It seems as though every other day there’s a new trendy diet on the scene. You know – paleo, vegan, 5:2, alkaline… the list goes on and on.
In the last 12 months, the ketogenic diet has been added to the list, and you’ve probably noticed that its popularity has continued to skyrocket. With so much hype around this so-called ‘miracle’ diet, you might be wondering if you should jump on the bandwagon, too.
On the flip side, you might be more inclined to opt for something a little more tried and tested – like the well-studied Mediterranean diet.
So, if you’re contemplating either – you should probably read this, first.
The ketogenic diet, or keto for short, is a very low carbohydrate diet. Almost all grain foods (bread, rice, cereal), starchy veg (potato and corn), fruit and dairy are off the list. Putting my dietitian hat aside – if that doesn’t sound horrendous, I don’t know what does.
Nutritionally speaking, I’m not a big fan of this diet for the average Joe (but here’s my disclaimer: the keto diet has been used to treat children with epilepsy – and I’m not disputing that by any stretch of the imagination).
The keto diet is quite restrictive, which leaves you at risk of several nutrient deficiencies (fibre, calcium and iron, to name just a few examples). Not to mention, the not-so-beneficial dieting mindset that comes with such a long list of restricted foods.
While the keto diet can be helpful with quick, short-term weight loss, it’s rather hard to sustain – not only because you’re likely to feel low on energy, but because it can impact your social life (goodbye weekend pizza nights) and have side effects such as bad breath and constipation.
More of a lifestyle than the strict meaning of a ‘diet’, the traditional Mediterranean way of life has a raft of scientific evidence supporting its health benefits. It is especially well-known for its ability to support heart-health, and has even been linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer.
But here’s a reality check: the Mediterranean diet doesn’t involve the mountains of spaghetti and garlic bread that most people hope for. Instead, it’s based on super nutritious staple foods such as wholegrains, legumes, fruit and vegetables. Extra virgin olive oil is the primary source of fat, along with oily fish.
What’s more, no foods are off limits – meaning all of your favourites like red wine and dessert still have their place.
As you can probably tell, my verdict is not in favour of the fad keto diet. While it can help with short-term weight loss, I don’t think it’s likely to serve you well in the long run. Plus, it’s a relatively new diet – the effects of which haven’t been studied for the general population over time. Instead, if you’re looking for a new lease on life, the Mediterranean diet is definitely worth a try. After all, it didn’t earn its badge as one of the healthiest diets in the world for nothing!
Melissa Meier is an online and Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.