Senior Dietitian Victoria Taylor explains what the keto diet is, how it works, and why it might not be your best bet for losing weight.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is a very low-carbohydrate diet. Compared to other low-carb diets like Atkins or the paleo diet, which are high in protein with a moderate amount of fat, this one is higher in fat with a moderate amount of protein.
How does the keto diet work?
The aim of the diet is for your body to enter a state called ketosis, which is when fat stores start to be broken down to be used as an energy source. To do this, carbs have to be severely restricted – to 20-50g (about 1-2oz) a day for the average person. A pint of milk contains 27g of carbs, a medium slice of wholemeal bread 14g, and a banana contains 20g. So the diet needs careful planning.
Is the keto diet balanced?
It’s quite difficult to have a balanced keto diet, especially when it comes to getting enough fruit and vegetables and fibre, and it also contains more saturated fat than is recommended.
With fewer foods to choose from, the diet can get boring, and doesn’t always fit with eating with friends and family. All of this means it can be hard to stick to.
Is the keto diet recommended for weight loss?
With limited research into the keto diet for weight loss, and few long-term studies, we wouldn’t recommend it.
There are other diets that limit carbs, but not as much as the keto diet (typically allowing 50-130g of carbs per day) which have been found to be safe and effective in the short term, for example for people with type 2 diabetes. Or you could try a Mediterranean-style diet, which has benefits for heart health.
Meet the expert
Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with twenty years’ experience. Her work for the NHS focused on weight management and community programmes for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. At the BHF she advises on diet and nutrition.
Published November 2021
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