The ketogenic diet (or “keto,” for short) is a very low-carb diet that has been used by doctors since the 1920s to help their patients heal from diseases including epilepsy, high cholesterol, and, of course, obesity. In fact, research shows that the keto diet is one of the most effective dietary approaches for encouraging weight loss, in addition to preventing neurological disorders and normalizing blood sugar levels, thus offering protection against conditions like diabetes.
Unlike most diets that focus on calorie restriction as a means of weight loss, the goal of the ketogenic diet is to cut off the body’s supply of glucose from carbohydrates.
While low-carb diets like the Atkins Diet have been popular for many years, not everyone is able to achieve the results they’re looking for. As a result, some who have tried a moderate low-carb diet may find that transitioning to a the stricter keto diet can finally help them to reverse symptoms they’ve been dealing with for years, including stubborn weight loss or fatigue.
But there is certainly no “one size fits all” dietary strategy that will work well for every person.
To help you decide which type of low carb diet might be the best fit for you, here are five key differences between the keto diet and most other low-carb diets:
1. Only Keto Puts You into Ketosis
Low carb diets and the ketogenic diet have similar positive affects on the body’s ability to burn stored body fat. However, only the keto diet will put you into a true state of “ketosis.” Ketosis is the metabolic state in which ketone bodies are used for fuel, rather than glucose—which is typically provided by high-sugar and high-carb foods, and is the body’s preferred source of energy. When the body relies on fat for energy, this fat comes from both the diet (from foods like oil, butter or fatty meats) and the body’s stored fat reserves.
In order to transition into ketosis and remain there, a standard keto diet includes about 30-50 grams of net carbohydrates per day—significantly less than the amount most adults are used to. As a comparison, most low carb diets include about 70-150 grams of net carbs daily (which refers to the amount of carbs left when grams of fiber is subtracted from total grams).
2. Keto Diets are Higher in Fat
While on the keto diet up to 80 percent of daily calories come from fat, and only about 5 percent from carbs. Keto-approved foods that are eaten in the highest quantities to provide the bulk of calories include: coconut or olive oil, MCT oil, butter or lard, grass-fed beef, eggs, avocado and sometimes full-fat dairy. While low carb diets also tend to include a good deal of healthy fats, fat typically only provides about 30-50 percent of total calories on those diets. The fat that is missing in most low carb diets, compared to the keto diet, is instead replaced with more protein and carbs.
3. Low Carb Diets Include More Protein
Still today, decades after it’s debut, one of the most well-known low carb diets is the Atkins Diet. Atkins encourages eating lots of protein in order to minimize hunger, replace carbs, and to increase the amount of energy the body uses to digest foods (i.e. the amount of calories burned). But the keto diet takes a different approach to protein: It’s limited because a small amount of amino acids can be converted to glucose once consumed.
On the keto diet protein accounts for only about 10-15 percent of daily calories, in contrast to about 30-40 percent on most low carb diets, including Atkins. High protein foods (especially animal proteins) like meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and chicken are staples on low carb diets, but they’re eaten in only small-to-moderate amounts on the keto diet. For example, most Atkins plans include three daily servings of protein (4–6 oz per serving) and three servings of healthy fat (about 1 tablespoon of oil per serving). In order to eat enough calories on the keto diet and remain in ketosis it’s essential to eat much more fat—usually at least 2 servings per meal—but to limit protein to 1-2 small servings per day.
4. The Keto Diet is Often Combined with Fasting
While in ketosis people usually experience drastic reductions in their appetite and cravings. Ketones can alter levels of “hunger hormones” including ghrelin, which makes it easier to go longer periods without feeling hungry. For this reason many people choose to combine the benefits of intermittent fasting with those of the ketogenic diet, which together has been shown to improve weight control, mental performance, and more.
5. Low Carb Diets are More “Moderate” and Flexible
If consuming only 30-50 grams of carbs per day (equivalent to two medium baked sweet potatoes, two slices of bread, or 1 ¼ cup of cooked quinoa) seems too overwhelming and restrictive, then a traditional low carb diet might be a better approach for you. Even if you stick to eating about 150 grams of net carbs daily—especially if these carbs come from healthy, whole foods like veggies and some fruit—then you’re still likely to see big health improvements, even while remaining more flexible.
Whether the keto diet or a less strict low carb diet appeals to you more, remember that both have their advantages. Focusing on eating more healthy protein and fat can help you cut down on sugar, refined grains, and processed foods. Considering most adults who eat a standard western diet get about half of their calories from carbs each day (around 250-350 grams!), even a moderately low carb diet is still moving in the right direction.
The New Potato and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or ailment. All content on The New Potato (even when supplied by a medical professional) is intended for educational and conversational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any new diet, exercise regime, or wellness routine.