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5 Things to Know Before Trying the Ketogenic Diet

Despite being fairly controversial, the keto craze continues. While some celebs credit the high-fat, low-carb diet for helping them slim down, many experts remain cautious about recommending the ketogenic diet for weight loss and find it might be better suited to those with Type 2 diabetes.

YOU HAVE TO REALLY CUT CARBS

The diet recommends a 4:1 ratio of fat to carbs. That means about 5–10% of your total daily calories can come from carbs. However, the average person consumes almost half of their calories from carbs, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. “That’s a big change!” says Julie Stefanski, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You’ll have to slash your carbs considerably to less than 40–50 grams spread out over a whole day.” That means eliminating grains, sugar, most fruit and starchy vegetables.

AND KEEP YOUR PROTEIN ON THE LOWER END

The diet recommends protein be around 20% of your daily caloric intake, which can be an adequate amount for some, says Keri Gans, a New York City-based nutritionist, registered dietician and author of “The Small Change Diet.” It’s a good idea to check with a registered dietician to gauge your individual needs before trying keto.

EATING TOO MUCH FAT MAY BE HARMFUL

“The diet is high in saturated fat, and research suggests such diets may increase one’s risk for heart disease,” Gans says. Although the fat should keep you satiated, if you eat too much, you may cancel out any potential weight-loss benefits, Stefanski adds.

SUPPLEMENTS ARE A MUST

“Supplementation with vitamins and minerals is an absolute necessity on this type of diet,” Stefanski says. “Pure fats like coconut oil, olive oil and butter and many other fats that make up the base of a keto diet aren’t great sources of vitamins. Your body is using these nutrients constantly, but they’re not being fully replaced.” You’re also missing out on beneficial antioxidants in fruit and root vegetables, which have been associated with a decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

EXPECT UNPLEASANT SIDE EFFECTS

Constipation, bad breath and dizziness are just a few of the side effects of going so low-carb. “Without carbs, dieters can easily miss out on fiber and end up with digestive issues,” Stefanski says. She recommends including chia and flax seeds, coconut, nuts and low-carbohydrate vegetables at every meal if you decide to go keto.

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