As many of you know, my husband and I experimented with the keto diet last month. Low carb, high fat. No fruit (other than berries and avocados), no whole-grains. Lots of eggs, cheese and other whole-fat dairy products, butter, oils, meat of all kinds, bacon.
Bottom line: I lost 4 pounds in a month, my husband dropped 10. But I would expect similar results from any “diet” we tried.
I disliked the diet; my husband loved it. And I’ve met people who extol the virtues of keto, have lost tons of weight, and claim keto “saved” their lives.
But for my clients (Baby Boomers and older adults), I would not recommend keto unless they are followed closely by a physician.
Here’s what I liked and disliked about the keto diet, and why I came to the above conclusion.
- It was simple! When I got up every day, I knew exactly what to do.
1) Keep my net carbs low, around 20 grams per day. Finding carb counts is easy—any packaged food has this information on the Nutrition Label. Simply take the number of grams carbohydrate per serving and subtract dietary fiber, and you have net carbs. For foods without a label (vegetables, for example), a quick Google search provided the needed information.
2) Keep the relative amount of fats high. So we’d add lots of mayonnaise to a burger patty, butter to vegetables, olive oil to salad, avocado to a smoothie.
- It was a great conversation starter.
I’d go into a Starbucks and announce, “I’m following the keto diet, what do you have for me?” Invariably somebody in the room had a story about keto: the barista was following the program, the customer behind me gave up after a month and was now doing intermittent fasting. The waitress at a restaurant was now a nutrition expert, extolling the virtues of the program. Keto is extremely popular and you can always find somebody to share experiences.
- It produced rapid weight loss.
I dropped 4 lb in the first week. Again, this isn’t a huge surprise. Even though we weren’t counting calories, I tracked my food intake the first week and found I was eating between 1300 – 1600 calories/day. I believe that’s because keeping carbs so low limited food choices (no ice cream or sweets of any kind, no sandwiches or starches at dinner) and kept food intake down. Plus with the high fat intake, I didn’t get uncontrollably hungry in between meals.
- As I’ve said before, I can’t get behind a program that cuts out all grains/starches, and almost all fruits. These foods provide important sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, not to mention phytochemicals rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Keto followers runs the risk of several nutrient deficiencies (including potassium, magnesium, and folic acid).
- I also can’t support a food plan that doesn’t promote healthy selections. By “healthy” that I mean good fats (minimizing saturated fats found in most animal products) and healthy protein sources (lean meats, beans and legumes, and low-fat dairy products).
- And I question the sustainability of the keto program. In my opinion, it doesn’t teach longterm healthy eating habits and there are no longterm (10+ years) studies showing its positive or negative effects. On the contrary, two healthy plant-based diets often recommended for body and mind health, the Mediterranean and DASH diets, have been studied for decades.
And the Ugly…
And finally, a study published last month in The Lancet Public Health helped me reach my opinion. A 25-year observational study of 15,400 U.S. adults concluded that those who got less than 40% of their calories from carbohydrates could expect to live four fewer years than those whose diet included a “moderate” amount of carbohydrates (50 to 55 per cent of total calories).
So there you have it!
For help in making food program decisions for your specific health needs, give me a call!
We can discuss some practical tips and discover if any of my programs or classes are a good fit for you.
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Lisa Teresi Harris is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer and author of the book Building Your Enduring Fitness. A certified Geri-Fit Instructor, she helps Boomers and seniors to regain and keep muscle strength, mobility, and energy.
Contact Lisa to inquire about a customized, in-home fitness program for you or a loved one.