In the previous decade, the keto diet rose to immense popularity because of its role in reducing weight within a short span. Several studies have identified the importance of the keto diet in managing weight. Obese patients lost around 30 pounds of their weight after being on this diet for a good three months. The study continued for quite some time, and by the time it ended, around 88% of the patients had shed 10% of their original weight. That’s quite a number.
Now, with the increasing demand for keto everywhere, it might be tempting for women with weight management issues to switch to this diet plan. But you cannot do that overnight, right? There are pros and cons. I decided to write this article keeping in mind those women who have the urge to switch to the keto diet but are still in two minds.
The other day, I was going through a magazine that had the names of celebrities who switched to a keto diet. My favorite, Megan Fox, was also on the list. She had resorted to keto to shed her baby weight. Why just celebrities? There have been many of my friends group as well who have been quite keen on going on a keto diet. So, is keto on your cards? Are you planning to shift to keto? If yes, then you’ll benefit from this article. Here, I will discuss what the keto diet is and also about its effectiveness in menopause.
What is a Keto Diet?
Keto might seem a jargon. Right? If I were to explain it in simple terms, it is low-carb and high-fat diet with moderate protein. When you eat less carbs but more fat, your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates to acquire energy. So a keto diet has:
- Fat: 50 -60%
- Protein: 30-35%
- Carbohydrates: 5-10%
What Foods to Eat in a Keto Diet?
The dietary patterns vary from one person to the other. Some may give more preference to fruits and vegetables. While others may prioritize saturated fat, red meat, and nuts. A friend of mine who was on a keto regime had a very colorful diet of fruits and veggies. She didn’t wish to consider anything else. Let’s check out the preferable ingredients you should add to your platter while following a keto diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies play a significant role in a keto diet. Let’s look at some of the fruits and veggies you can have.
- Honeydew Melon
- Bell Pepper
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts have a high-fat content but are low in carbs, and protein, which makes them a part of a keto diet.
- Macadamia Nut
- Brazil Nut
- Chia Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Pine Nut
- Sunflower Seeds
Meats and Seafood
Salmon, oysters, lobsters, and crabs are low in carbohydrates.
- Ground Beef
Here are some other foods that you can add to your keto diet.
- Avocado Oil
- Whole Eggs
- Cacao Nibs
- Unrefined Coconut Oil
- Greek Yogurt
Keto Diet and Menopause: How Good is it?
The intimate relationship between menopause and weight gain isn’t unknown. So, when you are in your mid-40s and have started gaining those extra pounds, you may be considering keto. Won’t you? The impact of a keto diet on menopause is still a matter of debate. Yet, some studies have pointed out the benefits of shifting to a keto diet during menopause. The effect is mostly felt on weight gain. However, there are other probable advantages as well. Let’s read on to know more.
May Hinder Weight Gain
Weight gain in menopause isn’t an uncommon thing. It occurs because of reduced estrogen levels, alongside other factors. There isn’t any research that directly mentions the effectiveness of the keto diet in maintaining a healthy weight in menopause. Yet some studies have assessed the benefits of a low-carb diet. In 2017, a study was conducted on postmenopausal women between 49 and 81 years of age.
Researchers examined the impact of four distinct diets on weight. These included a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet, a Mediterranean-styled diet, and a USDA-approved diet. The result deduced that those who consumed a diet with lower carbohydrates had a decreased risk of gaining weight post the menopause phase. The study also suggested that a diet with low fat promoted weight gain than preventing the same.
However, the study estimates the low-carb limit in a diet to be 163 grams. In a ketogenic diet, the carb intake should be lower than 50 grams. It isn’t advisable for menopausal women, though. Research suggests that an extremely low-carb diet could lead to hormonal imbalance.
So, when women reduce the carbohydrate intake in their food, it will help. But, if the carbs in their food are extremely low, it can have a negative impact and may result in weight gain instead of weight loss.
Might Help to Control Cravings
Women often experience increased hunger pangs before menopause (perimenopause) and during menopause. I would wonder why I kept feeling hungry so often in my mid-40s, even after a wholesome meal. My doctor gave me the answer. All of it had got to do with the fluctuating hormone levels. While there’s a significant reduction in estrogen levels, the levels of ghrelin, or hunger hormone, are seen to rise. You may see an increase in appetite throughout the menopausal transition phase.
Studies have pointed out the positive role of the keto diet in controlling hunger cravings. However, the study isn’t specific to menopausal women. Rather, the 95 participants involved in the study were a combination of males and females. The results deduced the positive association of keto in controlling hunger pangs.
Another study conducted in 2013 on 50 obese people assessed that following a ketogenic diet for a certain duration helped in weight loss. It, in turn, helped control hunger by lowering the ghrelin hormone levels.
However, no direct connection between menopause and the keto diet in reducing hunger has been established. More research is needed in this aspect.
Might Have a Positive Impact on Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a condition where the body loses its ability to respond to insulin properly. The outcome is the same as increased glucose levels, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. A keto diet is said to help balance insulin levels. One study has highlighted that lessening your carb intake decreases the insulin requirement. It, in turn, helps to manage insulin sensitivity.
