How to eat healthy is such a dilemma!
In fact, weight gain during the peri-menopausal years is one of the most common complaints I hear as a health coach. My own story about conquering it and what I learned along the way has been one of my major inspirations for helping others.
So, today I want to look at the keto diet. Is a keto diet healthy or harmful for peri-menopausal weight-loss? It certainly IS a very popular answer.
The main features of a ketogenic diet are high-fat foods and veggies. In it’s purest form that’s it.
You restrict (or eliminate) starches, grains, and fruit. Many say berries are allowable but achieving true ketosis with berries usually means limiting them to a cup or less a day. Then you add lots of fat, meats with the fat left on it, dairy, coconut, avocado, eggs, and more; all to push your body to convert to using fat as a primary energy source instead of sugar.
A true keto diet also involves testing your urine several times per day to make sure you’re maintaining ketosis so your body will burn fat as its primary fuel.
And if you cheat, it usually takes about 2 days before you get back to a ketogenic state. That’s the price you pay for an additional piece of fruit or some crackers; two days of standing still!
My first question is a practical one: how long can you do that for?
Personally, the thought of giving up brown rice, winter squash, sweet potatoes and fruit would send me into a frenzy. Those are some of the healthiest foods on the planet. And some of my favorites as well.
As a reference point, Okinawans, who boast the highest percentage of healthy Centenarians (people who live to 100) in the world, get about 60-75% of their daily calorie intake from sweet potatoes! -Of course, they don’t add butter, sugar and other garbage to them!
Carbos are also comfort foods for many of us. And when you really look at it, it’s not the potato that’s the problem, it’s the company it keeps; the sour cream, butter, bacon bits and more that most typically add to it. But I digress, where talking about keto here.
After that, the next question is NOT “does it work?”
The REAL question is “What does it work for?”
The original discovery of the ketogenic was that it reversed epilepsy in children with seizure disorders. However, there are also reports in the literature of children dying from sudden cardiac death caused by selenium deficiency.
It’s also been well-documented that the ketogenic diet is deficient in at least 17 different nutrients.
But does the fact that it can cure epilepsy in children make it a healthy way for a peri-menopausal woman to lose weight? Or a way to lose weight and fat at all?
Further, can you eat keto and maintain or improve hormones balance and have the energy you need to sustain yourself throughout the day?
And what are the long-term effects of a keto diet? Can it have a long-term positive effect on your health (like eating whole food plant-based can)?
It’s very difficult to maintain a ketogenic diet without eating animal products daily. This means eating high amounts of saturated fats with its negative effect on arterial health and heart function.
Since cardiovascular conditions are already the number one killer in our country already, you might consider:
Do you really want to go on a diet that can increase the chances of you having a heart attack or other adverse cardiac event even beyond what is typical?
And you might also want to be aware that low carb diets, in general, are linked to higher all-cause mortality rates. In other words, all things being equal, a person on a low carb diet is likely to die younger than a person not on a low carb diet.
High animal fat diets are also particularly toxic to the kidneys and the liver. They can also lead to gall stones and increase levels of inflammation in the body. And they are directly implicated in many forms of cancer.
Further, diets high in animal products make it more difficult for peri-menopausal women to maintain hormone balance since they are getting exogenous estrogen from those animal products.
Thus, peri-menopausal symptoms could worsen in some women on ketogenic diets.
So there may be safety, short-term, and long-term factors to consider. And it could make peri-menopause symptoms worse.
Now to the matter of losing weight and more importantly, losing fat weight.
Several studies have compared the fat and lean muscle loss on low-carb diets vs. low-calorie diets. The results might surprise you.
While people on low carb diets lose weight more quickly and perhaps even lose more total weight, it’s well-documented they also lose more lean muscle mass. The title of a 2015 study says it all:
“Calorie for Calorie, Dietary Fat Restriction Results in More Body Fat Loss than Carbohydrate Restriction in People with Obesity.”
My last consideration is about you, as a peri-menopausal woman, having the energy you want and need to make it through the day. The titles of these 2 studies tells it all:
“Blood ketones are directly related to fatigue and perceived effort during exercise in overweight adults adhering to low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss: a pilot study.” In other words: higher ketones in the blood yield higher fatigue levels.
And a more recent study reinforces this point:
“Low carbohydrate, high fat diet impairs exercise economy and negates the performance benefit from intensified training in elite race walkers.”
So, it appears that ketogenic diets also impair energy or, at least the energy needed for exercising.
So there you have it; some considerations to evaluate in regards to high fat, ketogenic diets.
Is there another diet you’d like to get some more factual information on? Comment below and I’ll blog about it soon.