Is Keto Healthy for Women?
Fat has been making a comeback for weight loss with diets like Keto gaining a lot of traction. I want to be clear, just because you lose weight on a specific 'diet' does not make it healthy or beneficial for you. Often a shift to a diet like keto or paleo just means a trend away from processed goods which are generally good and will result in weight loss initially. However, health is not just based on external appearance or the number on the scale.
Where did this start?
The removal of fats and the addition of sugar began in the 1980s with a growing concern about heart disease, and saturated fat was seen as a major contributor to the disease. As a result, food manufacturers began to remove fat from their products to make them appear healthier, soon everything was slapped with "low fat!" and manufacturers started adding sugar to make up for the lost flavor and texture.
The addition of super-refined and processed sugars has contributed to a rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems. Now, the focus is on adding fats back into the diet, with the popular keto diet.
The Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has been around for over a century. The diet was originally developed in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy, as it was found to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in some patients. It was never intended to be used in mainstream or for weight loss. The diet works by forcing the body into a state of ketosis, in which it burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.
While the keto diet can be effective for weight loss and reducing the risk of some health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, it also comes with some health risks. One of the main concerns is that high saturated fat intake can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, as it can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries. Additionally, the keto diet can cause nutrient deficiencies if not followed correctly, as it limits the intake of many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
Keto Diet & Gut Health
Gut health is linked to so many other functions in the body that it cannot be overlooked when considering the healthiness of a diet. The keto diet can alter the function and composition of the gut microbiome in a variety of ways.
First, the keto diet can lead to a reduction in the diversity of gut bacteria. This is because many of the foods that are restricted in the diet, such as fruits, whole grains, and legumes, are sources of fiber and other nutrients that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. In contrast, the high fat intake on the keto diet can encourage the growth of less beneficial bacteria. A number of studies show the negative impact that high saturated fat diets have on gut health.
Second, the keto diet can cause changes in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are produced by gut bacteria and are important for maintaining gut health. A diet high in fiber, such as a plant-based diet, can lead to increased SCFA production, while a diet high in fat can lead to decreased production. The irony of a keto diet for weight loss is that short-chain fatty acids actually can reduce weight gain.
Third, the keto diet can affect the gut barrier, which is the protective layer that separates the gut microbiome from the rest of the body. The gut barrier is important for preventing harmful bacteria and toxins from entering the bloodstream. Studies have found that a high-fat diet can weaken the gut barrier, making it more permeable and increasing the risk of inflammation and other health problems.
A Higher Fat Plant-Based Diet
Plant-based fats have a lot of dietary benefits, especially for women. Why? Well, plant-based fats provide essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. These fatty acids are crucial for brain development, hormone production, and cell function. Second, plant-based fats are lower in saturated and trans fats. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease and other health issues. Finally, many plant-based fats are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, which can help support overall health and well-being. Incorporating sources of plant-based fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil, into a balanced diet can provide a range of health benefits for women.
Plant-based fats can help with metabolism in several ways. First, they can increase satiety and prevent overeating, which can lead to weight gain and a slower metabolism. This is because plant-based fats take longer to digest, leading to a longer-lasting feeling of fullness.
Second, plant-based fats can help regulate insulin levels, which can affect metabolism. A diet high in saturated fats, such as those found in animal products, can cause insulin resistance, leading to a slower metabolism and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, plant-based fats, such as those found in nuts and seeds, have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and improve metabolism.
Finally, some plant-based fats, such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil, have been shown to boost metabolism by increasing energy expenditure and promoting fat burning.
Plant-Based Fats & Gut Health
Compared to animal-based fats, plant-based fats can have a positive impact on gut health, particularly when they are part of a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other nutrient-dense foods. Some plant-based fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil, contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are beneficial for gut health. These fats have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the risk of inflammation in the gut, which can contribute to a range of digestive disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Additionally, many plant-based fats are high in fiber, which is essential for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Fiber acts as a prebiotic, meaning that it feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut and helps them to thrive. This can lead to a more diverse and robust gut microbiome, which has been linked to a range of health benefits, including a stronger immune system, improved mood, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
My favorite plant-based fats?
Nuts - almonds, walnuts, peanut butter & almond butter, pecans, peanuts, pistachios
Seeds - pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax meal, sesame
Avocado & avocado oil
Coconut & coconut oil
Dark Chocolate :)
Tofu & Tempeh
What does this mean for you?
If you've been with me for a while, you know my philosophy is all about balance, so if animal products are a part of your diet, and you can't imagine removing them together, try incorporating more plant-based fats and foods as often as you can. Adding in more plant-based fats, especially for women, has been shown to help with gut microbiome, inflammation, weight loss, and overall health.