The pros and cons of the keto diet can help you decide if going keto is the right diet for you. You might think keto is just another passing fad, but it’s worth noting that many people swear by it and have seen significant effects on their bodies. Before you commit to keto though, educate yourself first on what a ketogenic diet entails to know if it’s suitable for you.
What Is The Keto Diet?
In a nutshell, the keto diet is high in fat, low in carbs, and moderate in protein. It involves significantly cutting down your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with more fats. In doing so, your body enters a state of ketosis, which is when your body burns stored fat for energy. As a by-product of ketosis, chemicals known as ketones are released from the liver, which your body can then use for fuel.
Pros and Cons of Keto Diet
As with any other diet, as much as some people can benefit from it, following the keto diet also has some risk to it. That is why it’s best to do a bit of research on keto and learn the pros and cons of the keto diet. Just because it works for a lot of people doesn’t mean it’s automatically the right diet for you.
1. Promotes weight loss
Many people see fast weight loss results when they follow a keto diet. Though the initial weight loss may be water weight at first, your body will eventually adjust and use stored fat as an energy source due to the carbohydrate restrictions. Additionally, you’ll see a reduction in your calorie intake due to the elimination of certain food groups on a keto diet plan. Some people have even reported feeling more satiated when following a keto diet.
2. More freedom to indulge
Seeing as fats are your primary source of energy on a keto diet, sticking to more high-fat foods will actually benefit you this time around. That means you can enjoy foods like bacon and even chicken skin without feeling too guilty about it. Of course, in order to maintain a healthy diet, it’s best to consume more healthy fats like monounsaturated fats (found in avocados and nuts) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish like salmon and cod).
3. Can reduce seizures in patients with epilepsy
Did you know that the keto diet was initially used to clinically treat seizures? It helps control seizures by reducing an excitatory neurotransmitter known as glutamate in the brain. Keto also enhances the synthesis of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which counterbalances neuronal excitation.
4. Can help lower high glucose levels
By reducing your carbohydrate intake, keto can help eliminate spikes in blood sugar, consequently reducing insulin fluctuations and a need for insulin overall. With fewer carbs, a keto diet can help maintain your blood sugar level at a low but healthy level. This makes it a popular diet for type 2 diabetics to control their blood glucose levels.
5. Can help reduce acne
As keto can help decrease insulin levels, your body may produce less sebum and androgens in the skin. Furthermore, many people claim that carb restriction in their diets has helped control their breakouts. At the same time, make sure that your high-fat intake does not consist of a lot of oily or fried foods, if not that can lead to inflammation. If acne is an issue you’re dealing with, keto might be a good option to help control those pesky flare-ups.
6. Helps regulate hormones
Studies show that compared to other diets, keto can help improve testosterone levels and increase libido after an initial decline. This makes it a good diet for men’s health. Moreover, keto can improve thyroid health, as a low-carb diet can help lower thyroid hormone levels.
7. You might see a boost in energy levels
Once your body fully adjusts to being in ketosis, the keto diet can be a total lifechanger for you. As ketones become your brain’s main source of energy, staying on a keto diet can make you more alert and feel mentally energized. Plus, fewer carbs in your diet means fewer insulin spikes, which will equate to feeling less lethargic and steadier energy levels.
8. Keto may help treat cancer
Research shows that a keto diet can help improve the efficiency of regular chemotherapy by making the cancer cells more sensitive to chemo. That said, it should be noted that keto shouldn’t be used as a replacement for standard cancer treatment; it’s more of a complementary diet to chemo.
9. Can improve “good” cholesterol and lower “bad” cholesterol
By eating fat, you can raise your blood levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), otherwise known as the good cholesterol. Higher blood levels of HDL lower your risk of heart diseases. Similarly, maintaining a low-carb diet like keto can help lower blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is referred to as the bad cholesterol.
Higher levels of LDL can lead to a build-up of cholesterol in your arteries, which can block blood flow from your heart to other organs. Thus, it’s crucial to lower your LDL levels if heart and cholesterol problems might be a health issue for you.
10. Can help naturally lower blood pressure
Being overweight or obese is one of the top contributors to developing high blood pressure. Since keto promotes weight loss, shedding some weight can help lower your risk of high blood pressure. Additionally, some studies show that blood pressure may see a decline in people who follow diets that are low in or restrict carbohydrates.
1. You might lose out on nutrients
The restrictions of a ketogenic diet mean you are cutting out particular food groups from your diet, which ultimately limits your intake of nutrients from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Sticking to a high-fat, low-carb diet doesn’t mean you have to compromise on other nutrients. You should still be eating a balanced diet and eat a variety of foods as much as possible.
