The keto diet has gone mainstream. You can tell by the amount of “ketogenic” products available in online and physical shelves, recipes in the internet and Google searches. The interest in keto peaked around the second week of this year in Australia (see graph below) and worldwide. However, many people still don’t know exactly how this diet work. Hence, I’ve compiled 5 misconceptions about keto.
1. I’m in ketosis because I eat “keto”
Ketosis is “an abnormal increase of ketone bodies in the body” (1). The definition does not provide a specific target, but the usual recommended target range is 1 to 5 mmol/L. Eating “keto” does not guarantee you are within that range. Moreover, how can you tell if you are not measuring your ketone levels?
2. I have to eat less than 20 (or 50) grams of carbs per day
The original ketogenic diet was used by doctors to treat childhood epilepsy. The composition of the diet was 1g/kg protein, 10 to 15 g/day carbohydrate, and rest of energy from fat. The current composition of most therapeutic ketogenic diets is 4:1 fat to protein and carbohydrate. This means that 4/5 of the total caloric intake comes from fat, and 1/5 from protein and carbohydrate combined. Total energy and fluids are typically restricted, as well (2).
Commercial keto diets typically prescribe less than 20g or 50g of carbohydrate per day. However, they do not take into consideration the actual energy requirements for the individual. In reality, the actual level should be determined based on the person’s needs and physiology.
3. I can’t eat carrots in a keto diet
Banning a particular vegetable or fruit because “it contains carbs” is silly in my opinion. You’re not only missing out on micronutrients and fibre but you might be able to fit in a smaller portion of that food within your allocated carbohydrate limit.
4. The keto diet will kill you
Not necessarily. This misconception comes from the assumption that all ketogenic diets are based on copious amounts of bacon, cheese and double cream. You can follow a ketogenic diet that includes whole foods and healthier sources of fat, such as avocados, extra virgin olive oil, olives and fatty fish, in addition to non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruit. This kind of diet will likely not kill you.
Having said that, a ketogenic diet is not for everyone. In addition, it should not be followed forever unless it has therapeutic purposes and medical supervision. Talk to your dietitian if you’re interested in trying it out.
5. You will lose weight on a keto diet
You might lose weight on a keto diet but you might not. A keto diet has the potential of being very high in energy, particularly if you follow hunger/satiety cues. For example, if you eat because it’s meal time, you are bored or there is food in front of you, you might eat beyond what your body needs. The excess energy will, at some stage, cause weight gain.
- Merriam-Webster.com. ketosis: Merriam-Webster; 2019 [16 May 2019]. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ketosis.
- Sinha SR, Kossoff EH. The ketogenic diet. The neurologist. 2005;11(3):161-70.