What Is the Keto Diet, and Should You Try It?

Short for “ketogenic,” the keto diet has become one of the most popular weight loss methods among many Americans who are looking to turn a new leaf and make healthy lifestyle changes. However, as with most fad diets, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of the keto diet before deciding if it could be right for you.

While you should always check with your doctor before starting a new diet, especially if you’re struggling with a specific health concern, this overview can give you a better idea of what the keto diet is and if you might want to give it a try.

What Is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic diet is essentially a low-carb, high-fat diet that aims to put your body into a metabolic state called “ketosis.” During ketosis, your liver produces ketones, which create energy by breaking down fat instead of blood sugar from carbohydrates. The idea is that if you are eating very few carbs and a higher fat content, you can trigger your body to enter into ketosis and therefore burn fat cells to create energy.

Thus, while on the keto diet, the goal is to eliminate or restrict sugar and carbohydrate intake, while eating more protein and fats. Some of the foods that are okay to eat while following the keto diet include:

  • Seafood
  • Low-carb vegetables
  • Cheese
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Oils
  • Butter

Is the Keto Diet Safe?

One criticism of the keto diet is that, on average, Americans already consume about twice as much protein as they need, which can lead to a variety of health concerns such as kidney damage. For this reason, if you struggle with kidney problems, the keto diet might not be right for you and you should absolutely check in with your doctor before giving it a try.

Another common with the keto diet is that many people end up eating lots of processed meats and cheese, as well as oils and butter, rather than low-carb vegetables. Some side effects of the keto diet that may subside as you get used to your new menu are:

  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep problems
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps

If you notice adverse side effects while on the keto diet, contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms and possible alternative weight loss options.

What Are the Benefits of the Keto Diet?

Weight loss is the biggest benefit of the keto diet, and many people who try it do find that they quickly lose weight. However, given the restrictive nature of this diet, it’s often very difficult to stay on for long periods of time, so it can be hard to keep the weight off if you return to your normal diet.

There is also some evidence to suggest that the keto diet may be beneficial for children who have seizures, adults with dementia, and people struggling to control type 2 diabetes. However, more research is needed to more accurately assess potential long-term benefits in these areas.

Bottom Line

As with most things in life, eating foods in moderation is key to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. If you’re someone who tends to eat primarily carbohydrates and sugar, trying the keto diet or a modified keto diet might be worth your while. If you think this diet might be too restrictive to stick to long-term, simply reducing the amount of carbs and refined sugar in your diet could help you lose weight, feel healthier, and reap long-term benefits.

If you have additional questions about nutrition or weight loss or would like to learn more about resources that are available right here in our community, please contact the Allegheny-Kiski Health Foundation’s community nurses, free of charge!