Chances are you’ve heard of the latest diet and weight-loss fad sweeping the nation: the ketogenic diet (keto for short). It’s a low-carb, high-fat plan that’s become so popular, it was credited for making a dent in Weight Watchers’ numbers.
By drastically cutting back on carbs, keto followers reduce the amount of blood sugar available to be used as energy, which, in turn, causes their livers to produce more ketones for fuel. Since ketones are produced from fat and the body is relying on them for energy, fat burn increases dramatically.
As effective as keto may be, is it really healthy to manipulate the body in such a way? Dr. Joshua Latzman, cardiologist at Maple Medical, believes it can be. “A well-formulated keto diet full of non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats and high-quality protein can be healthy,” he says.
The keto diet isn’t just an effective way to lose weight—it may help improve your health in other aspects too. “From a cardiac standpoint, reducing the amount of carbs in the diet generally improves triglyceride levels,” Dr. Latzman says.
Keto may also help manage diabetes. “The diet prevents swings in blood sugar that can result from ingesting large amounts of carbohydrates, especially in people whose bodies have difficulty regulating blood sugar,” Dr. Latzman says. The keto diet is even suspected to be good for conditions such as epilepsy, dementia, and certain cancers, though much more research needs to be done.
But before you dive right in, consult with your doctor. “People with elevated LDL should be careful about significantly increasing their intake of saturated fat when undertaking the keto diet, as this may further increase their LDL levels,” Dr. Latzman warns. He recommends having bloodwork done prior to starting the keto diet and then being monitored on a regular basis to ensure that issues do not develop.
Additionally, “people taking exogenous insulin must work closely with their endocrinologists when drastically lowering their carbohydrate intake,” Dr. Latzman says. In fact, if you’re on any medications, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor just to make sure keto is the best plan for you. Taking the proper precautions is important whenever implementing a new diet or weight-loss plan, but generally, it is safe to give keto a go.
Here’s what to eat:
Structure your diet to be low carb, moderate protein and high fat
Choose minimally processed, whole foods and avoid anything highly processed
Low-carb veggies such as arugula, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bell pepper, kale and zucchini
Low-sugar fruits such as tomatoes, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
Healthy fats such as avocado, almonds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, nut oils, walnuts, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts
Quality proteins such as wild or sustainably farmed salmon, tuna, codfish, shrimp, organic chicken, turkey, grass-fed organic beef and eggs
Snacks such as nut butters with no added sugars, sugar-free jerky, cheese, plain Greek yogurt, kale chips and dark chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cacao