The philosophy of the keto diet is simple: it says you should almost entirely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, maintaining a macronutrient ratio of roughly 70% fats, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates. Doing so forces the body into an alternate mode of processing energy called “ketosis,” in which the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for sustenance, resulting in weight loss. But while the keto diet is very effective for losing weight quickly while permitting people to enjoy foods like bacon and eggs, experts say that the diet is not healthy in the long term. In fact, for the third year in a row, the U.S. News and World Report ranked the keto diet as among the worst possible diets to follow, and experts warn that a prolonged state of ketosis may cause the development of health conditions like cardiovascular disease. As such, despite the widespread popularity of the keto diet and the fast results it can provide, this diet is not optimal for sustaining health.
The healthy way to think of dieting is not as a temporary solution for losing weight, but instead as a lifestyle change to maintain indefinitely. This is because weight that is lost quickly on a diet can be put back on just as quickly, if not faster, once the diet ends as the body returns to the status quo. One of the risks posed by the keto diet is that as it enables rapid weight loss, dieters are prone to reintroducing carbohydrates into their diet after reaching their target weight, undoing the beneficial effects of their weight loss by kicking the body out of ketosis. And beginning the keto diet sometimes leads to the development of what’s called the “keto flu,” a set of symptoms including headache, fatigue, irritability, and nausea. While the symptoms of keto flu are temporary and disappear as the body adjusts to the new diet, other diets are not associated with the risk of developing flu-like symptoms, and there’s no good medical reason to think that engaging in a diet that can make you feel sick benefits your health overall.
Instead of the keto diet, experts recommend an eating plan based on the mediterranean diet
Although the keto diet is certainly effective for rapid weight loss, and many practitioners of the keto diet report feeling more energized and focused, the long-term health effects of practicing the keto diet are as-of-yet unknown. Therefore, as with all medical programs with unknown long-term health effects, caution is advisable when deciding whether to force your body into ketosis in order to lose weight. Instead of following “fad diets,” which rise suddenly in popularity and prescribe unique solutions for quickly losing weight, experts say it’s better to take your own personal characteristics into account when designing your eating plan by understanding the fundamental principles of nutrition and how different foods impact the body. Consulting with a registered dietician can help with this process, but doing so is not necessary.
Instead of the keto diet, experts recommend an eating plan based on the mediterranean diet, which emphasizes healthy fats, fish, whole grains, and produce, and has been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off, though the weight-loss process on the mediterranean diet takes longer than on more popular fad diets. The mediterranean diet is based on the eating habits of people who live in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, where people tend to live longer and healthier lives than elsewhere in the world. As such, the long-term efficacy of the mediterranean diet is evidence-based, as it derives from the natural eating habits of some of the healthiest people in the world. While many factors besides diet strongly impact health, one of the best things you can do for your health is to not only adopt, but maintain a healthy eating plan for life.