Paleo is so last week. Right now it’s all about the buzzword du jour—keto—a super restrictive, low-carb, high-fat, moderate protein diet, where all grains, starches and fruits are the nemesis, but leafy greens, heavy cream, eggs, grass-fed beef and other meats are prized. It’s been said to cure everything from epilepsy to cancer, and has helped many, many people lose a significant amount of weight and change their overall health for the better. Celebrities love it! But is it really a perfect cure-all?
We talked with Ariane Resnick, certified nutritionist, author (Bone Broth Miracle, The Thinking Girl’s Guide to Drinking (Cocktails Without Regrets)), and special diet chef to the stars (Pink wrote the forward to her upcoming book, How To Be Well When You’re Not), about the pros and cons of going keto.
“Keto is a more modern version of Atkins,” Resnick says about the latest trend. “It’s not really different from the low-carb diet from the ‘70s through the ‘90s. It’s just more restrictive.” The idea is that without carbs, your body burns fat for fuel instead of sugars, also known as the metabolic state of ketosis. Getting to this state requires following a consistent high-fat, low-carb diet, with little to no variation. It’s something doctors have been prescribing to epileptic children for nearly 100 years, but like many “fad diets,” it has a shiny new look.
Most people do lose weight and fast, which also improves metabolism, blood sugar and cholesterol. “Keto is popular because you’re changing how your body functions, and so people lose weight quickly. Every diet will give you some result,” explains Resnick. A keto lifestyle is rich in delicious things like meat—grass-fed beef, skin-on chicken and the like—plus fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna; butter, eggs and most cheeses; healthful oils like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil: most nuts and seeds; a wide array of vegetables from kale to other hearty choices such as cauliflower, broccoli, peppers; and a superfood favorite, avocados. And yes, you can eat bacon!
With the ups come the downs. Such a high-fat diet isn’t conducive to good heart health. And eating keto cuts out a lot of nutritious foods like whole grains, beans and fruit, which means a loss of fiber and many vitamin-rich and antioxidant foods. For some, a decrease in potassium and sodium can lead to problems like constipation, dehydration and digestive discomfort. And then there’s the “keto flu,” which supposedly goes away after a few weeks, but the idea of making yourself tired, irritable and nauseated could be a deal breaker. And if the goal is strictly weight loss, like any diet, once you start to reintroduce foods back into your body, the chances of gaining back the weight are much greater. “Any time you put yourself on an extreme diet, you can offset your metabolism indefinitely,” says Resnick. “For it to work long-term, you need to keep it long-term.”
Should You Keto?
No matter what state your body and health are in, it’s smart to consult with your doctor (or a nutritionist and/or dietician) before starting any restrictive diet plan. The keto diet isn’t recommended for anyone with liver or kidney disease, gastrointestinal issues or someone sans a gallbladder. Pregnant women should stay away from it, and anyone with a serious heart condition should be wary. However health benefits reportedly abound, with numerous claims that it helps people with cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and more, with some research to back it up. “Not every diet is right for everybody,” Resnick advises. “Our biology was not meant to be dictated by our ideology. When we think about what we want to eat, it’s not dictated by what our body wants or needs. The best long-term eating is more intuitive.”
Help Is Out There
If you do want to try the keto diet, there is an infinite amount of blogs, apps, videos, message boards, support groups, books and recipes for guidance. But Resnick suggests trying to start slow, by cutting out some carbs first and seeing how it goes. “You can always lower carbs, see if you feel better, experience weight loss and see if it’s the way to go,” she adds. “See what works for you. Nothing will make everyone feel better.”