Keto: the good, the bad, and the low-carb conundrum

Emma White - Nutritionist | 08 Feb, 2024

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We understand that when it comes to weight loss, finding the right approach for your individual needs is key. Whether you're tracking calories, cutting back on carbs, trying intermittent fasting, or exploring other methods, Nutracheck is here to support you!

Our app caters to a variety of dietary strategies, offering the flexibility to choose the one that aligns best with your lifestyle. The Keto diet has gained popularity over time, though it's considered quite an intense approach by some. Let's delve into my review of this diet to give you the insight you need if you're considering it.

Keto and low carb diets

Keto diet

How Does It Work?

Keto – is an extremely low-carb regimen. What sets it apart as 'keto' rather than just 'low carb' is its emphasis on high fat and moderate protein. In contrast, traditional low carb diets lean more towards higher protein content. To truly be on a 'keto' diet, we must achieve a state called 'ketosis.'

Ketosis kicks in when the body shifts from using glucose as its primary fuel to relying on fat and protein. Ketone bodies (ketones) form from fatty acids in the liver when glucose levels are very low. These ketones are then harnessed for energy, becoming the primary source for the brain—given that fat and protein can't serve as brain fuel.

Low carb – on the other hand, involves cutting down on total carbohydrate intake, often offset by increasing protein consumption. While there aren't official benchmarks for a low carb diet, keeping carb intake at 30% or less of your daily calorie intake is generally considered low carb.

Confused woman

Is It a Fit for You?

Keto is a rather restrictive approach, which might not resonate with everyone. If you feel comfortable with it, you could experience initial weight loss during an adjustment phase. However, this diet's long-term effects tend to diminish after around a year. Thus, it might not be the optimal choice for sustainable, lasting results.

Low carb diets are typically more manageable than keto due to their less extreme nature. Some people find it beneficial to cut out carbs like sugary treats and white bread, while still incorporating healthier carb sources like whole grains, fruits, and legumes.

Tired people

Any Drawbacks?

Keto – eliminating an entire food group can be challenging and may seem somewhat unnecessary. Carbohydrate-rich foods offer valuable nutrients, including fiber, which is exclusively present in such foods. Hence, removing carbs also means reducing fiber intake.

When cutting carbs, many experience short-term side effects like dizziness and difficulty concentrating. Keto can also be socially demanding, as finding suitable restaurant meals might prove tricky. Furthermore, concerns about its long-term sustainability linger, as there's insufficient long-term data to confirm its safety.

Low carb – reducing carb intake can lead to initial irritability and fatigue. Carbohydrates are our body's primary energy source, impacting both muscles and brain function.

Nutracheck app

What Does Nutracheck Monitor?

The app provides a Lower Carb nutrition goal, where we preset your macronutrient allowances. The Lower Carb target sets your carb intake between 30-45% of total calories, depending on protein intake adhering to health guidelines. This allows a moderate carb reduction without going to extremes.

Alternatively, if you choose to go even lower in carbs based on personal preference, the Set My Own goal lets you set any target. While there are no restrictions, we do highlight our recommended ranges. This option requires accepting a disclaimer, acknowledging that the choice diverges from our recommended guidance.

To activate this via the app, navigate to your Diary page, tap the white chart icon in the top right, scroll down, and select 'Set My Own.'

Balanced diet

Nutritionist’s expert opinion

Keto – entails extreme restrictions, eliminating a substantial food group. Personally, this seems counterintuitive since carbs offer great nutritional value and serve as our primary energy source. Eliminating carbs alters our natural metabolic processes, which raises concerns. While Keto might offer swift initial results, this advantage doesn't persist long term. If your goal is lasting weight loss, taking on a more flexible approach might prove equally, if not more, effective. The lack of long-term evidence regarding Keto's safety is worth considering, and many adopt this diet temporarily, making its sustainability questionable. Additionally, the repeated cycle of removing and reintroducing carbs can impact health if not managed properly.

Low carb – may work for those who selectively cut out less nutritious carb sources while including high-fiber, healthy carbs. Lowering carbs while increasing protein can enhance satiety, making it easier to maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss. Initial weight loss on a lower carb diet might be slightly faster, largely due to water loss, which can boost motivation. However, it's crucial to note that these effects diminish over time, and studies suggest that lower carb diets are no more effective for weight loss than lower fat diets.

In summary

Keto diets are exceedingly extreme and lack robust long-term evidence, making them less advisable.

Low carb diets could suit certain individuals and can be maintained in a healthy manner.

Nutritionist Emma White (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.

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