Low-Carb vs. Keto Dieting: How They Compare…

low carb versus keto

Many health enthusiasts fail to differentiate a low-carb diet from a keto diet, thinking that the latter mainly focuses on foods that are low in carbohydrates.

Little did they know that the goal of a keto diet is to keep the body under ketosis. This is a metabolic state where the body burns fat for energy.

To understand more, we will take a look at the differences and similarities between these two types of diet.

The Difference Between Low-Carb and Keto Diet Plans

Low-Carb Diets Overview

Typically, everyone is encouraged to consume around 45% to 65% of total calories from carbs.

For those who are on a low-carbohydrate diet, this calorie intake should be reduced, and should only be around 25% to 40% of total calories from net carbs.

Generally, a low-carbohydrate diet focuses on proteins and non-starchy vegetables.

This means that there should be a limit on the intake of grains, legumes, fruits, bread, sweets, pasta, and starchy veggies.

Sometimes, a low-carb diet is referred to as a keto diet but not all low-carbohydrate foods can promote ketosis.

This is the reason why low-carb and keto diets are two different diet types.

Furthermore, always remember that a low carbohydrate lifestyle means cutting down carbohydrate intake.

This does not mean that you should not be eating carbs. 

By the dietary guidelines, following this diet only means consuming fewer carbohydrates than usual.

Carbohydrates are rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, and you would not want to deprive your body of these nutrients found in some food groups.

Low-Carb Diet Types

There are different low-carbohydrate types. Some of these are Atkins, Paleo, and South beach.

Although these diet types come with similarities, they also have differences. To understand more, take a look at the information below.

  • Atkins – This diet type focuses on how much weight you want to lose. This diet type also makes the body use stored fat as a fuel source. Some foods that can be consumed under this Atkins diet include chicken, meat, and eggs. Simple starches such as potatoes can also be consumed but in a moderate amount.
  • Paleo – This diet type means avoiding refined sugars, dairy, legumes, and grains. Instead, people can consume meat, fish, poultry, and fresh fruits.
  • South beach – This low-carbohydrate diet means choosing non-starchy veggies, eggs, full-fat dairy, whole grains, nuts, and proteins like chicken and turkey.

One example of a low-carbohydrate diet includes the Mediterranean diet. This diet moderately follows the recommended carb intake, calorie intake, and fat intake.

The Basics of Low-Carb Diet

If you want to follow a very low-carb diet, you might want to learn the basics of this diet type.

Also, your food choices will depend on how healthy you are, how many times you exercise, and how much weight you want to lose.

Take a look at the basics of a low-carbohydrate diet which will be discussed n the next sections.

What to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet

When you are on this diet type, you should eat low-carb foods such as meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, fat dairy products, healthy oils and fats, and non-gluten grains.

In general, the foods that you can add to your low-carb eating plan include the following:

  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Lean meat such as beef, chicken, turkey, and tuna
  • Cheese
  • Cruciferous veggies
  • Dairy products
  • Dark chocolate
  • Healthy fats and oils
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, flaxseeds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds

For a better low-carb meal plan, you can consult a dietitian or nutritionist. 

What to Avoid on a Low-Carb Diet

Now that we know the foods we can consider while practicing a very low-carb diet, we might also want to check out the foods to avoid.

If you are on a low-carbohydrate diet, you should say goodbye to sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, wheat, seed oils, trans fatty acids, low-fat products, and highly processed foods.

To elaborate further, take a look at the information below:

  • Sugar – Sugary foods are rich in net carbs. Some examples of these foods are soft drinks, fruit beverages, agave, candies, and ice cream. Generally, these foods contain added sugars that can negatively affect your blood sugar levels.
  • Refined grains – Some of these foods are wheat, rice, barley, rye, bread, cereal, and pasta.
  • Trans fats – These include hydrogenated oil and partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Diet and low-fat products – These are dairy products that contain added sugar. Although they contain fewer fats, they might not be suitable for those who are on a low-carbohydrate diet.
  • Highly processed foods – Generally, these foods are those made in factories. They are rich in preservatives, added sugars, and fillers which may increase your carb intake.

To make sure that the foods you consume are low-carbohydrate, always check the label of the products you buy.

Keto Diet Overview

A keto diet means consuming low-carb foods and taking a high-fat diet. Some keto dieters practice this diet type to manage epilepsy and lose weight. 

Additionally, this diet type involves getting 70% of daily calories from fat, 20% from protein, and 10% from carbohydrates.

Generally, ketosis can be achieved by limiting the carbohydrate intake to about 50 grams of carbs per day and 1500 total calories per day. Under ketosis, body fat is being used as a source of energy.

