The ketogenic or “keto” diet has been called the holy grail of good health and weight loss by some doctors and bloggers. On the flip side, it’s a nutritionist’s nightmare.
The keto diet goes against conventional wisdom on health eating. It encourages eating lots of fat and limits carbohydrates to no more than 50 grams a day, the rough equivalent of a plain bagel or a cup of white rice. By comparison, dietary guidelines laid out by the US Department of Agriculture recommend consuming between 225 and 325 grams of fluffy, white carbs a day.
Here’s why health nuts in Silicon Valley are saying yes to fat.
The keto diet reorganizes the building blocks of the food pyramid.
It cuts down carbs to between 20 and 50 grams a day, depending on a person’s medical history and insulin sensitivity. There are about 30 grams in an apple, for comparison.
On the diet, healthy fats account for roughly 80% of a person’s daily calories, while protein makes up about 20%. On average, Americans get about 50% of their calories from carbs, 30% from fat, and 15% from protein, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The keto diet is like Atkins on steroids. It turns the body into a fat-burning machine.
The human body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is used for energy or stored as glycogen in liver and muscle tissue. But the body has a plan-B fuel supply.
When carbs go missing from a person’s diet, the body uses up its glucose reserves and then breaks down stored fat into fatty acids. When fatty acids reach the liver, they’re converted into an organic substance called ketones. The brain and other organs feed on ketones in a process called ketosis, which gives the diet its name. Keto-dieters eat lots of fat to maintain this state.
While a doctor might prescribe the diet to patients who have insulin resistance, diabetes, or pre-diabetes, tech workers without these conditions use it to optimize health and wellness.