The keto diet is one of the most popular diet trends in the world right now. Adored by people of all ages and across dozens of countries, this diet has even been used by athletes. Reports suggest that heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury used it to shed pounds before getting back in the ring.
At the same time, however, it has been called one of the worst and deadliest diet trends in recent history. So, what’s the truth, is this diet effective? Is it healthy, and are there any increased risks for seniors?
What is the Keto Diet?
The goal of the keto diet is to trigger a state of ketosis, in which the body begins burning fat instead of glucose. To reach this state, the dieter must adopt a strict low-carb diet, focusing instead on fats and protein.
It sounds like a nonsense fad created to sell books and supplements, but it actually works. The reason this diet continues to gain traction is that it’s incredibly effective at triggering rapid and significant weight loss.
What’s the Truth About the Keto Diet?
Generally, the keto diet can be followed safely and without issue. In the short-term, it’s very effective, and because of the health risks associated with obesity, it may improve the dieter’s overall health and longevity.
The concern is that a high-fat diet will harm the body in the long-term, increasing the risk of diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease. Many followers of low-carb diets become over-reliant on saturated fats and see the keto diet as an excuse to eat as much red meat, cheese, butter, and cream as they want.
Not only does this increase the risk of chronic disease, but it may lead to vitamin deficiencies. Vegetables are still acceptable on the keto diet, especially if they grow above ground and are not filled with starch, but consumption may be lower than optimal.
If followed for a long time, or in the presence of preexisting health conditions, this diet may cause harm.
What Foods Are Consumed on the Keto Diet?
In simple terms, the keto diet is high-fat and low-carb. However, as noted above, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. While butter and other saturated fats are acceptable, you won’t do your heart any favors if you subsist entirely on these foods.
Instead, you should seek your sustenance from the following foods:
- Seafood and Fish: Rich in essential fatty acids and protein, as well as many key vitamins and minerals. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important in a senior’s diet and may provide numerous health benefits.
- Cheese: High in fat, with a decent amount of protein and high calcium content, cheese is perfectly suited for the keto diet.
- Olive Oil: An essential ingredient in Spanish, Italian, and Greek cuisine, this delicious oil offers many benefits and may help to improve heart health.
- Vegetables: The stereotypical view of the keto diet is that it is 100% veg-free, but most low-starch vegetables are okay in moderation. These vegetables provide many essential nutrients, as well as antioxidants and fiber. Cruciferous vegetables are some of the best, as they pack the most nutrients and antioxidants per gram of carbs.
- Meat: A staple on the keto diet, meat is packed with fat and protein and contains B vitamins and essential fatty acids.
- Greek Yogurt: High in protein and low in everything else, Greek yogurt is a tasty and healthy way to get your calories on a keto diet. You’ll have to skip the Greek honey and fruit toppings, but you can add a sprinkle of nuts and seeds.
- Cottage Cheese: With a similar nutritional profile to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese will provide you with a hearty dose of filling protein and is loaded with Vitamin B.
- Eggs: A tasty source of protein and fat, and one that is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. More importantly, eggs are very versatile and will help you get your daily carb-free calories.
- Seeds and Nuts: Not just a tasty yogurt topper, nuts and seeds are a great high-protein snack, with very few carbs. Not all nuts are the same, however. Pistachios, for instance, have 5x more carbs per ounce than Brazil nuts, and cashew nuts are even higher. Pecans, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts are some of the best low-carb options here.
- Avocados: A good source of fiber, healthy oil, vitamin E, and potassium. Avocados are also delicious, although you’ll have to get creative if you want to enjoy them on toast.
Is the Keto Diet Safe for Seniors?
There has been some research to suggest that a keto diet could aid in the treatment of cancer and may reduce the risk of it developing in the first place. This research is based on the idea that cancer thrives on glucose, and that depriving it will prevent growth. Animal studies have backed up these theories, showing that severe carb-restriction can slow down cancer growth.
Under guidance from a healthcare professional, it may also help in the treatment of diabetes by bringing it under control. Cancer and diabetes are two of the biggest killers in the United States and two of the most prevalent issues in seniors.
All signs are fairly positive, but that doesn’t mean the keto diet is good for you.
Many seniors have high blood pressure and may be at risk of developing heart disease. Constipation is also more common, and a low-carb, high-fat diet won’t help with either of these issues.
Additionally, followers report a general feeling of malaise that kicks in after several days. Known as the “keto flu,” it is the result of an electrolyte imbalance, and while it doesn’t last long, it may be more pronounced and difficult to manage in elderly followers.
A high-protein, high-fiber diet is generally advised for seniors, as it helps to maintain digestive regularity while promoting lean muscle growth. Saturated fats should be kept to a minimum, and they should eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible.
None of these recommendations are conducive to the keto diet. If you are overweight and believe that the keto diet can help you, speak with your doctor. They’ll go over the risks and advise you on the best course of action.