Many people decide to try a new diet or way of eating, especially going into a new year or phase of life.
Their reasons are all different. Sometimes they diet to feel more energetic, to lose weight, or to just … well, try a new thing! While no one wants to choose a diet that’s time consuming, keeping on track with a new diet can be challenging (and we’ve provided a few tips on sticking to a diet here ;) ).
With so many options out there, it can be hard to choose which diet is right for you, and two popular types are a low carb and keto diets. They’re similar in many ways, yet vary slightly, and knowing the difference between them is tricky!
Consider this your guidebook for understanding the low carb vs keto diet.
Low Carb Diet
Perhaps you’ve read about low carb diets in magazines or on social media. But what is it?
Carbohydrates (also called carbs) are a type of macronutrient found in certain foods and drinks. Sugars, starches and fiber are all considered carbohydrates, and a low carbohydrate diet involves restricting your daily calorie intake. This mainly includes foods high in carbohydrate and calorie content such as bread and sugary foods.
We’re all about a cheat sheet, so here’s a quick look at what your daily calorie breakdown is on a low carb diet:
In order to go about a low carb in the healthiest way, try to replace some carbs with nutrient-rich foods. It’s important to eat plenty of protein intake like lean meats, fish, eggs, healthy fats, and vegetables as well.
Pros of a Low Carb Diet
So now that you know what low carb diets are, you’re probably wondering what the potential benefits are! Let us fill you in. :)
Promotes weight loss: Since carbohydrates are high in calories, reducing your carb intake also reduces the amount of calories you consume, which can help promote weight loss.
Eliminates high carb foods low in nutrient density: Many carb-laden foods can be tasty but aren’t always the most nutrient-rich when compared to wholesome or plant-based alternatives! A low carb diet eliminates those options.
Long term sustainable diet: Once you get the hang of which foods are considered low carb, this way of eating is relatively simple to maintain over time.
Not as intense as keto: Low carb diets are not quite as extreme as keto … and that’s okay! If you’re craving more flexibility, this diet could be a better fit.
Reduces sugar cravings: Sugar withdrawal has been known to trigger cravings, and research has even found that eating sugar triggers similar areas of the brain as addictive drugs. But if you resist sugar cravings, eventually they subside and you’re left with little to no need for sugar.
Reduces the risk of health problems: A low carb diet can result in better balance of blood sugar levels and improved insulin resistance.
Exceeds fiber requirements: On keto, many fruits and vegetables are off limits due to the carb amount. While carb heavy foods aren’t encouraged on a low carb, a wider range of fruits and vegetables are approved for consumption, which leads to increased fiber levels.
Easier to follow: Overall, a low carb diets are more straightforward with less rules, and therefore is easier to remember and follow. Perfect for those who have a tough time remembering do’s and don'ts!
Cons of a Low Carb Diet
While there are many pros of eating based on a low carb diet, there are a few negative aspects to consider as well.
Weakness and constipation at first: When starting a low carb diet, many people experience brain fog, tiredness, and feeling sick. However, most report that feeling going away after a few days into their diet.
Difficult to maintain: Low carb diets is less strict than other diets, and while low carb is a great solution for weight loss (if approved by your doctor), it isn’t always the most sustainable long term diet option for everyone. That’s because our bodies rely largely on carbs for energy, so depleting the body of carbs over a long period of time can be detrimental to energy levels for some.
Food options become limited: With so many free recipes available online these days, there seem to be many food options for every type of diet. However, any diet can get tiresome over time, and this goes for a low carb diet, too, where it can become easy to get in a rut.
Fruit intake is limited: As we mentioned a bit earlier, there are several exceptions of fruits you can eat while on low carb diets. However, many higher carb fruits are restricted, which can be a bummer for the fruit lovers out there!
Difficult to obtain all nutrient needs: Getting all of your body’s required nutrients can be a tricky task when food groups are eliminated!
Micronutrient intake may be affected: The main micronutrients you should try to squeeze into your daily diet are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Those who go on low carb diets may be challenged with getting enough of these nutrients and have to try harder to get the recommended daily intake of each essential nutrient.
Decrease high interval exercise performance: For those who love intense, heart pumping workouts, low carb might not be the best choice. High intensity workouts like Crossfit or HIIT require carbohydrates as fuel. If there are little to no carbs in your system, your performance may plateau or be limited.
Now we know all about the low carb diet–hurray! Now up next: the keto diet.
At Proper Good, we’re big fans of the keto diet as a stellar way to eat. We’ve discussed everything from sugar on keto, amount of water on keto, and much, much more! Consider our blog your one stop shop for getting many of your keto questions answered, and our recipe page has several yummy, keto-friendly recipes to try, too!
