Americans took to their keyboards and typed in “keto diet plan” an average of 52,000 times per month last year, looking for a quick way to lose weight. As a result, the keto diet was the most searched diet plan in the U.S. in 2022, according to a Total Shape report.
And, while research shows that the keto diet does burn fat quickly, health experts are quick to add that it’s an unsustainable diet to maintain at length.
“People considering the keto diet should be aware that it can be difficult to stick to in the long term,” Pallini Winnifred, R.D.N. at FitDominium told The Food Institute. “The restrictions on carbs are often too much to maintain over a long period of time.”
HOW DOES KETO WORK?
The keto diet works by forcing the body to burn fat for energy instead of relying on glucose from carbohydrates. But because the body’s cells would prefer to use glucose as energy, a keto diet requires depriving yourself of carbohydrates and getting most of your daily calories – up to 90% – from fat instead.
It typically takes two to four days to reach a state of ketosis, in which the liver breaks stored fat down into molecules called ketones that become the body’s main energy source. However, it’s a tricky and highly individualized process. Some people may need a more restrictive diet than others to reach ketosis.
It’s also important to consider the risks associated with a ketogenic diet. Namely, a high level of saturated fat intake, which is linked to heart disease.
“Be aware that the manner in which you structure your keto diet is very important,” Winnifred explained. “Lots of foods are technically keto, but that does not necessarily make them healthy.”
Other possible risks include liver or kidney problems, brain fog, mood swings, constipation and nutrient deficiency. In addition to the restrictive nature of the diet, each of these potential side effects makes the keto diet all the more unsustainable in the long term.
“If you do try a keto diet to jump-start weight reduction, choose healthier sources of fat and protein, such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts (almonds, walnuts),” wrote Howard LeWine, M.D. and editor in chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
“After a few weeks, switch to a reduced-calorie Mediterranean-style diet and increase your physical activity,” LeWine explained. “This will help manage your weight loss for the long term.”
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET:
Perhaps uncoincidentally, the Mediterranean diet was the second most searched diet in the U.S. last year, right after keto.
And in some ways, the Mediterranean diet is keto’s exact opposite. While the keto diet is high in fats that may increase the risk of heart disease, the Mediterranean diet is designed to be heart healthy by limiting meat and fats, focusing on fruits and vegetables instead.
In fact, one study found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 30%.
THE TOP TEN MOST-SEARCHED DIETS:
- Keto diet
- Mediterranean diet
- Diabetic diet
- Carnivore diet meal plan
- Military diet
- Dash diet meal plan
- 7-day diet plan for weight loss
- Low-carb diet
- Atkins diet
- Golo diet