by eating less on the days we are moving less. You can do this by reducing starches and eliminating sugars, by reducing fat, by
stopping eating by 6 or 7 pm, and reducing meals from four to three on the days with
less activity.

I can’t stress enough the importance of consuming enough protein to maintain satiety, metabolism and muscle mass–so make sure you hit your daily requirement of this macro and stop focusing on increasing fat intake.

You can test your ketones and weight each morning to ensure you are in ketosis. Every
metabolism is different. For instance, some people are fine consuming one low GI fruit in the afternoon and still can remain in ketosis, while others do fine eating a low GI starchy carb like beets or carrots on strength training days. 

Dr. Turner’s opinion on the keto diet

Simply and clearly stated, I must say I do not recommend the keto diet. This is especially
true for women and athletes and if adopted at all by anyone, it should be for short-term useonly (ie: two weeks maximum at a time). I have come to this conclusion based on the information I have gathered and observed about this diet’s impact on long-term health, specifically with respect to hormonal changes, sustainability, energy impact and endurance. I never recommend a diet to a patient that is not sustainable or that could be metabolically or hormonally harmful in the long term. I encourage you to consider all of your options before jumping on the keto band wagon. 

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Dr. Natasha Turner

Dr. Natasha Turner

Dr. Natasha Turner is a New York Times bestselling author and one of North America’s leading naturopathic doctors, a sought-after speaker, natural health expert, and the founder of Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto. In2014 she was recognized by her professional organization as a leader in her field and in 2016 was awarded the top […]

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