The Keto Diet: Cracking the Code

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It’s one of the most talked about weight loss crazes of 2018.

From celebrities to fitness trainers, many are buzzing about the Keto Diet.

On social media including Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, millions of avid followers are talking about the diet and sharing recipes using “#Keto.”

So what is the Keto Diet? Who might it help?  And, what are the ups and downs?

To answer these questions and more, Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey teamed up with Weis Markets Registered Dietitians Kathyrn Long and Beth Stark.

The pair joined Ryan at Weis Markets store in Danville.

They offered a lot of information ranging from the diet's history to how it works.

Facts and Stats about "Cracking the Keto Diet"
(Courtesy of Weis Markets registered dietitians)

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 50% of Americans said they have tried to lose weight over the last 12 months.

Enter the hottest diet trend these days: the keto diet.

The ketogenic (keto) diet is a very low carbohydrate diet that was introduced by physicians in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy. For two decades, the diet was widely used to reduce episodes of seizures in children until better medications became available to treat the condition.

Over the past 15 years, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the keto diet as a quick way to lose weight. This low carb diet is similar to the once popular Atkin’s diet of the 1990s.

Here’s how the keto diet works:

  • We get energy from the food that we eat; more specifically carbohydrates. Once consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is the main source of energy for the body and the brain.
  • Glucose is a type of sugar that is either used for energy right away or stored so it can be used later.
  • The typical American consumes ~50% of their calories from carbs.
  • The keto diet focuses on consuming mostly fat and protein, with only a very small fraction, ~5%, of calories coming from carbs.
  • When carbs are severely restricted, sugar stores will be depleted. The body will then break down fat into ketones, which will provide energy for the body and brain.
  • This process put the body into a state of ketosis, which leads to weight loss.

Where do carbohydrates come from?

The following foods are sources of carbohydrates and are strictly limited or eliminated on the keto diet.

  • Many fruits and vegetables
  • Pasta, rice, quinoa and other grains
  • Bread, bagels, buns, pita bread, English muffins, tortillas
  • Muffins, cookies, cakes, pastries
  • Crackers, pretzels, popcorn, chips
  • Cereal, granola, oatmeal
  • Beans, legumes
  • Pizza, burritos, lasagna
  • Milk, yogurt, ice cream, pudding
  • Candy, soda, sweet tea, juice

Keto Approved Foods

The keto diet focuses mainly on fat, with a moderate amount of protein and very little carbohydrates.  These foods are staples of the keto diet:

  • Seafood
  • Low-carb vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini)
  • Cheese
  • Avocado
  • Meat and Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Oil
  • Plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Plain nuts and seeds
  • Berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
  • Butter and Cream

Potential Benefits and Risks

This diet plan focuses on foods that are sources of protein and fat, which will help to keep you feeling full which may help you eat less overall. However, the keto diet is not a license to eat as much bacon and cheese as you want. It is even more critical to make good choices while on this diet because following a strict keto diet could result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. And while the diet does eliminate many processed and ‘junk’ foods, it also limits many fruits, vegetables, and other important fiber-rich carbohydrate foods, which provide many health benefits.

Upon suddenly cutting carbs out the diet, many people experience the "keto flu." Symptoms include headaches, brain fog, dizziness, constipation, and weakness. Typically, there is a two to four week transition period for your body to adjust to using fat for fuel.

While on the keto diet you may see increased energy, improved cholesterol and blood pressure, etc. This is likely a result of the weight loss and not the diet itself. Successful long-term weight loss can be achieved in more sustainable ways.

It is also important to note that maintaining a keto diet is challenging, especially when traveling, dining out or attending social gatherings. The diet must be followed to a ‘T’ for it to be effective.

U.S. News & World Report ranked the keto diet at the very bottom of their list of the best and worst diets of 2018. A panel of 25 nationally recognized experts, including Registered Dietitians, Professors, and Clinicians, looked at 40 diets and evaluated their nutritional completeness, ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, how easy it is to follow, its safety and potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.  While keto ranked the worst, the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet ranked the best. Keep reading for more info on these diets.

According to a Harvard review, the keto diet has been shown to have short-term benefits in some people including weight loss and improvements in total cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. However, these effects after one year when compared with the effects of conventional weight loss diets are not significantly different.

Everyone is different and their bodies react differently to various eating plans. The keto diet may work for some individuals, but it’s not a long-term diet for everyone.

Keto vs Paleo

It’s easy to get keto and paleo confused since many of the same foods are encouraged in both diets. The keto diet is specifically crafted as a very low carbohydrate diet to get the body into a state of ketosis. The paleo diet focuses on bringing eating back to the basics and eating like our hunter-gatherer ancestors with less emphasis on where the calories are coming from: carbs, fat or protein. The paleo diet includes lean meats, seafood, seasonal veggies, some nuts and fruit and eliminates grains, dairy, processed foods, and certain oils. 

Takeaways Messages for Keto Diet

There is a lack of scientific research when it comes to the long-term effects of the keto diet. When it comes to healthy eating and weight loss, creating sustainable, lifelong changes will result in the best outcomes. Most importantly, think about how this restrictive eating plan will fit into your lifestyle, and if you are willing to give up what may be some of your favorite foods. It’s important to make time for yourself to prepare meals at home and get regular exercise. Strive for progress, not perfection.

Due to the highly restrictive nature of the keto diet, it is not safe for certain populations, including pregnant or postpartum women, children or growing teenagers, or individuals with certain diseases. If you are considering this diet, it is important that you speak with your primary care physician first and work with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to make sure you are getting all of the essential nutrients your body needs to thrive.

DASH and Mediterranean Diet Info

The DASH and Mediterranean Diet consistently rank as two of the best eating plans when it comes to being nutritious, easy to follow and effective for weight loss and protection against diabetes and heart disease.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s a lifelong approach to eating that’s designed to prevent and treat high blood pressure, also called hypertension. It also falls in line with dietary recommendations to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  DASH encourages a variety of nutrient-rich foods while reducing the amount of sodium eaten. This eating plan includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds.  Red meat and sweets are eaten in small amounts.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. This diet emphasizes eating primarily plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive and canola oil, fish and poultry. It also encourages getting plenty of exercise, enjoying red wine in moderation and focusing on meals with family and friends.

If you have questions about any of this information or other general nutrition questions, contact the Weis Markets Registered Dietitians at


  • Mark Sharpe

    Weis Markets Registered Dietitians, Do you think that super markets from weis’s, Would say Keto the Best…..that would mean that 75+ of there market is full of every thing full of Carbs and Garbage…… There Bosses would Have a fit. and saying that after a year you would not learn anything Healthy, this is a clear axe job by those dietitians……….

  • someguy2018

    “The DASH and Mediterranean Diet consistently rank as two of the best eating plans” The 2 diet plans that vegans have been pushing for 100 years. Look at how well they have worked. Look at how much weight you have never lost on these terrible diets. Doctors have 6 hours of nutrition training. Nutritionists must follow the Mediterranean Diet or they will loose there license. All i am saying is give Keto, NSNG, Palio or Atkins a try. Once you see the pounds fall off, you will not go back to sugars and grains.

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