The number one question I’ve gotten over the past few years as a nutrition student and now RD is “What do you think of the keto diet?” In fact, sometimes people think they’re being very novel and clever by asking me about it, despite the fact that I’ve literally heard this question hundreds of times. Because of this, I tried to do a plant-based keto diet for a few days, just so I could truly understand what it was like and what was needed to achieve your goals on a keto diet, and here are my takeaways:
- Most people who think they’re in ketosis probably aren’t, so use a food tracker that helps you know your exact ratio of fat to carbs.
- Try to get in as many mono and polyunsaturated fats as possible. Saturated fat can be hard on your heart (it is the number one culprit in raising “bad cholesterol” or LDL )(1)), so try as much as you can to get fats from healthy sources such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, sunflower oil, fish, flax, chia, etc.).
- Don’t forget about fiber! Fiber is still important on a keto diet. Numerous studies show its benefits (2), but the most immediate one is regularity (an issue I’m told is not uncommon in the keto community). Be sure you stock up on flax, chia, avocado, nuts and sneak in a little low-carb fruit like berries.
- Keto is really difficult to sustain. Our bodies preferred substrate is glucose, particularly our brain – when we force it to run on ketones, it can make us feel unwell, and for some people, it is just plain unsustainable. In that case, I would say consider a more Mediterranean diet. This is still a little higher in fat, but allows you to eat healthy whole grains and starchy vegetables as well.
- Keep an eye on your blood lipids. For some people, keto can be great, as it leads to weight loss and actually improves metabolic blood markers (3). However, every body is different. If you’re doing keto in the long-term, be sure to have your doc check your lipids (triglycerides, cholesterol, etc.) to make sure they’re not going out of whack. If they are, consider switching to another dietary pattern.
Sacks, F. M., Lichtenstein, A. H., Wu, J. H. Y., Appel, L. J., Creager, M. A., Kris-Etherton, P. M., … Horn, L. V. V. (2017). Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 136(3), e1–e23. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510
Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet – Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved August 17, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J. S., & Grimaldi, K. A. (2013). Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(8), 789–796. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2013.116