According to the NHS the average, baseline adult needs around 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day. That is made up by less than 70g of fat, less than 20g of saturated fat, at least 260g of carbs, 90g of which sugars, 50g of protein and less than 6g of salt. This is what we need as humans to survive and live healthily.
So why are people so obsessed with the keto diet? If you are unaware of what the keto diet is, it’s a diet which restricts your carb intake and replaces it with fat. Now before I get into the details of the keto diet, I am going to put a disclaimer out there that I have strong negative feelings towards the keto diet.
I hate diets
Okay, let’s go into why we need carbs and why we need fats. Let’s start with carbs. Carbs are our main sources of energy and when broken down by the body they turn into glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. We use glucose for everything, from fuelling our body during physical activities to absorbing nutrients and brain functions, our bodies rely heavily on glucose as a source of energy. Next, let’s look at fat and why it’s important. Similar to carbs fats help provide the body with energy, they also aid with cell growth and the production of hormones. We need both fats and carbs to keep our bodies healthy and working at full capacity.
Now let’s move onto diets and that whole-pain-in-the-butt. Firstly, I hate the word diet, partly because it’s usually because it’s followed by some form of deficiency. You might have heard about the cabbage soup diet or the apple cider vinegar diet, where you are only allowed to intake one type of food/drink. But the main reason why I hate the word diet so much, is because they aren’t sustainable. The people who worked so hard to lose weight while on these diets then experienced weight gain as there body goes back to a normal eating routine. It’s wasting that persons time and hurting the body during the process. Extreme weight loss or weight gain are equally just as bad as each other.
The diet from Hell
The Keto diet is no exception. During this diet you aren’t allowed to intake any carbs so that your body only uses fat to fuel the body. I understand the theory behind this diet, as most people want to get rid of fat. But for the love of God, I cannot understand why people believe it’s a healthy weight loss mechanism.
Okay, let’s break this down into 3 parts:
1) We already discussed what carbs and fats do. So, what happens when the body doesn’t have the carbs it needs? It goes into ketosis. Ketosis is just the word for when the body is low on carbs and uses the energy from fats instead. It’s quite likely that you have experienced ketosis before when you were ill and starved the body, as eating made you nauseous. At the first stages of ketosis the body will begin to feel dizzy and overall quite weak. This is mainly due to the carb starvation effect. This can take around 3–5 days to kick in depending on your previous eating habits.
The next stage gets a bit more serious. But as I am not a dietitian, I decided to ask a friend who’s life depends on getting the right amount of carbs (type 1 diabetic).
I asked: Is ketosis bad for the average human?
“It burns fat really quickly but uses it as fuel instead of glucose so your blood slowly turns acidic. Over an extended period of time, this will rot your organs and can lead to keto acidosis which can disable you. If you do any form of activity, this will then become almost impossible because you won’t be consuming glucose and muscle function needs water, oxygen and glucose”.
Now, I often hear people respond to this with “well, i’ll just do it for 2 weeks”. But then we all know once you start eating properly again you will most likely put on the weight you lost. Also, as this person is a type 1 diabetic the effects of ketosis are higher but even people without type 1 diabetes are not immune to the harmful effects of ketosis.
2) We get carbs from more than just bread and chips. We get the essential carbs from fruits and vegetables. You know, the super healthy things. But for those who are on the keto diet, fruits are a big no no as they contain large amounts of carbs. Fruits are an essential part of our diet as they are full of nutrients and vitamins which we all need to be healthy. One of these is fibre.
Knowledge time: There are two types of fibre. Soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre is found inside plant cells and dissolves in water. This type of fibre is most commonly well-known for softening stool. But, a more important function of soluble fibre is it slows down digestive movement increasing nutrient absorption and making you feel fuller for longer. The other type of fibre is insoluble and it prevents constipation.
3) Okay, so if you do not care about ketosis or nutrient absorption then maybe this last point will change your mind. Now this one might be due to a lack of understanding about the keto diet or just a miss-translation as there’s hundreds of articles all suggesting keto food plans. But eating large amounts of red meat such as steak, bacon and sausages is bad for you. Now you might be saying “but they are high in fat” and yes that is true when compared to turkey or chicken. But they are also high in saturated fats, meaning excessive consumption of these types of foods will result in higher risk of heart disease due to cholesterol. Symptoms include angina, heart attack, heart failure and even death.
The final act
I understand why people are so drawn to the keto diet. It boasts sudden weight loss and you still get to eat things like bacon and cheese. But with so much information going around and a general lack of understanding about what the body needs, the keto diet is doing more harm then good. At the end of the day it is still a starvation diet, even though its carb starvation, and negatively effects your body through nutrient deficiency, increase risk of heart disease and ketosis. A short terms reward is not worth the harm it puts on your body and a long-term lifestyle change is not only healthier but also more sustainable.