In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet reduces the body’s overall carbohydrate intake and consumes high-fat content in its place. When comparing the keto diet to a more general low carb diet, keto is usually the more restrictive of the two.
Some people choose to follow the keto diet for its many therapeutic properties, while others do keto for weight loss.
Keto introduces restrictions in your diet in an effort to reach a natural state of ketosis. This is when the fats in the body’s liver produce ketones as the main source of energy instead of carbohydrates.
The ketogenic diets involve a high-fat diet and very low carbohydrate content. Here’s an daily calorie percentage breakdown of keto diet:
While there are many health benefits of doing keto, it’s not for everyone and generally isn't recommended to follow long term.
Pros of the Keto Diet
Just like the low carb diet, the keto diet has its own share of positives!
Therapeutic benefits: The keto diet is sometimes used in the treatment of epilepsy and certain types of cancers.
Faster weight loss: The drastic carb intake reduction on keto leads to increased fat burn (ketogenesis), which can result in rapid weight loss. However, it’s important to note that the available research on the ketogenic diet for weight loss is still limited. Most of the studies so far have had a small number of participants, were short-term (12 weeks or less), and did not include control groups. A ketogenic diet has been shown to provide short-term benefits in some people, such as weight loss and improvements in total cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
Improves insulin sensitivity: According to Virta Health, insulin resistance improves quickly for most people when they begin a ketogenic diet. The degree to which this improved insulin sensitivity remains long-term is dependent upon the individual.
Increases metabolic flexibility: The keto diet is a great way to promote metabolic flexibility, which simply means your body can use whatever fuel is available, whether that be carbs or healthy fats. For those who struggle with getting “hangry” when you don’t have your mid-afternoon snack, metabolic flexibility is something to look into and the keto diet can be a way to achieve this!
Reduces appetite: During the first few days of the keto diet, some people experience lower feelings of hunger. This is because your body is using up the last of its glucose and glycogen levels, and once they’ve decreased, the body’s hunger levels reverse.
Improves cholesterol and triglyceride levels: A 2017 review in Nutrients, an academic journal, found that the keto diet improved HDL, which are “good” cholesterol levels, and helped reverse the course of type 2 diabetes in patients by controlling blood sugar levels.
Cons of the Keto Diet
While there are many positive effects of the keto diet, there are a few downsides, too!
Low fiber intake may cause constipation: While the keto diet may help you burn fat, there can also be side effects. Many of these side effects are related to your gastrointestinal (GI) tract reacting to the absence of carbs.
Extreme lifestyle change: Yes, the keto diet is hard! And while some people love how difficult the keto diet is, some don’t, and that’s okay. The extreme shift in diet is not for everyone.
Risk of keto flu: When adjusting to the ketogenic diet, many people experience the “keto flu,” which includes headaches, fatigue, irritability, and lack of motivation. These symptoms often subside after a few days but are a bit of a nuisance!
Less sustainable: While the low carb diet can be kept and maintained for many years, keto diets are not meant to be done permanently. 28 days is typically the recommended amount of time to follow the keto diet before reintroducing more carb-dense foods back into your diet.
Limits fruit intake: For any fruit fans out there who rely on your “apple a day to keep the doctor away,” keto might be too heartbreaking for you! Many fruits are too high in carbs and therefore restricted on the keto diet.
Low Carb or Keto: Which is Best For You?
So now you have the facts and are probably asking, “the low carb vs keto diet … which one should I choose?”
Well, when it comes to weight loss and improving your overall health, low carb diets are generally recommended by experts for a few reasons:
- Low carb diets offer more food variety than a keto diet, making it more sustainable and easy to follow in the long run. Plus, for anyone who HATES math, low carb diets don't require as much macro counting.
- A low carb diet is better for those who want a straightforward solution to lose weight and improve their overall health–keto tends to be too extreme for some people.
- The keto diet causes unwanted side effects (keto breath, keto flu, fatigue), and it may also weaken the immune system.
- Since keto diets involve a high-fat consumption, it may increase the risk of heart diseases due to increased triglyceride levels.
- Carbohydrate intake restriction is not recommended when regular high interval training/exercise is practiced, so those who prefer those types of workouts may not get the type of fuel they need from the keto diet.
However, as we mentioned, the keto diet is a great shorter-term diet solution and an awesome way to click “reset” on your eating habits.
Overall, consider your daily routine–the best diet for you to follow is the one you can stick to in the long run and enjoy!
You know what type of foods are great for BOTH low carb and keto? Proper Good meals of course! With delicious soups and chilis that are ready-to-eat in just 90 seconds, Proper Good meals are gluten-free, dairy-free, and often, low carb and keto-friendly, too. Phew! Meal time is solved. :)
To learn more about keto diet variations, check out these articles: