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Read this before trying the ketogenic diet

Fitness and nutrition · Jan 6, 2021

The ketogenic diet is a tough topic to tackle. It can be controversial, and long-term studies aren’t yet available to support its safety and efficacy over time. People who are successful with a ketogenic diet often praise it for helping their physical health, mental health or both. But I’ve found that many jump into it without planning ahead, and report quite a few challenges, from frustration to severe constipation.

Here are some important things to know if you are considering trying the ketogenic diet.

What is it?

Keto is a way of eating that’s dramatically different from how most of us eat. The primary focus is fat, with modest protein intake and very little carbohydrates. It generally excludes most fruit, dairy and grains. This forces the body to use fat for fuel instead of carbs, which are its preferred source. This diet typically consists of 80 - 90 percent fat1.

Know the risks

This diet innately has the potential to be low in fibre, lack vitamins and minerals and possibly increase certain disease risks if not planned out well. Why? The bulk of our vitamins and minerals typically come from plant foods, not to mention nearly all of our fibre, and these foods are typically not encouraged when following a keto diet. Many people following the diet focus mostly on animal fats (like cheese, butter and fatty meat), which can raise cholesterol levels and inflammation in the body. The risk of cancer can increase from processed meats like bacon and salami, if these are eaten regularly2.

Does your current health status support this way of eating?

Any restrictive diet has the potential to negatively impact your health. It is extremely important to consult your primary care provider before beginning this diet.

What is your long-term plan?

Most people don’t plan on eating keto for life. Do you have a goal? How do you plan to reintroduce carbs? If you lose weight on this diet and then return to your previous way of eating without a strategy, you are likely to gain it all back.

Some tips to consider if you’re planning to try a ketogenic diet:

  • Eat nuts, seeds and avocados. These are rich in fat, fibre and nutrients.

  • Add nutritional fibres, such as wheat germ, ground flax, chia and hemp seeds. These also contain healthy fats.

  • Choose plant oils over animal fats.

  • Limit processed meats to once weekly, at most.

  • Fat is high in calories. Make sure your calorie intake doesn’t exceed your needs.

  • On the flip side, be sure to get enough calories. Crash dieting can cause rebound weight gain.

  • Plan ahead. Have a variety of meal ideas on hand. This is necessary for success with any diet.

  • Take a fibre supplement to help meet your needs. Start small and increase gradually over the course of a week or so, as increasing too quickly can cause constipation.

  • Restricting food groups can lead to nutrition deficiencies. Talk to a Registered Dietitian to ensure you are not lacking nutrients and overall diet adequacy.

Our nutrition team coast to coast can help you make sense of popular nutrition trends, and develop a dietary plan that works best for your life and your goals. Get in touch to learn more today.

1 Healthline. Accessed in 2021. “What Is Fat Fasting, and Is It Good for You?”

2 Canadian Cancer Society. Accessed in 2021.”Why you should limit red meat and avoid processed meat.”

Authored by:
Gelina Berg
Registered Dietitian

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