Hold onto your hats, Paleo devotees, because diet gurus now claim it’s okay to eat food farmed after the days of hunting and gathering. That’s right, the Paleo Diet has finally been knocked off its throne as the king diet-of-the-stars. All of the best people are switching to Keto, a nickname for the Ketogenic Diet, another high-fat, low sugar diet with virtually no plants in it that sounds a lot like the Atkins Diet but is definitely not the Atkins Diet. There’s social media hype, there are celebrity devotees, there’s even a neurological pedigree—Keto has a history as an alternative treatment for epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and autism since the early twentieth century. Praise Jenny McCarthy!
Keto trains your body to rely on fat instead of sugars for fuel by limiting the amount of carbohydrates you take into your body. Hmm, this sounds and awful lot like the Atkins diet to me, but go on. When eating on the Keto plan, your body enters a state called ketosis, wherein (again, this sounds a lot like the Atkins diet) your body produces ketone bodies from fat and uses them as energy. Proponents of Keto are quick to reassure everybody that ketosis is a totally natural process and meant for those times in nature when food is not readily available, like when we’re out in the wild and cannot locate a wild boar to slaughter. Proponents of Keto overlook the fact that humans existing in the state of nature lived in a near constant state of starvation, and in fact ketosis is the body’s signal of starvation and the burning of body fat as fuel. No matter, Americans are overweight anyway, say the experts.
Keto has a bunch of high profile endorsees, including doctors and celebrities, some of whom claim that a diet high in fat can make you smarter. When you don’t get enough fat, you starve your brain, which is itself sixty percent fat, according to science. There is some evidence that ketones increase brain-protective antioxidants and stimulate mitochondria, leading to increased energy.
What can you eat on a Keto diet? In order to reach ketosis, carbohydrates must be avoided at all costs! Not only the starchy and sweet kind, either—fruits and vegetables must also be eaten in moderation. In order to get into ketosis, you must stay under 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. Going as low as 20 grams per day is even better. The lower you can get your carbs, the better, say the Ketonites.
Not only will you have to give up all sweets and starches like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, you’ll also have to start counting the grams of carbs in things like broccoli and strawberries. To give you perspective, one banana gives you 27 grams of carbohydrate. With three grams of fiber, that nets you 24 grams with one piece of fruit. On Keto, you will basically be eating fat, protein, and not much else. In fact, the guidelines suggest 10% carbohydrates, 15-25% protein and 70% or more from fat. Stick of butter—good. Bowl of grapes, nope. Yum!