Are you thinking about starting keto, but everyone is constantly repeating how unhealthy it is? Or maybe you’re not even sure about all the details yourself – which is fine; nobody knows all this stuff just off the top of their heads. Check out 6 common myths about keto and why they don’t hold water:
1. Myth: It’s about eating only meat
Nope, that’s the carnivore/zero-carb diet. Keto is about eating very low-carb foods, not about eating only meat. On keto, most people try to stay under 20 grams of net carbs (as a rough guideline – some people can go higher; other people stay lower). But low-carb plant foods like avocados, nuts, spices, and low-carb vegetables are encouraged. Just look at all the plant foods you could eat in a day without going over 20 grams of net carbs:
|Example 1||Example 2||Example 3|
|2 cups of raw spinach1 avocado
3 of those little green onions that go on salads raw
1 cup of cabbage
1 cup of mushrooms
Total: 11.6 grams of net carbs
|2 cups of cauliflower (measured raw; cook it or not)5 spears of asparagus
1 ounce of raw almonds
Total: 10.3 grams of net carbs
|2 cups raw kale1 ounce walnuts
1 red pepper
2 tablespoons of pesto
Total: 12 grams of net carbs
These example numbers still leave you some wiggle room in the carb count for dairy foods, mis-measuring, sauces/dressings, and miscellaneous other things.
People on keto do avoid high-carb plant foods (potatoes, grains, beans, most fruits), but that’s because of the carbs, not because they’re plants. Plant foods are fine! Low-carb plant foods are keto-friendly and good for you! Nobody needs to avoid all plant foods to lose weight.
2. Myth: You lose weight but it comes right back o
Here’s the thing: if you go on any diet, and lose weight down to your goal weight, and then go off the diet and start eating the way you were eating before, you’ll be lucky to only gain back the weight you lost. Most likely, you’ll regain a few extra pounds on top of all the old weight. (This is why yo-yo dieting is so bad for your health). That has nothing to do with keto specifically; it’s just a general truth about weight loss. If the junk food comes back on to your plate, the weight will come back on to your body.
6 months of dieting can’t magically armor the human body against regaining weight (in fact, it basically does the opposite). That’s why it’s so important to establish long-term sustainable eating habits during weight loss. The reason why people criticize keto specifically and claim that the “weight comes right back on” is that they assume it’s not sustainable and that nobody could possibly do it long-term. But actually, keto works pretty well in the long term, because you don’t have to be hungry or spend all your time compulsively weighing tiny portions of granola.
On the other hand, it’s possible to transition off keto without regaining weight, as long as you switch to some other way of eating that supports your new, lower weight (i.e., not just going back to however you were eating before). Plenty of people move from keto to other variations of Paleo or low-carb diets and happily maintain like that – keto is a pretty sustainable long-term diet, but you’re not stuck with it once you’ve started, if you don’t want to be.
3. Myth: You might lose weight, but all that fat and cholesterol is so bad for you!
Even the Dietary Guidelines will now inform you that dietary cholesterol doesn’t really affect blood cholesterol in healthy people, and that restricting dietary cholesterol to prevent heart disease doesn’t make sense. Read more about it here if you’re interested – just because it’s been repeated a million times doesn’t make it true. For the majority of people, the body’s own cholesterol regulation system can handle wide fluctuations in dietary cholesterol without a problem, and there’s no evidence in favor of sharply restricting dietary cholesterol.
There’s also no evidence that fat makes you fat or that all fat is bad for you. Eating the wrong kind of fat can cause health problems, but “the wrong kind of fat” here involves industrially processed seed oils, not egg yolks and beef.
4. Myth: It’s basically Paleo but even weirder
Keto isn’t the same as Paleo, although there is a lot of overlap. To vastly oversimplify, keto is about how many carbs you eat; Paleo is about the nutritional quality of foods you eat.
- Keto is about getting into ketosis, which basically means restricting carbs and eating a lot of fat-rich foods. It’s almost entirely a numbers game, mostly about counting net carbs (that’s carbs, but without counting fiber).
- Paleo is about eating foods that are evolutionarily appropriate to the human species, in order to prevent inflammation, heal gut issues, and avoid “lifestyle diseases” like type 2 diabetes. Most versions of Paleo exclude grains, sugar, seed oils, legumes, and soy. Some exclude dairy. Most include high-carb foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, and honey that would be completely excluded on keto.
You can eat a Paleo version of keto that combines the two diets, just in case you want a side order of better health with your weight loss. But eating keto doesn’t require you to eat Paleo as well, and eating Paleo doesn’t require you to eat keto. They’re two different concepts.
5. Myth: You’re only allowed to eat once a day
This is another optional-but-not-required part of keto.
Eating once a day (sometimes abbreviated OMAD for One Meal A Day) is a kind of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting may have benefits for weight loss and longevity generally (although that latter has been mostly studied in animals, not in humans). You can combine intermittent fasting with keto, and a lot of people do, but it’s not necessary. You can do keto and eat every other day, or one meal a day, or three, or six, or ten meals a day. It doesn’t really matter – you can have as many meals as you want on keto; just stay under your carb count.
6. Myth: You have to eat tons of protein
Not really. Many people do eat more protein on keto, because they eat more meat and eggs and other protein-rich foods, but that’s an individual preference, not some inherent requirement of the diet. The classic ketogenic diet is actually pretty low in protein. If you prefer to eat a low- or moderate-protein diet, that’s just fine on keto – eat more avocados and nuts and heavy cream, and go easy on the meat.