Another study mentions those who followed a 12-week ketogenic diet experienced an improvement in their insulin levels. The study was more specific to women with endometrial and ovarian cancer.
Whether a keto diet has the same effect on the insulin levels of postmenopausal women remains unresearched, though.
Helps to Prevent Brain Fog
Brain fog is a condition where one lacks mental clarity and becomes forgetful or confused. Most women in their menopausal phase experience incidences of brain fog quite often due to the decreasing estrogen levels. Forgetfulness had become a regular feature with me until I resorted to yoga and relaxation techniques to feel better.
Though not specific to menopausal women, it is essential to mention that a low-carb diet has helped to improve brain function, lessening brain fog episodes. So, it can be easily said that eating moderately fewer carbs could help menopausal women improve mental clarity.
Note: More research is needed to establish a positive connection between keto and menopause.
The Side Effects and Disadvantages of a Keto Diet in Menopause
Any diet plan comes with its set of disadvantages. The keto diet isn’t an exception in this regard. Let us look at some of the drawbacks and side effects of the keto diet. It isn’t specific to menopause, though. Yet, women in menopause should consider these as risk factors and try following the keto diet with caution.
1. Keto Flu
When your diet comprises low carbs, your body could enter into a withdrawal phase. It leads to keto flu, the term used to explain a combination of symptoms one experiences when following a keto diet for quite some time. These include headaches, weakness, muscle soreness, sleep problems, constipation, dizziness, dehydration, etc. The write-up about celebrities switching to a keto diet even mentioned that some of them complained of this keto flu after being on it for four to five days. However, most of them sailed through the phase and felt better after their system was adjusted to the diet.
Irrespective of whether a woman is in her menopause, she will be affected by keto flu if she has a weak metabolism or can’t balance the switch between fats and carbs well. Moreover, if a menopausal woman has keto flu, her symptoms would worsen further, making things more miserable.
2. Nutrient and Mineral Imbalance
It is one of the major drawbacks of a keto diet. In an attempt to cut carbs, many will end up eliminating essential fruits and vegetables from their diet. It will lead to a deficiency in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. Thus, when on a keto diet, it is important to maintain fiber and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. In that way, you’ll stay healthy.
3. Risk of Kidney Stones
A keto diet puts one at risk of kidney stones in 7.9% of adults and 5.8% of kids, as highlighted in studies. So, if you are planning to shift to a keto diet to manage your menopausal symptoms, you need to give it a second thought.
4. Risk of Heart Disease
A study found that individuals on a keto diet for around three weeks experienced an increase in their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by around 39%. Postmenopausal women are already at risk of heart disease. Following a keto diet will make them even more susceptible.
5. Takes Toll on Bone Health
The low levels of estrogen in menopause greatly affect a woman’s bone health, putting them at risk of osteoporosis alongside other conditions. And following a keto diet might aggravate their condition further.
6. Weight Gain
It may seem odd, but following a keto diet could even lead to weight gain, especially if you aren’t careful about the calories you consume. If you overdo things and add too many calories to your diet, you could put on that extra pound instead of shedding some. A diet high in fat always has an increased calorie content than a diet high in proteins and carbohydrates. So, you got to be careful.
Tips to Follow the Keto Diet During Menopause
True that the keto diet has some cons associated with it. Yet, if you follow some of the basic rules, you’ll be at a lesser risk of health problems.
Let’s check out some of the important things you can do when following a keto diet:
- Cut out your carbohydrate intake slowly and not in one go. For example, bringing down your carb intake to 50 grams all at once may not suit your body. Start with avoiding sweetened beverages at first. You may begin with ones low in carbs, like boiled eggs or an avocado salad for snacks.
- When including fats in your diet, keep healthy fats on your list.
- Make sure you include exercise in your daily regime, like walking, jogging, swimming, yoga, etc. In this way, you’ll be able to keep your weight in check and maintain your muscle mass. I wasn’t on keto. However, I always mention the role of exercise in helping me feel better in the menopause phase when my hormones were a little harsh on my body.
- Combining intermittent fasting with keto will yield better results. Follow a low-carb and high-fat diet, and at the same time, fast for certain intervals during the day. However, consult a doctor first if you are on any medication or have an underlying issue.
If you think that the keto diet will help you reverse menopause, you are mistaken, You cannot reverse menopause by following a keto diet. It’s a natural phenomenon and will happen when it has to happen. However, by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you could ease the symptoms.
The Mediterranean-styled diet with fruits and veggies as its main ingredients is another preferred choice for menopause. A plant-based diet is another option that helps alleviate menopause symptoms when eaten correctly.
Most medical practitioners suggest three months as the limit to be on a keto diet in a go. Following keto for three months and being out of it for a month would help. Go by what the doctors say. Never try to implement things on your own. It could do you more harm than good.
Healthy eating helps manage the symptoms of menopause well. Before starting a keto diet, it is always important to have a word with the doctor, who will advise you on what to eat and what not to. When I was transitioning into menopause, I remember consulting the doctor for the slightest changes I made in my daily living. When you keep the proper balance between carbs and fats and exercise well, then keto will not hurt your health.