Why People Love Keto and Experts Hate It

The keto diet is everywhere. You can read endless articles about the diet online, while markets carry all sorts of keto-friendly products. People just love talking about the keto diet, and many dieters attribute their weight-loss success to the plan. On the other hand, many nutrition experts don't promote (and actually hate!) the keto diet. Why is this diet in a love-hate relationship with nutrition experts and dieters?

Dieters all over social media have been touting the benefits of keto, but it's rare to find a full explanation of the physiological response to the diet. This high-fat, moderate-protein and very-low-carb diet has dieters giving up grains, legumes, sugar, low- and non-fat dairy, some nuts and seeds, some vegetables and most fruit. The science behind the diet is that by cutting carbs this low, your body needs to use an alternative mechanism to provide the body energy. As such, your body turns fat into ketones, which are, ultimately, the body's backup mechanism for providing energy. But with so many success stories, why aren't nutrition experts hopping on the keto bandwagon?

What Nutrition Experts Say

Keith Ayoob, EdD, R.D.N., an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says putting your body into a state of ketosis is never recommended, and could even be harmful. "It's certainly a sign of an unbalanced diet. You may lose weight on it, but a ketogenic diet is, by definition, unbalanced and should never be maintained—that's a red flag for a bad diet."

But long-term maintenance isn't the only reason nutrition experts aren't fans. "I hate the keto diet because it limits the amount of fiber you would receive from fruits and whole grains, which could lead to constipation," says Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and a media spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics "Stay constipated long enough, you will also feel bloated and very uncomfortable. Plus, long periods of time on the toilet due to constipation is not a cute look especially when you're on-the-go with family and kids."

Nutrition experts also don't like the fact that the keto diet omits entire food groups. Ayoob says that food decisions may be easier with limited choices, and might even explain why many people like the diet—until they get bored. "You still need the nutrients from those omitted food groups," Ayoob explains. "No dairy, no grains, no fruit, not even many veggies, and no scientific evidence behind it? No way this is a good diet. I can't get behind any diet that demonizes foods like apples, whole-grain breads, and yogurt."

The diet's rigidity is also a concern to Malina Malkani, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle.  "A lifestyle requiring so many restrictions—like counting grams of carbohydrates, eliminating major food groups, watching protein intake and restricting food choices within allowed food groups—is hard enough to maintain in the long-term as an individual. For parents, maintaining these restrictions over time is even more challenging in the context of feeding a family and socializing within a community, and it can be detrimental when trying to role model a healthy relationship with food for children," Malkani explains.

The Reality

As a registered dietitian, I have developed keto recipes and understand first-hand how difficult it is to stay within the carb limits of this diet. It took me, an expert, a while to compute every single carb in dishes, which means it would certainly be time-consuming for others to get all the numbers right.

Where do these hidden carbs come from? There are so many hidden sources. For example, the keto diet promotes consumption of avocados, but even moderate portions will add a few grams of carbs. The same is true with dried herbs—add one to two teaspoons to a dish and you've got some grams there, too. As such, it would seem that most people are unknowingly doing a modified version of the keto plan and eating more carbs than they think (which, again, isn't a bad thing!).

A modified keto diet tends to be followed by a dieter who is trying to ease off the plan. The diet consists of 55 percent fat, 30 percent protein and 15 percent carbs. It can also be used by those who don't like the strictness of the actual keto plan and need something more doable. It also allows for more fiber and nutrients from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. You can even add a touch of whole grains, legumes, and other foods that are strictly forbidden on the traditional keto diet, all of which would add essential fiber, vitamins and minerals.

The bottom line is this: Although you may be in love with the keto diet now, there are good reasons for nutrition experts to dislike the diet plan. Very strict diets have a very high rate of failure, and the best diet is one that is sustainable for the long-term. Adding a few more carbs through various healthy foods in your diet isn't a bad thing, and that's most likely what's happening without you even realizing it.
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Member Comments

I am not a fan of keto but to each their own for how they would like to eat. As long as you and your doctor are ok with your eating habits, then who cares what you eat. Report
My doctor recommends what she called "modified Atkins." It allows fruit, vegetables, protein (including meat), and dairy. She didn't say how many carb, fat or protein grams or percentage. She does NOT recommend eating grains. She has treated many diabetics with that type of diet working.

Opposed to that, the registered dietitians and nutritionists I have talked to have told me to get cans of fruit to eat all during the day, not caring that the high carbs would raise my blood sugars so that I would have to be on medications for the rest of my life and eventually on insulin. That is what ALL nutritionists seem to follow. I cannot understand why they recommend more carbs than a person was eating before they were even diagnosed as being diabetic. It doesn't make any sense.

Dr. Bernstein (sorry, don't know exact spelling) has been eating extremely low carb for years to keep his diabetes under control better.
Keto has been around since the 1920's. I don't consider that to be a fad. Keto has worked for me. Do your own research. Don't relay on this one article and decide for yourself. Report
Great article, thank you. Report
On Keto, I am rarely hungry in between meals, I'm no longer a slave to carb-y snacks and junk food, and I've lost 30 lbs in 2 months. I'm a 66 yo woman and (obviously) post-menopausal. I never exercise, but still I lose regularly every week. It's easy to do KETO because FAT is satisfying and a necessary component to human nutrition. The low-fat "craze" (if you want to more correctly point the finger at a detrimental WOE), is why we have SUPER obese people all across America by the millions, and are adding millions more every year. Watch "The Magic Pill" documentary and ignore the "experts," who are largely in the pockets of the weight loss industry and WANT YOU TO FAIL because there are mega bucks at stake. Report
I have friends on it and doing well. I can't eat several of the foods involved so won't be doing this. But I am going to look into the modified plan and see if this will work for me. Report
Throwing my love for keto into the mix here. I've been eating for 2 years and have never been in better health. In my most recent physical, all of my bloodwork was perfect, and despite previously being told that my blood pressure was borderline, I'm solidly in the optimal category now.