Also, there are different types of keto diets. These are:

  • Modified keto – This is one of the keto and high-fat diets that focus on very low-carb foods. Generally, this diet type mimics the effect of fasting. It triggers nutritional ketosis where the body produces ketones. These ketones will then be used as energy sources.
  • Dirty keto – Also known as lazy keto, this is one of the keto diet styles that allow the use of processed and packaged foods. Generally, this is for those people who want to achieve ketosis without preparing many keto recipes.
  • Clean keto – This is one of the keto diet types that focuses on whole, nutrient-dense foods.
  • Strict keto – Generally, a strict keto diet means consuming low-carb and foods high in fats. But, all of these macros, such as daily carb intake and fat intake should be strictly monitored. 

Once your body can produce enough ketone bodies, some signs will be observed. Some of the signs of ketosis include fruity breath, reduced appetite, weight loss, and brain fogs. 

Usually, the appearance of these signs is called keto flu which may appear two to seven days after you start any of these ketogenic diets.

The Basics of a Keto Diet

Whether it be a standard low-carb eating or a strict one, those who are on a ketogenic lifestyle should follow a keto eating plan. Some of the foods you can consider while on keto include:

  • Avocados
  • Cocoa butter
  • Steak
  • Chicken thighs
  • Pork roast
  • Whole-dairy foods
  • Nut butter
  • Leafy greens
  • Olive oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts, almonds, and cashews
  • Seeds
  • Olives
  • Tahini

The foods to avoid while on keto are just like those listed in the low-carbohydrate diet type.

It is worth mentioning that those who are on keto may experience constipation due to low fiber intake. Also, this diet type limits the intake of fruits which can make it difficult for some dieters to stick to this diet type for longer periods.

Similarities of Low-Carb Diet and Keto Diet

Low-carb and keto diets are never the same.

Many people may interchange these which is why it is important to differentiate them. We have already discussed how these two differ, so, we will now proceed with their similarities.

Health Benefits

Aside from triggering the body’s fat-burning effects, following a low-carb or keto diet plan can provide many benefits.

Some of the benefits you can get from very low-carb diets and keto diets will be discussed in this section.

1) Weight loss

Both low-carb and keto diets can promote weight loss.

They provide this beneficial effect for patients with obesity by helping the individuals curb their appetites.

2) Cardiovascular support from healthy fats

Low-carb diets and keto diets can also support cardiovascular health. They work by reducing bad cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels.

Another way how these diets support cardiovascular health is by lowering blood pressure.

Eventually, restricting carbs can reduce the risk of stroke. In a randomized controlled trial from the USA, following a ketogenic diet or other low-carb diets can effectively help you live longer.

3) Maintained blood sugar levels and insulin levels

When you are following low-carb diets or keto diets, you limit your sugar intake. Eventually, this can help manage proper glucose sugar levels.

In a study from the USA, low-carbohydrate diets and keto diets can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance.

This means that these diet types are potential therapeutic resources for patients with diabetes.

4) Reduced risk of metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is associated with heart disease and diabetes.

Some signs of this health condition include abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure and sugar levels, high triglycerides, and high bad cholesterol levels.

Fortunately, low-carb and keto diets can prevent this syndrome from occurring.

5) Brain health support

A ketogenic diet is effective for managing and preventing epilepsy, and so do low-carb diets.

According to a study in California, there is a potential for both keto and low-carb diets to manage and prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

Health Risks

Of course, there are also health risks when following these diet types. Some of these are the following:

  • High risk of cancer due to high protein intake
  • Reduced folic supplementation can cause neural tube defects in a fetus
  • High risk of cardiovascular disease if protein intake is too much
  • Nutrient deficiency 
  • Constipation
  • Kidney and liver problems also due to high protein intake

Always remember that both keto and low-carbohydrate diets may provide beneficial effects, and at the same time, health risks. Thus, if you know that your body can handle any of these diet types, you can follow them.

On the other hand, if you are unsure which of these would fit your goals best, seek help from a healthcare provider to avoid other health complications.

Final Thoughts

Indeed, keto and low-carbohydrate diets are effective techniques to help you lose weight.

Although beneficial, those who follow these diet types should understand that there are also some risks associated.

Thus, monitoring carb intake, fat intake, calorie intake, and protein intake is highly advised. Not all carbs are bad for health but when abused, these can cause health harm.

Furthermore, low-fat diets are the opposite of keto and low-carbohydrate diets. The last two focus on consuming foods high in fats but low in carbs.

Overall, the goal of these diet types is the promotion of weight loss.

Together with discipline, regular exercise, and a proper diet plan, weight loss is just around the corner.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can low-carbohydrate and keto promote weight loss?

These two diet types can promote weight loss by curbing your appetite. Also, when you consume fewer carbs, your body uses your body fat as your source of energy. Eventually, this can lead to weight loss and improved overall health.

Which is better between a low-carbohydrate diet and a keto diet?

Choosing which is better between these depends on the preference of the users. The low-carbohydrate one is less strict than keto. 

What are the low-carbohydrate fruits suitable for keto?

Some of the fruits you can consider while on keto include avocados, tomatoes, lemons, and strawberries.