I am kindly requesting this be read with an open heart and mind. Talking about our dietary choices can be tough subject for many because well, our choices are personal. I write this with no judgement, but a simple goal to share my professional opinion and personal experience as a Nutritionist who is passionate about learning and helping others achieve optimal health..
I started in the health care field in 2002 where I felt totally overwhelmed with the amount of conditions I was seeing that were preventable. I made a decision then to play an active role in helping people prevent losing their quality of life, by teaching about healthy diets and lifestyles. I have been researching Nutrition for 15 years and spent my last 11 years in the Nutrition and cancer field. My Mission is to teach people how to protect themselves against disease.
As a wellness professional, I feel concerned about our national cancer rates, especially because we know our diet is one of the biggest influencers on our risk factors (browse any cancer organization website and they will list the known dietary risk factors including what a healthy cancer preventative/fighting diet looks like).
My goal in sharing this with you is to give you tools to make choices that will protect, not harm you.
So lets gently dive into this topic of Keto. As I stated in the beginning of my video (on my Facebook profile), I do use Ketogenic diets therapeutically with my clients in special circumstances. Directing a client through this type of diet requires me to do some calculations for the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats they consume. This is based on each clients personal: age, height, weight etc. These calculation are essential to achieve a true state of ketosis, with a limited and controlled amount of carbohydrates and protein and an emphasis on healthy fats in their diet.
Described above is what I would consider "True Keto" (which may or may not be different form what you believe Keto is.), and has shown to be an effective treatment for seizure disorders, and also aiding those with brain tumours. Being completely transparent I do not recommend Keto often in my practice, simply because of how challenging it is for my clients to follow, as well as it limits many of the foods I truly feel are protective (lots of fruits and vegetables) in order to maintain a true state of ketosis.
My research and experience know the value of following a keto diet for specific health conditions. My concerns are raised with it is followed inappropriately.
So to clarify my issue with what I am witnessing both in my practice and when on the road speaking and connecting with people, and as I expressed in my Facebook Video, is the variations of this program I am seeing. Like anything that catches on, the lines often become blurred, and unfortunately I am speaking with a lot of people who are consuming very high protein and high fat diets.
Before I go any further on Keto, I want to take this opportunity to briefly explain macronutrients and micronutrients, as they are the basis of human nutrition, and I will highlight why the above is worrisome to myself.
Macronutrients are essentially our body’s source of fuel and include, protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Our body needs carbohydrates to support healthy blood glucose levels (blood sugar) and if you eat the right (complex) carbohydrates you will have steady energy and stable blood sugar. If you eat the wrong carbohydrates (refined) you can end up with blood sugar highs and lows, which often results in chronic cravings, and fatty tissue gain.
A very important note: Elevated blood sugar causes our body to release insulin, which stores our excess blood sugar as fat in our body. Refined carbs are seriously bad guys and are even linked to diseases like cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions and diabetes.
Its not carbohydrates that are bad, it just depends on what kind you eat. Complex = Good; Refined = Bad.
Protein is also necessary in our diet because our bodies uses it to make hormones, components of our immune systems, and even our muscles. There are some concerns in the Nutrition world that much protein can be harmful, especially if your primary source of dietary protein is animal protein. Plant protein is a cleaner burning fuel as they are attached to complex carbohydrates and lots of nutrients. We cannot get all of the micronutrients we need for optimal health just from animal protein, we need plants for this!
Fats are also a crucial part of a healthy diet as they make up every cell in our body, and while many may already know that our brains are made of approximately 60% fat! Its important to also be aware that the fat in our diet actually impacts the fats in our brain!! AGAIN like carbohydrates and protein, I believe there is a difference in quality, and although with a good cut of meat you can find quality fats, I tend to lean towards recommending a source from the plant kingdom for fats as well. I am a big advocate of the Gerson program, which is a plant based treatment for cancer with incredible results!!
Dr. Gerson believed that cancer grew in a acidic, toxic environment (body), and if you changed the environment (body) to be more alkalized and clean, the body would heal itself. I have studied this treatment for many years and it is incredibly effective!! www.gerson.org. I have seen incredible results with people who have used Gerson protocols, and their clinic in Mexico is one of my top recommendations!
Why am I so fond of the plant kingdom for our Health and Nutrition?
Simply put, I have studied and worked in the health and Nutrition field for many years and I have witnessed many trends and theories. The one food trend that shows consistent positive benefits is a plant rich diet (I include my favourite books on the subject below). I'm talking about cancer prevention, protection from heart disease, diabetes, and even reversing autoimmune conditions!! No kidding I could read an article a day for the rest of my life and still not have enough time to read them all.
The research on the benefits of a plant strong diet, are simply irrefutable. Some will try to justify why they don't need it personally, but the sheer enormity of the science is ultimately what backs this up.
Over and over again scientific field has proven (and continues to prove), when we eat more plants (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, herbs, wholegrain) we statistically have lower risks for MANY diseases!
Image by Dr. Fuhrman
Micro-nutrition, are nutrients that bodies needs to function daily: vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients (plant compounds, many of which that act as antioxidants). Many of our required micronutrients are only available through the plant kingdom, and we know that the more of these we can get in their natural form, the more optimal our bodies function (basis of the Gerson program).
This is why people who follow a more plant strong lifestyle such a vegetarians and vegans (if done correctly) Statistically have much lower risks for some diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. They simply take in more nutrition and have all of the building blocks to support a healthy body, right down to the cellular level.
I chose to bite the bullet and share my opinion about the latest keto trend;. my position does not have to be yours. We are all entitled to make our own decisions. I am not here to convince you to give up your keto lifestyle. I am simply sharing my concerns about what I am seeing people doing, which typically is not the true keto at all, but a high protein, high fat, low carb diet. What I am afraid of, is that people may not fully understand the implication and long term effects of following this type of diet. I am worried this fad diet is increasing stress on the body and decreasing nutrient and and antioxidant intake.
Now I know if you are following the true keto you are about to lose your bananas because I just said high protein, low carb and we both know that is NOT what true Keto is. Hang on and stay with me just a little longer, while I address this high protein low carb, misconception first, after which I will share my thoughts on my concerns for the traditional keto follower. (which may or may not be a issue for you).
You may have seen the various comments on my Facebook video around keto not being a low carb, high protein diet. I did not clarify this well in my video but I will emphasize here: Keto is NOT low carb high protein. It is low carb, low to moderate protein (In cancer and seizure therapies I think you may be surprised how low it is) and high fat. Following a high animal protein diet offers some risks for liver and kidney function as these two organs are our filters and when we eat high animal protein we create more waste for them to filter. These two organs also require a daily dose nutrients to function optimally, and if our diets are restricted around fruits and veggies, which are largely carbohydrates, then you may also at risk of nutrient deficiencies, which could impair how your body operates.
Just ask any well educated Nutritionist what their top skill is, and it will be to determine what their clients bodies are lacking based on symptomatology. Our body will show signs of possible deficiencies, and there are many concerning conditions, such as Scurvy as an example (vitamin C deficiency) that is the diseased state of a chronic deficiency. Unfortunately, by the time one exhibits symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, you are likely indeed very, very deficient! (not sure what nutrient deficiencies look like, learn more here)
The big question is, if you follow the above low carb, high protein and fat, will you lose weight?
And my answer is Absoltuely!!! But it will likely be temporary. Watch my video below on why blood sugar and toxicity may prevent you from weight loss, where I briefly address restrictive programs. Following a low carb, high protein, high fat diet falls into the restrictive category in my books.
Now for you True Keto followers. If you are still with me, thank you!
If you are following the program to put your body into ketosis, you will have to significantly limit your carbohydrates which means you will have to limit natural carbohydrate containing foods which largely come form the plant kingdom (fruits and veggies in particular). If you are following Keto and sticking to your macro’s but focusing on nutrient dense plant foods like dark greens, you are definitely doing better than some, however when it comes to the plant world, variety is very important!
Many of the nutrients our body needs are water-soluble, which means they are not stored and thus have to be obtained form our diet on a daily basis. Restrictions on the variety and number of plants you eat can put you at higher risks for some nutrient deficiencies, as well as may potentially limit your protection against oxidative stress.
Our cells deal with about 10,000 hits a day of oxidative stress. If we have an anti-oxidant rich diet (only source I am aware of for antioxidants is the plant kingdom), then we can neutralize the free radical/oxidative stress.
If we don't manage the onslaught of oxidative stress over time, it causes damage. I definitely don't have time to explain the concerns of oxidative stress here, but if you are not 100% clear on what it is, and the risk it poses to your health, please take the time to look it up! Its believed to be the underlying cause of serious diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease (damaging arterial walls).
So for you true keto followers, who are following a high fat, low protein, low carb diet, my concern for you lands at not being in a position to eat enough foods from the plant kingdom and still maintain a state of ketosis.
Most cancer organizations will suggest that we need anywhere between 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for protection, which we both know will take you right out of ketosis!
It's because I truly because I care about helping people that I am putting myself out there to speak on the difference between true keto and the high protein, high fat fad, that I am seeing labeled as keto.
In closing, I want to thank everyone who reached out publicly and privately to thank me for addressing something no wants to talk about because its such a hot topic! I have never been one to shy away from sharing my position and I realize how personal our dietary choices can be, so I respectfully appreciate your personal position.
My intention was not to shame anyone, but to gently bring awareness to the consequences of this diet done wrong and to take up a position on the real potential health challenges the true keto follower may also face as well.
If you made it this far with me, I want to thank you for holding the space to allow me to share, and for all my keto loving friends, we can agree to disagree, I am ok with that.
If you are looking for a program that builds health from a nutritional standpoint, the safest and most proven in my opinion is a plant strong diet. Plants provide incredible amounts of micronutrients and healthy sources of macronutrients. BUT please don't let your personal research end here. What you choose to put into your body is 100% your decision. Based on science and experience I see phenomenal benefits to a plant strong diet, you my friend get to decide what is best for your body and long term health.
If you are investigating this for yourself here are my favourite resources you can check out!!
Forks Over Knives
Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
Whole, T. Colin Campbell PhD
The Power of Enzymes, Dr. Santillo
Eat to Live, Joel Fuhrman MD
Healing the Gerson Way, Charolette Gerson
The China Study, T. Colin Camplbell phD, Thomas M. Campbell MD
Just for fun
A few more articles you can continue your research with.
Hyperlinks from article
Alisa Herriman has been researching and teaching Nutrition since 2003. Leaving her job in the health care industry to share her passion for healthy living, Alisa travels all over Canada sharing her mission and teaching communities how to prevent and fight disease with Nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.