The benefits to my everyday life are ongoing. I wake up before my alarm well rested and never have crashes during the day. My sleep is better, my mental clarity is en pointe, and I am honestly super chill. Like, nothing irks me anymore.

Is it hard? Maybe for some people. For me, it mimic my natural tendencies towards salty and savory. All I had to do is ditch the bread. Even so, there are some pretty decent substitutes for things you may get a hankering for - low-carb tortillas, cream cheese pancakes, etc. Once you get the hang of keto, it's pretty simple.

In closing, I've lost 50 pounds by eating keto and watching my calories for the most part. Throughout the process, I never experienced any of the hunger that was a constant everytime I tried a moderate CICO eating plan. Also, FTR: I poop just fine.

Whatever you choose to do will only work if you put in the effort to learn it and follow it. Report
I try the keto diet and really want to like it, however it is unrealistic for me to follow. For those that are successful my hat is off to you. Report
I did not like the Keto Diet, did not feel well with it. Report
Thanks Report
Thanks for sharing,don't do fade diets like doing natural Report
The article is titled "Why People Love Keto and Experts Hate It" -- but NOT all "experts" hate it. Articles like this do a disservice to people who have tried Calories In Calories Out or who have Type 2 Diabetes and are told by their "expert nutritionists" to eat more grains and then just to use insulin to counteract it. It's crazy. So I get SO SO disappointed when Sparkpeople puts articles like this right on the main page.

PEOPLE love keto (or a modified version) because the dang thing works and you can finally feel good IN your body and ABOUT your body. Yes, it takes effort to eat this way because so much in our grocery stores are processed foods with tons of garbage carbs. Why do you think so many of us are OBESE and feel like failures, time after time after time trying to follow the "expert's" rules? You don't have to feel like a failure. It's the garbage food and too many carbs that keeps you hooked.

So, Spark Friends, do your own research and don't just trust articles like this. If you've felt like a failure because you've tried to do everything "right" and still can't get rid of that weight, don't throw this out. It's different from Atkins in that (as I understand it), Atkins got you gradually back on too many carbs. The first phases were fine, but then many of us backslid when we got too many carbs into our systems again. Trust your body and how you feel. After doing first a strict keto and now a more relaxed keto, I feel wonderful and have shed 24 pounds. I've done it slowly over months and am happier and more satisfied than I was. I'm not going back. Ever.

Different things work for different bodies. Trust your own body and not an "expert" opinion like this supposed one.

The comments from the members are far more educational than the article itself. Some are spot on, some are totally off base. Eating plans are kind of like religion, we are all free to believe what we want and I've found if you intend to remain friendly with others, avoid talking about it. I personally have been eating Keto for 2+ years with zero intention of ever going back to the land of carbage. Did my research before embarking on that way of eating, including concerns about cholesterol. We've been lied to for years with the Standard American Diet and the slop Ancel Keyes put out. Even the American Diabetes Association is now recognizing low carb as "Medical Nutrition Therapy for adults with Type 2 Diabetes". Also, a way of eating (Keto) to help with a medical condition that was discovered in the 1800s is seriously not a fad. :) KCKO Report
Another "opinion piece" - with no data or studies to back it.

I am extremely disappointed that not a single one of these "experts" managed to correctly define the "keto diet" (which simply is a diet low enough in carbs that the person enters and maintains a state of ketosis - where their body is burning fats instead of sugars). The amount of carbs to maintain ketosis will vary from person to person, so some people will be restricted to less carbs (20g total for some) while others can stay in ketosis while consuming 50g or more of total carbs - with room for the recommended amount of fibre (or even more). Any diet that is not proven to maintain ketosis, using regular measurement via test strips or equivalent, is NOT a "keto" diet - regardless of how few or many carbs are included.

With this definition in mind, it seems that the majority of folks who are jumping on the fad of so-called "keto" are actually eating a low carb or very low carb diet and are not seeing whether they are maintaining ketosis or not. These low carb options are NOT "modified keto" or "dirty keto" or "lazy keto" or whatever nonsense name folks want to give them --- they are low carb, but not creating / maintaining ketosis. Trying to lump everything together under an incorrect label just confuses things - especially when so many writers and "experts" extrapolate that studies done using low carb diets should apply to keto. Both "low carb" and "keto" diets are valid approaches - and can be used quite healthfully by different people or at different times - but they are not the same thing.

Folks jumping on the bandwagon purely for "quick" weight loss and not for life-long health benefits are not researching what the approach is, or how to follow it healthfully (many people actually end up eating more vegetables and getting in far better nutrition when following a carefully researched low carb or keto way of eating), or checking with their doctor to confirm that this approach is safe for them and arrange for follow-up. These are also the folks who jump on a... Report


About The Author

Toby Amidor
Toby Amidor
Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition and the author of "The Greek Yogurt Kitchen" and "The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook."