Is Keto 2.0 Any Healthier Than The Standard Keto Diet?

December 10, 2019

I’m not a fan of the keto diet, especially as a registered dietitian specializing in sports and performance nutrition and plant-based diets. In my opinion, the traditional keto plan is too limited in terms of carbs and fiber, and the emphasis on animal-based foods, such as red meat, has been linked to increased inflammation and health risks. And these are just some of my concerns.

Now, a new version of keto, called keto 2.0, aims to address some of these limitations. It allows for more carbohydrates, emphasizes healthier plant-based fats, and may therefore be more sustainable in the long run and better for your health (note: the jury is out on the latter, as the diet hasn’t been studied yet). This is my opinion as a nutritionist and my bottom line advice on how to determine the best diet for you, not just for weight loss, but for the overall health of your mind, body, and spirit.

What is keto 2.0?
When keto started to take off, I hoped it would just be a temporary fad. But it’s turned into quite the diet mastermind. On a traditional keto diet, 75-90% of calories come from fat, about 5% from carbohydrates, and the remaining percentage comes from protein. (On a 1600 calorie diet, only 80 calories, or 20 grams, come from carbohydrates).

These strict macros force people to give up fruits, whole grains, and healthy, high-carb vegetables, and load up on products that are free of carbs and fiber, like cheese and pepperoni. And even with the weight loss, I’ve seen this eating pattern lead to a spike in “bad” LDL cholesterol, in addition to other unpleasant side effects, including constipation, hemorrhoids, and irritability.

In keto 2.0, the recommended macros shift to 50% fat, 20% carbohydrates and 30% protein. For the identical 1600-calorie diet, it’s now 320 from carbohydrates, or 80 grams of worth. While still restricting overall, this modification makes room for more plant-based foods, such as fresh fruit, oats, and lentils.

As for fats, one of the reasons keto works so well for weight loss (healthiness aside) is because fats are so satiating. At 50%, keto 2.0 is still high enough fat to promote satiety and slow the return of hunger, which helps prevent overeating.

Just as important: keto 2.0 emphasizes leaner sources of protein, such as using fish instead of steak. Perhaps most importantly, a higher allowance of plant-based foods and fiber better supports the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut associated with anti-inflammation, immunity, and positive mood.

So, is keto 2.0 healthy?
“Healthy” may be a bit of an exaggeration, but keto 2.0 is better and closer to the traditional Mediterranean diet than the standard keto diet, long considered the gold standard for weight loss and health. Nonetheless, I’m not convinced that this revamped keto plan is the ideal diet.

For one thing, the macros of keto 2.0 will be difficult to achieve for those who opt for an entirely plant-based diet. It’s important to note that a primarily plant-based diet has been linked to lower BMI (body mass index), reduced risk of chronic disease, and increased longevity, in addition to being better for the planet.

This connects to the bigger picture, which is that healthy, sustainable weight loss isn’t about your exact macro ratios, it’s more about the quality and balance of what you’re eating. For example, while I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss, in my more than two decades of counseling clients, I have seen that long-term weight management and better health are often achieved by eliminating processed foods, eating lots of non-starchy vegetables and plant-based fats, choosing lean protein sources, and eating whole food carbohydrates that are in line with your body’s energy needs.

Notice I mentioned carbohydrates in the last paragraph – that’s because many people assume that carbohydrates are inherently fattening, which is inaccurate. Carbohydrates become a weight management and health issue when they are highly processed (with nutrients and fiber removed and combined with artificial additives and/or sugars) and when consumed in amounts that exceed your body’s ability to burn them – even healthy carbohydrates. However, not eating carbs at all, or severely limiting them, is not the solution. Balance is the key.

Should you try the keto 2.0 diet?
Overall, keto 2.0 is closer to the standard keto balanced diet – it checks off some key nutritional boxes like more fiber, the addition of plant-based fats, and leaner proteins. However, it still may not be 100% right for you.

Ideally, we need to move away from these all or nothing extreme diets and focus on balance and food quality. For long-term weight loss and optimal health, it’s also important to consider how any particular diet makes you feel. Evaluate your energy, mental focus, sleep, digestive health, exercise quality and recovery, immune function, mood, and sense of well-being. If you are eating in a way that is detrimental to your mental and physical health or negatively impacting your quality of life, it won’t support your health even if you are losing weight; and it may not last.

However, if you want to give keto 2.0 a try, you should go for it. Just remember, it’s always important to listen to your body and your intuition. And it’s okay to make adjustments to your eating plan that feel better, even if they don’t align with the latest trends.