The pros and cons of a keto diet are evenly balanced in the minds of many. The pros include benefits around weight loss, better cognitive functioning, improved quality of sleep, elevated energy levels, and reduced risk of heart disease.
The cons on the other hand include a keto diet being a challenge to adapt and stick to, particularly at social functions, irregular bowel movements (initially), and withdrawal symptoms from things like sugar and carbs.
The ketogenic (or keto diet) has become a talking point recently in regards to its health and lifestyle benefits. While there are certainly many benefits, there are also some downsides to the diet. In this article, we will cover both the pros & cons of the keto diet to help you learn more about how the diet may affect you.
The Pros & Cons of The Keto Diet
- Helps support weight loss
When your body enters ketosis, it goes into fat-burning mode. This helps enhance weight loss due to the body using excess fat on the body as a fuel source.
- Ketosis suppresses appetite
One of the pros of being in ketosis is that you won’t feel hungry. The high amount of fats in the keto diet helps to minimize carbohydrate cravings. It provides steady energy for hours (unlike the peaks and troughs of energy from carbohydrates) and suppresses appetite.
- It improves cognitive function
The keto diet has been used for decades as a treatment to help reduce epilepsy in children. It is also currently being studied for its potential beneficial impacts for other neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s
- Enhances mood, mental focus, and sleep
After a few days of low carbohydrate intake, many report a higher sense of alertness, feeling in a better mood, and requiring less sleep.
- Boosts energy levels
Eating large carbohydrate meals can lead to a feeling of lethargy and sluggishness due to the resulting insulin spike and rapid drop in blood sugars. By changing to a high-fat diet you will receive steady energy rather than spurts, leading to less “crashes”. As mentioned earlier, using the keto diet your body will produce ketones and these are the brains preferred fuel source. This can lead to a feeling of higher mental alertness.
It may seem strange to some that a diet or a specific form of fasting can actually improve you energy levels.
- Lowers cholesterol
Studies have shown that the keto diet can greatly improve your level of good cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins) and lower bad cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins). On top of this, eating a low carbohydrate diet can also assist in changing your low-density lipoproteins, altering it from bad cholesterol to less harmful cholesterol.
- Reduces your risk for heart disease
Reducing your carbohydrate intake can lower blood triglycerides, which is a complex word for fat molecules in the blood. High levels of blood triglycerides can lead to a higher risk of heart disease.
- Can regulate hormonal balance
Women who suffer from hormone imbalance may find relief by following the keto diet.
- It will require an adaptation process
Becoming adapted to keto can take anywhere from one to two weeks. The transition is not always the smoothest. While I never experienced it personally, the “Keto Flu” is a common symptom. In the changeover to ketosis. Some people experience issues such as headaches, nausea or even fatigue. These feelings will pass, and similar feelings are likely to be encountered in other forms of fasting too. Just be patient with yourself, it will pass.
- May cause irregularity
Changing to the keto diet will be increasing your fat intake while at the same time cutting your carbohydrate intake and as a result, may cause gastrointestinal issues. This could result in either constipation or diarrhea. This will resolve itself when your body becomes adapted to the high fat, low carbohydrate diet.
- The diet bans and or puts restrictions on certain foods
The keto diet requires you to give up all forms of sugar such as honey or ice cream. It also requires you to give up popular carbohydrates such as bread, rice, and pasta. To add to this, the keto diet also limits a majority of fruits due to the fructose content, as well as vegetables high in starch such as potatoes and corn.
The good news is that as your body becomes adapted to the keto diet, your sugar cravings will dramatically fall or disappear altogether. I found this to be true about a week into the diet, regardless if I was eating keto friendly sweets or not!
- Makes social gatherings harder
Dining out with friends and family can quickly become very difficult as while most places can cater to vegetarians or vegans, there is almost no-one catering for the individual on the keto diet at this stage. Attending social events such as birthday parties, family gatherings or weddings will all require high self-discipline to not break the diet. As a result, a trip out and about will require more planning and research to avoid some of the hidden carbohydrates.
As for desserts, dark chocolate at a minimum 70% cocoa is okay in reasonable amounts. Do your best to stick to keto-friendly chocolates that are naturally sweetened with substances such as stevia or erythritol. Even having a drink can be difficult. Ideally, you will want to limit yourself to one or two low carbohydrate drinks.
For ideas on how to stop your sugar cravings check out our Healthier Gut series where we explore how to cut certain things out of your diet.
For our readers who enjoy a drink, this can range from dry wines (the dryer the better), low carbohydrate beers all the way to clear hard liquors, such as tequila, vodka or gin.
Looking at the range of benefits of a keto diet, and the drawbacks, there are many positives and negatives you will need to weigh up. However, overall, it is a great way to reset your diet by restricting the foods you eat and still feeling full from all the fats!