2. The keto flu
Transitioning into a keto lifestyle might cause some side effects as your body adapts to a new diet. Symptoms of the keto flu may include fogginess, headaches, fatigue, nausea, and hunger. You can start feeling the keto flu within a day or two of beginning your keto diet and may last for up to a week or longer. If you’re lucky, you might not even experience the dreaded keto flu, as it will all depend on how your body adjusts to keto.
3. Digestion problems
Some people might experience constipation or diarrhea when they first start their keto diet. This is normal, as making changes to your regular diet will have some effects on your gastrointestinal health. Constipation, in particular, might be more likely, as removing whole grain and fruit from your diet lowers your day-to-day fiber intake.
4. Could put some stress on your kidneys
Consuming too much meat — especially processed meat — could increase your likelihood of developing kidney stones and even gout. A high intake of animal proteins makes your urine more acidic, which can lead to increased levels of calcium and uric acid. It’s worth mentioning that an increase in calcium makes you more susceptible to kidney stones, while high uric acid levels increase your risk of gout.
5. Could lead to yo-yo dieting
Not everyone can adhere to a ketogenic diet. Although you have a better chance of keeping all that weight off if you maintain a keto lifestyle long-term, doing so is easier said than done. The restrictive nature of this diet makes it difficult to adhere to in the long run. As an effect, you might catch yourself cheating on keto every now and then.
Be wary about cheating on keto though, as this could ultimately lead to yo-yo dieting. Once you fall into yo-yo dieting, you could gain back weight in fat. This could increase your abdominal fat accumulation, which can consequently increase your risk of diabetes. If you’re not careful, cheating on keto (or any diet, for that matter) for too long can set you back by leaps and bounds.
6. Bad breath
Another symptom of the keto flu is the development of bad breath. Elevated levels of ketone can affect your breath; this is due to chemicals such as acetone being released in your breath as your body burns fat through ketosis. Keto breath is only temporary though and will subside once your body adjusts to the new diet. However, you might have to endure some weird stares from others around you in the meantime.
7. Electrolyte imbalance and dehydration
Everyone knows the importance of staying hydrated, but it’s especially imperative when you go on a diet. With the initial weight loss coming from water weight, your body depletes more water and with it, the electrolytes your body needs. Inadequate hydration can also lead to kidney stones, so remember to keep hydrated regardless of what diet you’re on.
8. Lower blood sugar levels can be harmful to people with diabetes
There are pros and cons to how keto affects diabetes. It can lower your blood sugar levels, but on the other hand, glucose levels that are too low can heighten your risk of hypoglycemia. This is especially if you follow an insulin regimen for your diabetes. If you are diabetic or have a higher risk of being diabetic, please check with a dietician or your doctor if the keto diet will be good for you.
9. Too much fat could lead to high cholesterol
Just as there are pros and cons to how keto can affect your glucose levels, there are also pros and cons to how it can affect your cholesterol as well. As mentioned earlier, keto can help raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol, but that might not be the case for everyone. In some cases, studies show that keto may raise LDL levels in some people, so it’s best to do your research and check with a health professional beforehand.
The quality of fat you consume is important for your overall health and in achieving ketosis. When you’re on keto, it’s best to avoid artery-clogging trans fats and stick to “keto fats” instead, like unsaturated and plant-based fats. This allows you to still get the fats you need in your diet without the disadvantages of raising your cholesterol levels.
10. Diabetic ketoacidosis
Diabetic ketoacidosis takes place when your body breaks down fat too fast. When this happens, your body produces high levels of ketones that can build up in your blood and urine. This can be dangerous and can make your blood acidic. Though the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis is more common in people with type 1 diabetes, it has also been known to occur in people with type 2 diabetes as well.
Pros and Cons of Keto Diet: Is It For You?
Ultimately, deciding on whether or not keto is for you will depend on your overall health and how your body will adjust to this new diet. The pros and cons of the keto diet might vary across individuals, so take all these pros and cons with a pinch of salt.
While someone might benefit from keto in one way, it might negatively impact another person in some other way as well. With these pros and cons of keto diet in mind, it’s recommended to first seek advice from a medical or dietary professional before you decide to try the keto diet.
If it turns out keto is not for you but you still want to try a new diet to get healthy, there are other diets out there that might be better for you. The Paleo diet is a great alternative, so if you want to learn how it fares against keto, check out the similarities and differences between the two in our Paleo vs Keto guide.