LEARN THE KETO DIET’S KEY PRINCIPLES, PROS AND CONS
The key to any successful diet is sustainability. “Diet fads come and go, but individuals, with their doctors’ input, need to choose what works for them. Otherwise, you’re going to gain the weight back the second you go off the diet,” says Buckhead resident Emily Peterson, dietitian and owner of Suitable Nutrition. Curious if the uber-popular ketogenic diet might work for you? Peterson provides the following insight to help you decide if it’s a good fit.
The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate protein and low-carbohydrate eating pattern made up of 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs. This means you’ll be consuming mostly fats from foods such as nuts, eggs, oils, cheeses, avocadoes, coconut, meats and milk. “It almost flips the old nutrition pyramid upside down. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, 75% fat means about 166 grams of fat each day—it’s a lot. Just a glass of milk and an apple will put you over the 5% percent carbs,” she explains.
How It Works
Carbohydrates are typically the main source of energy for your body. “If you’re restricting those to such a low level, the body reverts to ketogenesis, which is the utilization of fatty acids called ketones for fuel. Producing ketones instead of glucose as an alternative energy source is what can help you lose weight,” Peterson says. “The human body has evolved with this ability so that in times of famine the body uses its fat as its primary source of energy.”
Positives include that you don’t have to count calories, keto can help improve glycemic control for people who are diabetic, and it can help you feel full longer. “Research has shown that you can lose weight with keto. However, sometimes that weight loss in the beginning can be water weight as carbs store water,” Peterson says. Additionally, if you’re eating mostly unsaturated, plant-based fats, it can help lower cholesterol.
It is not the right choice for people with a history of heart disease or health issues related to the pancreas, liver, thyroid or gallbladder. It’s also a no-no for those whose gallbladder, which helps process fats, has been removed. “It might increase the lipid profile and cholesterol levels of those with a family history of cardiovascular disease. It’s important to work with your doctor and know what your levels are, and to be monitoring those,” Peterson says. It also might not be the right choice for highly active people who need carbs for fuel.
What to Expect
For some, the “keto flu,” or feeling low energy and unwell, will set in for the first week or two while the body is making the switch from carbs to fat as a primary energy source. Cutting back on high-fiber vegetables and fruits can lead to constipation, so Peterson recommends taking a fiber supplement. Additional supplements may be needed to balance vitamin and mineral deficiencies, too. To make sure you are in ketosis, you need to measure the keytones in your urine often. To start, test once a day with an at-home test. The bottom line is the keto diet is a great tool for weight loss, but Peterson says, “The jury is still out on the long-term benefits.”
Three eateries with menu items friendly to the diet Clean-eating restaurant KarmaFarm in Buckhead offers farm-to-table options in a fast-casual setting. Satisfy your hunger with its keto-friendly, gluten-free Patagonian smoked salmon avocado bowl with massaged organic kale, dressed with organic toasted sesame oil and tamari (above).
Craving some pasta? Head to Flower Child’s Buckhead or new Westside location for its decadent yet carb-friendly take on pasta, the Keto Turkey Sausage and Zucchini Lasagna (above).
For a sweet fix, try keto-friendly bakery and coffee shop Zambawango in Sandy Springs for a slice of their signature lowcarb (3.8 carbs/slice) carrot cake (left) or strawberry cheesecake (3.5 carbs/slice).
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Managing Editor and Wellness Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Blogger at Badass + Healthy.