If you’re a regular user of social media, chances are you’ve seen LOTS of #ketodiet posts or perhaps you’ve heard talk about the keto diet, both positive and negative. With all the information and misinformation out there, it can be difficult to know what the facts really are. Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest keto misconceptions and clarify what is true based on the evidence to date.
What is the ketogenic diet?
While originally developed to help prevent seizures, the keto diet has many other suggested health benefits as well. The goal of the keto diet is to include nutritious foods high in fat and low in carbohydrates to shift the body into a state of ketosis, where fat is burned as fuel instead of carbohydrates. 1 This state of ketosis is responsible for the benefits associated with keto: weight loss, control of blood sugar and blood pressure, mental clarity and perhaps even increased longevity.
Now that we’ve covered the basics about the keto diet, let’s look at some of the most commons myths surrounding keto.
Myth #1: There is no scientific evidence supporting the keto diet
The facts: There is a pretty substantial body of evidence supporting use of the ketogenic diet for a variety of health outcomes, including:
- Weight loss- Studies have consistently shown that low carbohydrate diets lead to significant weight loss, especially in the first few months of following a low carb diet. 2 In addition, diets higher in protein and fat (like keto) lead to a reduction in hunger, which can have a big impact on how long individuals stick with a diet. 3
- Brain Health- While the ketogenic diet was originally designed to help manage seizures for those with epilepsy, the keto diet is now also being studied for its potential to improve other neurological conditions, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Although further research is needed, there’s a significant amount of evidence suggesting a keto diet could be promising for many struggling with those conditions. 5
- Diabetes- For those with diabetes, a keto diet has been studied for role in helping those with type 2 diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels. 6
Myth # 2: Ketosis is dangerous
The facts: Ketosis is often confused with ketoacidosis, which is a dangerous condition (often a complication of diabetes) where the body produces extremely high levels of ketones. Ketosis, on the other hand, is considered a safe increase in ketones that occurs when the body shifts from using carbs for fuel to burning fat for fuel. While ketoacidosis potentially life threatening, ketosis induced by a keto diet is generally considered safe.
Myth #3: Keto is bad for the heart
The facts: While some people think keto means eating bacon and butter all day long, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s certainly nothing wrong with including bacon and butter in a ketogenic diet, but there are so many other wonderful sources of fat that are staples of keto. Foods like avocados, olive oil, flaxseed, and MCT oil are all examples of heart healthy fats that are part of a keto diet. In addition, keto has actually been suggested to benefit heart health by reducing triglycerides, which are fat particles that float through the bloodstream. 4
Myth #4: You can’t eat fruits and vegetables on a keto diet
The facts: It is true that fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates, but they CAN still fit in a ketogenic diet. In fact, fruits and veggies are important to provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and there are quite a few options that work well with keto. Focusing on lower-carbohydrate vegetables like cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, peppers, and broccoli, and utilizing lower-carb fruits, like berries, can help ensure your body is getting the fiber and nutrients that it needs, while still maintaining ketosis.
Myth #5: Keto is a high protein diet
The facts: There are some low-carb diets (like Atkins) that can be higher in protein, but the keto diet was designed to be a moderate protein diet. This is because too much protein will actually lead to some of the protein being converted to sugar, which works against ketosis. In order to maintain a state of ketosis while on keto, protein levels need to be kept around 20%. A high protein diet is typically closer to 30-35% protein, so keto doesn’t fall into that category.
The Bottom Line
While there will always be myths surrounding the keto diet by those who don’t understand it well, the body of scientific evidence supporting the ketogenic diet for various uses is growing. The keto diet has a good track record for those looking to lose weight and enhance mental clarity making it a wonderful lifestyle choice for those looking to improve overall health.