Keto Diets Explained: Healthy or Unhealthy Recipe for Disease?
The keto diet has become all the internet rage. Keto is the ultimate low carb diet that gets everyone excited for its speedy weight loss promises. The truth is, it does cause weight to drop off quickly - mostly water weight, not fat. Eventually some people do lose fat because they stopped eating processed junk or the diet makes them feel nauseated from the circulating ketones and thus they consume fewer calories. But this lifestyle is difficult to sustain in the long run because our bodies crave carbohydrates and our bodies are meant to run primarily on carbohydrates. If done incorrectly, the ketogenic diet can be one of the most dangerous diets for our health, and lead to long-term weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.*
What is keto? A Beginner’s Overview: Basically you cut out all carbs and sugars, and instead your intake of protein and fat go up. This means that eating a meal like chicken with low-carb vegetables like celery or green beans would be appropriate. These can be fried in butter or oil, often drenching them in fat to replace the carbohydrate calories. That’s why it’s unhealthy. You can eat all the fat and cholesterol you want and still be compliant with the “keto” diet. Proponents will explain that by reducing the carbs/sugars, you decrease your insulin release (the fat storing hormone) and thus decrease fat storage. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. When we eat high fat diets, research shows that our bodies actually have higher levels of insulin because we become insulin resistant. In fact, higher meat consumption is correlated with higher risk of diabetes - a disease of insulin resistance.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Keto Diets: the healthiest diet in the world is a whole food plant based diet. This is evident from the Blue Zones of the world, all of whom eat high unprocessed carbohydrates. But, if you must do keto, there is a healthIER way to do it. Aim for a whole food plant based ketogenic diet. Avoiding processed foods, especially processed meats, are key to long term health and weight loss. Eating red meat with butter and cheese is an example of unhealthy keto. Healthier sources of fat are from nuts and olives or avocados, while proteins from beans, nuts and seeds are best.
HERE’S THE PROBLEM: Keto says “no” to carbs, and allows the diet to be taken over by meats and high fat foods. While it’s true that PROCESSED carbohydrates cause weight gain and are bad for you, unprocessed whole food sources of carbohydrates (whole grains, beans, fruits) are some of the healthiest foods on the planet and it causes you to miss out on these protective foods. Furthermore, they actually cause weight LOSS, in addition to protecting from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more. Meanwhile, processed meat which preferentially stores fat in your belly, causes inflammation and is labeled a class 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO)... That means we know it causes cancer, for sure. Just like smoking!
IT'S THE FAT in animal products that makes us chunky and diabetic. It gunks up your insulin receptors causing insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. Many people overlook how much fat is in meat. An 8 oz filet mignon has 34g of fat!! That stuff goes straight to your arteries, coating them in plaques that worsen circulation and cause erectile dysfunction and heart attacks.
What About Plant-Based Keto? Better, but it’s still fattening. Not as fattening as meat, dairy and eggs, which have the worst type of fat - animal saturated fat. But like the brilliant Dr. John McDougall says, “The fat you eat is the fat you wear”. It’s easier for our bodies to take the fat we eat and store it as fat. Whereas our bodies love to spend carbs, it is our default energy source. Our brains run almost exclusively off of carbs.
THE GOOD NEWS is that in most cases, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and clogged arteries can be reversed by removing fats from the diet, especially animal fats. Dr. Esselstyn, a world renowned cardiologist became known for reversing heart disease as shown in the angiograms of his patients after putting them on a low fat whole food plant based diet.
Elixir Shots is committed to being completely plant-based for the health of our customers, as well as our planet. The one good thing that can come about from going on a keto diet is a focus on more whole, unprocessed foods. Swapping in a salad instead of chips is always going to be helpful regardless what diet you’re on. So is saying “no” to doughnuts. Carbohydrates have been demonized by the keto diet, but in reality the focus should be more on unprocessed foods that we as humans are evolved to eat! There’s a reason why monkeys aren’t obese. They don't eat processed foods! They eat lots of carbohydrates, unrestricted, yet I have never seen a fat monkey. Yet if you give them processed foods like hamburgers, I guarantee we would see some obese monkeys.
*The one caveat for people who benefit from the ketogenic diet are those with epilepsy who get fewer recurrent seizures on extremely low carbohydrate diets.