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

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Oh, listen to the brainwashed defended their kidney and heart killing diet. Report
Keto is not simply a diet...it is a way of life...it literally saved my life while losing a ton of weight...now a days there is so much more to Keto than ever before...like pasta alternatives...br
pizza...cranberry sauce...alternati
ve flours all Keto based
Additionally by cutting out regular bread and gluten product I was able to stop all craving caused by Gluteomorphines & caseomorphines that cause cravings for regular bread...sugar products....alcoh
I now make most things with Keto recipes because by doing this I have lost a ton of weight...gave up diabetic & cholesterol meds by doctor advise...mentally feeling better than ever
For me Keto saved my life where no other eating style did...however I realized we are all different & have different ways food works on our bodies
After many years trying all different eating pattern I know what works for me
I know Keto saved my life n stopped all cravings
. Report
None of these restrictive diets work well for me: Keto, low-carb, Paleo, Intermittent Fasting...on and on and ON! I'm sure it works fine for a lot of people, but for me, I HATE the idea of restrictions. Common sense works best in my case. "Garbage In, Garbage Out" and all that. I am mindful of good nutrition and limiting calorie intake, balancing that with regular activity. Too many calories (of anything) will mean too much weight (in most cases). If you eat less than you "spend" or use/burn, you will lose weight. Slow and steady proves the best, healthiest and most most long-term success! I wish you all the best in whichever method you choose! Report
To keto or not to keto seems to be the question. My own answer is to go with what the experts recommend for us regular folks who don’t have seizures. If I were planning to go on Keto, I would sure want my doctor to know about those plans and I would be eager to have his/her recommendations before starting it. There’s a great deal made of doctors not being trained in nutrition. But this is the reason why we have people with degrees in just that...nutrition. Some of these people specialize further and become R.D.s (Registered Dietician). These people are many times more fluent in nutritional matters than I am. And my doctor is much more astute in medical matters than I’ll ever be. R.D.s are not paid by the health food industry and my doctor is not in private practice. They both do the best they can and with the resources they have to help my body be the best that it can be. If a search is to be made into medical doctors who are currently promoting the Keto diet for the general public, one will very quickly find doctors, in private practice, who are making money on the side by writing books about the latest fad diet. These are the same doctors who aren’t trained in nutrition...right
? Almost without fail they claim to have inside secret knowledge that can change your life. The M.D. after their names gives special weight to what they write...right? Voila la Keto! I’m very happy for people who have tried Keto and have found themselves helped. Some even claim they will do Keto for the rest of their lives. I hope so...and I hope not. I hope so because whatever measure they’ve been helped by it should continue as long as they continue the diet. And I hope not because of long-term negative health effects that have yet to be determined. And that’s why I really want a doctor who doesn’t have a vested stake in Keto or any other diet looking over my shoulder. And that’s also why I’ve ditched diets altogether. There is a better way...a way that models a healthy relationship with food...a way that allows us to interact socially withou... Report
Living in a state of ketosis is not a diet to get on or go off. It is a lifestyle that has been the way of humans for thousands of years. It wasn't until the 1960's that saturated fats were demonized due to their high calories. Anyone who has done their due diligence knows calories in does not equal calories out.
It was in the 1980's that carbohydrates were boosted as the go to food, and since then obesity and type II diabetes has climbed. Report
the keto diet was originally developed to control seizures and is very effective for this. it is NOT recommended for the average person. Report
Skip the article, read the comments. There's much better info contained there from those that have researched it for themselves. KCKO Stop blaming animal fats for high cholesterol and heart disease. The finger is squarely and accurately pointed at inflammation. Report
To each his own Report
Did any 'experts' against Keto think to consult the studies on Pubmed by the National Institute of Health? If they did, which they didn't, they would know that Keto is an extremely effective adjunct treatment for 80% of all forms of cancer and the carb rich diet they advocate PROMOTES csncer. The effect on blood sugar and insulin resistance is even more profoundly beneficial, even REVERSING diabetes Ii.Just get a little honest. Report
I prefer a more balanced diet. It's sustainable over many years. Report
I'm one of the people who keto didn't work for. My husband and I followed it for 4 months and I lost only 3 pounds. He lost 10. What I DID get from it was VERY BAD breath! I brushed my teeth 3 times a day, used mouthwash, and still had to carry around Listerine strips to put on my tongue before talking to someone. It didn't do that to my husband, so it was a real problem for him to get close to me too. So I will just stick to my "everything in moderation" diet. Report
I have been following a low carb ketogenic lifestyle change since March 2018 and it has literally saved my life. I keep my glucose numbers under 90 (which is healthy) and I average 0.5mmol ketones which is fat burning state. I do my best not to consume foods with SUGAR or foods that cause inflammation (aka rice, flour, grains, corn, beans nor such like). I have way more mental clarity and I do not suffer from constipation (neither does my 34 yr old daughter who is no longer diabetic thank you keto). I recommend people to do your research and NOT put it down! Because this is a lifestyle change not a fad! God bless you all! 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."