Firstly, what exactly is a ketogenic diet?
In a nutshell, it’s a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet, for which you restrict your carb intake (usually to 50 grams or less—some people go as low as 20) so your body reaches a state of ketosis (hence, the name). At ketosis, you’ll start to burn through existing stores of fat for energy, which leads to faster weight loss.
What are some of the benefits of a ketogenic diet?
“A few studies have shown that the ketogenic diet may promote weight loss, lower blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity in diabetics. There is also evidence that it can reduce seizures in children with epilepsy. And some studies suggest that the keto diet may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but the research on this is far from definitive.”
And what about the downsides?
“A truly ketogenic diet is very hard to stick to, in my opinion. It’s a pretty extreme eating plan to follow all of the time, and while it may help with weight loss in a controlled study, it’s not so easy when you’re out in the real world trying to navigate office cupcakes, happy hours, dinner parties and more. A diet that makes you miserable just isn’t going to work for you. Also, it is very difficult to actually be in a state of ketosis (i.e., when your body burns through fat for energy instead of glucose). A few bites of bread here and sips of wine there, and boom—you are out and not reaping the benefits. Another major drawback? The dreaded keto flu—the initial period of the diet during which your body is adjusting to its new carb-free existence and symptoms like fatigue, brain fog and nausea are common.”
So, would you recommend the ketogenic diet?
“Because of how difficult the diet is to maintain, I wouldn’t recommend it for the majority of people. But there are some people who may be able to follow it and reap the benefits. You have to know your diet history and lifestyle and weigh the pros and cons for you.”
Although the keto diet may have some health-boosting benefits and can help with weight loss, it’s a difficult eating plan to sustain long-term. Instead, Glassman recommends eating whole, nutrient-dense foods and limiting your intake of sugar, processed foods and refined carbs. And hey, with chocolate (that’s a few squares of the dark, high-quality stuff) still on the menu, we can’t help but agree.