How healthy is a high fat low carb diet really? They have become all the rage. It seems everyone is either on one or knows someone on one. They are also known as the keto diet or ketogenic diet.
First, let’s look at what these diets are. The advice is to eat a diet high in fats, high in protein, with low or no carbs and little fruit. Snacks are discouraged. Advice varies a little between different approaches, but essentially, this is what it is.
Now let’s examine every detail of this high fat low carb diet.
Healthy Fats, Unhealthy Fats
Fats are absolutely essential to our good health. The brain is largely made up of fat and needs feeding to keep it healthy, to keep our cognition in tip top condition. Our hormones contain lipids, which are fats. However, there are many fats that are unhealthy. What are healthy fats and how much should you consume?
The unhealthy fats are those that have been processed from their source. These not only lack the fibre the source has, the processing can be harmful. Heat and/or chemical catalysts are often used to extract the oil: heat destroys sensitive nutrients, chemicals always leave a trace. This is why, if you do use oils, it’s best to buy the cold pressed ones.
An example of a healthy fat would be that of eating olives, but olive oil, thought to be a healthy fat, is less healthy. The same goes for avocados and avocado oils. And nuts and seeds versus their oils. All these oils are considered to be healthy oils, and they are compared with the animal oils. But eating the food, complete with the fibre, is far healthier.
Consuming a lot of oil or fat puts a strain on our livers. And that may not show up for years.
Sometimes, it’s a compromise. When you know the degree of healthy versus unhealthy, it helps you to make better choices. Animal fats are not healthy (see below), but butter is healthier than the highly processed and synthetic margarines.
Is a High Protein Diet Healthy?
The ketogenic diet advices a high protein diet. Invariably, this means animal protein. There are many independent studies showing that a diet higher than 11% protein can lead to chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer. Protein can fill you up in the short run, but is it worth it, in the long run?
It’s not just the high protein content that harms us. We are not carnivores. We don’t have the spiky teeth, or all the other supportive aspects a carnivore needs. Our bodies struggle to digest and assimilate animal protein. Yet it easily deals with plant based foods.
If you consume a strictly plant based diet, or vegan diet, which contains a wide variety of different foods, you will never get more than 11% protein. Which means you are more likely to avoid the chronic and degenerative diseases.
How Is A Low Carb Diet Healthy?
Carbs, or carbohydrates, are badly misnamed. Every fruit, every vegetable, every nut, every seed is a carb. When you see people advocating a low carb diet, do they mean limiting these healthy foods? Sadly, yes, in many cases. I feel largely because they don’t fully understand what they are supporting.
Those in the know really mean the white bread, the white sugar, the white rice. In other words, the processed foods. All the goodness has been stripped out from them, leaving your body at a loss to know how to digest them. Look at sugar. We know how unhealthy white sugar is. And most people know how healthy molasses is. Molasses is what was stripped from the sugar to make it white.
So if you eat sugar cane, it’s a healthy food. It’s complete. It’s in natural balance. Lots of goodness there.
Eating white sugar will do a lot more damage than ruining your teeth.
The same applies to rice. Brown rice, or wild rice, are complete foods, with lots of fibre.
If you enjoy pasta, make sure you buy the wholemeal pasta. If you like bread, the wholemeal bread is best, especially the sour dough.
Why Does A High Fat Low Carb Diet Advocate Limiting Fruit?
This, along with so much, is a misunderstanding. Because white sugar is so unhealthy, those who don’t understand why, automatically assume that all fruit is unhealthy as it contains sugar. This has been dealt with above.
There are many benefits of fruit which are not available in other foods. Berries are a power source of nutrition. The botanical name vacciniaceae refers to the bilberry family. Bilberries have been known for a long time, for their antioxidant properties and have been used in medicine to treat a number of different ailments. We know the value of antioxidants and how they support a healthy immune system, preventing disease.
The vaccinium species include lingonberry, blueberry, cranberry, huckleberry and others.
The name has been borrowed by the pharmaceutical industry in an attempt to replicate this property.
Those who make understanding diet their life’s mission, tell us there are no conclusive studies showing the benefits of high fat low carb diets. Quite the contrary, it’s the high carb low fat diet (when it’s a high fibre diet) that supports good health.
And good health means you don’t need health professionals very often.
It is possible to lose weight on a high fat low carb diet, but at the expense of your long term health.