Is Keto the Right Choice for You?
The ketogenic (keto) diet is all the rage right now, but for some, it might not be all it’s cracked up to be. If you give keto a try, here’s how to know whether or not it’s the right choice for you.
Red meat. Cheese. Nuts. Bacon. All you have to do is give up the bread and pasta. It’s understandable why people are drawn to keto, the new rage diet that seems to yield weight loss with a very low-carb, high-fat approach. And some have certainly been successful losing weight and keeping it off by adhering to its basic tenets.
But Nicole Rittman, RD, a clinical dietitian at the University of Miami Hospital, says it’s best to temper your expectations when it comes to the keto diet. “Not every diet is going to be appropriate for everyone,” she says. “I always recommend discussing with a registered dietitian or health professional prior to starting a diet to determine if it is right for you.”
One thing that Rittman was quick to mention is that people with certain health issues should steer clear of keto entirely due to its dietary restrictions. If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, for example, or you have medical conditions that involve issues with the liver, pancreas or kidneys, then keto is not a good choice.
If people have difficulty maintaining their weight or experience unintentional weight loss, she also recommends avoiding the restrictive keto diet.
Concerns with keto
Another thing that people need to be aware of with keto, notes Rittman, is that its very nature tends to restrict many important nutrients from the diet.
“The keto guidelines come at the expense of healthy complex carbs such as quinoa and sweet potatoes that provide fiber, and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables that are full of important vitamins and minerals,” she says. “Due to this, the ketogenic diet tends to be very restricted and lacking in some needed nutrients. More studies need to be completed before we can determine if the keto diet has advantages over a balanced, healthy diet.”
This doesn’t necessarily have to be a keto deal-breaker, but it is something to be aware of. Rittman says you can counteract some of this impact by choosing your carbs wisely, and also balancing out your diet with a daily multivitamin.
Another factor with keto that many people aren’t aware of is that, for the first few days, it can actually make you feel sick. This is known as the “keto flu,” and it can cause headaches, fatigue, irritability and other symptoms as you go through carbohydrate withdrawal in the early days on the diet. However, this usually passes with time, and you begin to go back to feeling normal.
Find the right balance
There’s no question that many people are successful, lose several pounds and even enjoy being on the keto diet for the long term. The key, as with any diet, is to find a sustainable approach for you. If you’re miserable on the diet, it’s okay to scrap it for a different approach.
“Could you see yourself following this diet for one year? How about five? I think the downfall sometimes to diets is that they are not maintainable in the long term,” says Rittman. “If the diet is too restrictive, too time-consuming or overall too stressful, it’s likely not right for you. And that’s okay. People can always take general principles of a diet, such as the reduced intake of processed and refined carbohydrates, and apply that to their current lifestyle.”
Wyatt Myers is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News.