What's the Difference Between Keto and Low Carb Diets?
Low-carb and Keto diets get a lot of attention these days. Maybe some of your clients have approached you looking for answers about what the difference is.
The short answer is that all Keto diets are low-carb, but not all low-carb diets are Keto. For a low-carb diet to be called Keto, it needs to be low enough on carbs and high enough on the good kinds of fat.
The longer answer is that the distinction between the two can make a difference when helping your clients choose what dietary plan is right for them.
What is the Difference Between Low-Carb and Keto?
There are differing schools of thought on some of the specifics, but let’s start with the basics.
In general, when we talk about “low-carb” diets, we’re talking about using an approach for someone’s overall diet that limits carbohydrates as a whole and encourages eliminating low-quality carbs, such as starches, grains, sugars, and processed foods.
On the other hand, ketogenic diets, or “Keto” for short, put even stricter limitations on the types and amounts of carbohydrates someone eats. Doing so pushes the body toward ketosis, a metabolic state that produces ketones to provide fuel. Keto diets emphasize the intake of proteins and healthy fats, like those found in meat, fish, seafood, poultry, and many types of seeds and nuts.
Both Keto and low-carb diets can be good for weight loss. Experts often urge people to try a low-carb diet for general weight loss and better overall health. More restrictive Keto diets can spark quicker weight loss - though with some possible consequences that we’ll get to. Some doctors will prescribe a Keto diet as part of a patient’s treatment for epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, certain types of diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
What’s a Low-Carb Diet?
There’s a wide range of carb intake that qualifies as low-carb diets, between 50 grams and 150 grams per day.
People following low-carb diets tend to increase their intake of protein, healthy fats, and vegetables while staying away from grains, sugar-filled foods and beverages, bread, and pasta.
Diets on the higher end of that range will still allow someone to eat fruits, some starchy vegetables, and beans that don’t fit into the lower end of the low-carb diet range.
Low-carb diets can be easier to maintain over the long haul but are less likely to produce the quick results seen with a Keto diet.
What is a Keto Diet?
Keto diets call for fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day, sometimes as low as 20 grams. Most people will start to enter ketosis based on those levels, meaning the body will burn through the carbs available to it faster (and thus the amount of blood sugar), and then start breaking down fat to produce ketone energy molecules.
Most Keto diets call for 70% to 80% of a person’s daily calories to come from fats (the good kind), 15% to 30% to come from proteins, and up to 10% of calories to come from carbohydrates.
If your clients are interested in a keto diet, their plates will typically include a lot of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, leafy vegetables, and foods with naturally occurring fats, like butter and olive oil. But they’ll need to cut out pasta, bread, crackers, tortillas, cookies, cereal, cake, and potatoes (or other vegetables high in carbohydrates).
Why Consider Low-Carb or Keto Diets?
There are a lot of factors that influence whether a low-carb or Keto diet can be a good choice for a particular client. Both dietary types require commitment, forcing clients to give up foods they probably enjoy. The weight-loss benefits of either route can lead to health improvements for many and can be well worth the price of walking past the bread aisle at the store.
Speak with your clients about their fitness and health goals to see if either diet is a good fit for their lifestyle.
Low-carb diets are often the preferred choice for a lot of people because it has a less restrictive nature, allowing them to stick to it easier. Keto diets can get results for people looking to cut weight quickly, but they need to be aware of the so-called “keto-flu” that many people experience after a couple of weeks of adhering to the strict dietary restrictions. The potential flu-like symptoms usually go away after a few days, and tricks like drinking more water and adding more dietary salt can help curb those symptoms as well.
Low-Carb and Keto FAQs
So which is better, a low-carb diet or a keto diet?
It really depends on the individual and their ability to stay focused. Those looking for a more gradual, sustainable weight loss plan will likely prefer a simple low-carb diet. For people interested in a more dramatic, faster weight loss plan, a Keto diet will probably provide more efficient results so long as the restrictions are adhered to.
Are there any health concerns to look out for with a Keto diet?
Because they include a lot of high fat foods, clients should talk to their doctors to make sure they do not have a medical condition that could be exacerbated by a Keto diet. For example, individuals who have kidney damage, at risk for heart disease, pregnant or nursing women, and anyone who has undergone gallbladder removal are those that should stay away from attempting a Keto diet.
Is a low-carb diet healthy?
Most studies agree that low-carb diets are healthy, with benefits including not just weight loss, but a reduction in cravings, improved cardiovascular fitness, and lower blood sugar and insulin levels.