Try the Keto Diet

The keto diet is high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates. It’s been shown to help people with certain types of epilepsy and may aid weight loss. But it’s not right for everyone. Normally, your body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel. But when you eat fewer carbs, your body starts using fat for energy, converting it to ketones, or fatty acids that become a source of fuel for your brain and other tissues. This process is called ketogenesis.

It’s possible to get all the nutrients you need on a keto diet, as long as you choose foods wisely. Avoid processed snack foods, such as chips and crackers, which are often high in carbs and low in fiber. Choose high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. And be sure to include dairy (go for ricotta, mozzarella or feta), which provides calcium and vitamin D. But skip high-carb, sweetened drinks like sodas and fruit juices. And if you must have alcohol, choose dry wine or spirits over beer, which is higher in carbs and calories.

You can also add seafood to your diet, as long as it’s carb-free. Salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel are healthy choices that provide protein, B vitamins and selenium. Shrimp and crabs are also good options. Just be sure to check labels, as some shellfish are not completely carb-free. For instance, prawns contain carbs but lobster, oysters and mussels don’t.

Should You Try the Keto Diet?

If you want to try a keto diet, talk with your doctor or registered dietitian first. The Cleveland Clinic warns that the diet isn’t appropriate for anyone at risk for heart disease, pregnant women or those with kidney disease. It’s also not recommended for people taking sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors for type-2 diabetes because it can raise your risk for diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that causes acidosis in the blood.

The low-carb diet can also be difficult for older adults to follow. It can cause the loss of muscle mass, which may lead to functional weakness and increased falls—the number one reason for injury and death among older adults. Plus, eating a ketogenic diet can be dehydrating.

Furthermore, keto diets have been linked to improvements in cardiovascular health markers. Despite the initial concern regarding the high intake of dietary fats in keto diets, studies have shown that healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, can actually improve cholesterol levels by increasing levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol, while reducing levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol. These favorable changes in lipid profiles may lower the risk of heart disease and stroke in individuals following a keto diet.

Studies on the long-term safety of the keto diet are limited and inconsistent. But for now, a well-formulated ketogenic diet in conjunction with the guidance of a registered dietitian is safe. Just be sure to take into account the need for a balance of macronutrients, including fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamin D and folic acid, as well as phytochemicals and antioxidants. You should also monitor your blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol levels. And don’t forget to include physical activity and stress management in your daily routine. For some, the benefits of a keto diet outweigh the risks.

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