It's amazing how many people can stare at the positive effects of the whole-food ketogenic diet and still not open their minds to it. As many of you know, I began a keto lifestyle in December, on the recommendation of my doctor who'd just diagnosed me with type II diabetes. (Read about my journey and the incredible success I had in just three months right here.) Eight months later, I can say my health has become even better. My blood sugar is still normal; I've lost 42 lbs.; my cholesterol is normal; my blood pressure is normal; the hidradenitis supporativa I suffered from is almost entirely gone; the C-section pain I suffered from (eight years after my last C-section) is mostly gone; and I have more energy.
And yet...I keep bumping into people who tell me I'm on a dangerous, fad diet.
Is the Keto diet a fad?
Did you know that the ketogenic diet (though it was not called that at the time) was the first diet ever developed to truly combat diabetes? Yep, way back in the 1860s, Dr. William Banting popularized the idea that "starchy" foods made us fat. By the early 1900s, doctors realized that by cutting those same carbs from the diet, diabetics who otherwise were dying, could live for years. Take a peak at this old diabetic cookbook, and you'll see it's not much different from the keto recipes you see today.
In addition, many experts argue that the keto diet is the way most people used to eat. In The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, Doctors Jeff Volek and Stephen Finney explain how eating habits from thousands of years ago are largely misinterpreted by archeologists, primarily because looking at the remains of food waste "does not allow us to know which parts of the food were treasured, which discarded, and what parts were fed to dogs." Think about it: Meat has usually been abundant, whereas vegetables were seasonal, and fruit rarer still.
Coming closer to our time period in history, fruit was treated as a dessert, and meals consisted mostly of natural fats, meats, and vegetables. Many of our modern epidemic diseases (including heart disease and diabetes) were far more rare in those days.
|A classic keto meal. Recipe here.|
Interestingly, when people bring up how "dangerous" the ketogenic diet is, they tend to be vague. I'll ask, "How is this diet dangerous?" and typically they can't answer. Sometimes I meet a healthcare professional who touts this line, and the "dangerous" aspect of this lifestyle always boils down to two things:
1. They think keto is a high protein diet.
2. They confuse ketoacidosis with ketosis.
A high protein diet does, indeed, have the potential to cause kidney damage - that's the "dangerous" part people frequently mention. But keto is not a high protein diet. It's a moderate protein diet.
I'll also note that I'm in contact with people who've been eating keto for a decade or longer, and none of them have ever had kidney issues. In fact, they've never been so healthy in all their lives. So kidney damage due to eating too much protein is definitely not a concern with this lifestyle.
An awful lot of people who should know better (nurses, dieticians, etc.) also confuse ketoacidosis with ketosis. I've addressed this concern before, but let me just say briefly: Ketosis means your body is burning fat instead of carbohydrates. That's what you're after in a keto diet. It's called ketosis because the process puts ketone bodies (chemicals the body produces when breaking down fatty acids) into the blood stream. The amount of ketones in the blood stream is, however, very low.
Ketoacidosis, on the other hand, is a dangerous condition found almost exclusively in type I diabetics. It occurs when there are very high amounts of ketones in the blood stream, caused by a lack of insulin in the body. (Insulin metabolizes ketones.) This condition requires emergency treatment because it can seriously damage organs and cause death. Learn more about ketoacidosis here.
Another item that comes up is something that was featured on a recent blog post over at The Paleo Mom. I've previously recommended this blog to people, because it has great articles about the AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet, which is useful for people suffering from a variety of ailments. But I must say I was disappointed with this piece.
|Low carb veggies are a major part of the keto diet. Recipe here.|
The first red flag in the post is the assertion that keto is a "starvation diet." This tells me the author doesn't understand even the basics of keto. I assure you, no one ever starved on keto. No one need even feel hungry. Keto is a very filling diet, and if you're hungry, you eat. Period.
Perhaps the author is being unclear and saying keto starves the body of carbohydrates, which (she fails to mention) are not a nutrient anyone requires.
Then the author goes on to list the serious reactions some people have had while on a keto diet...Every single one of them apply to every diet that's ever existed, including the high carb, low fat diet that's currently so popular.
The post also claims keto hasn't been well studied, except among epileptic children. This simply isn't the case. Perhaps the author's confusion is that she's not looking at the studies of LCHF diets (another name for keto, and stands for "low carb, high fat, moderate protein") - the real studies, that is. As Volek and Phinney point out, rarely do studies that claim to look at LCHF really do the job. Usually, they look at high protein diets, or diets filled with processed (not natural) fats, or diets that aren't truly low carb.
Another thing I sometimes hear is that keto is bad for your gut and colon because it doesn't include enough vegetables. Again this shows a lack of knowledge about the diet, because keto is a whole foods diet that encourages vegetable consumption at every meal. In fact, a lot of people who switch to keto end up eating more veggies than they did previously.
A few other concerns are sometimes mentioned, like "Your body needs carbs!", "Fruit is good for you!", and "Fat causes heart disease!" Each of these assertions is false; you can read what I've already written about them here.
|I suffer a lot eating delicious, wholesome food like this chowder. (Not!) Recipe here.|
This is the most laughable argument against the keto diet, and the one that most reveals how our culture is addicted to carbs. In truth, thousands of people stick to a keto lifestyle without cheating...and do it for decades.
In fact, keto the easiest diet I've ever been on. Weight Watchers? Now there's a diet that's not maintainable. Even Atkins, which has some parallels with keto - is not maintainable for me and many others. But keto keeps me full and satisfied and the food is delicious. I have no desire to go back to the carb-laden diet the American diabetes Association and most medical professionals suggest.
My honest opinion? The standard American diet is what's not maintainable. At least, not if we want to be healthy.
To learn more about the specifics of the ketogenic diet, click here.