Low-Carb diets have been the go-to weight-loss regime for quite some time now. There are several low-carb diet manuals available in the market today and even more apps that supplement them. This, together with the media’s over-sensationalism of low-carb diets — such as Keto or South Beach — has given birth to a trigger-happy market that is constantly looking for the next fad diet. Most of us have a lot of questions about the difference between a low-carb and a ketogenic diet, and whether one of them is better than the other?
Both the low-carb and keto diets involve restricting carbohydrate-intake in ones daily routine. While both are similar to one another in some aspects, there are many distinct differences that cannot go ignored.
In light of recent debates on the “better diet”, we decided to explore the pros and cons of both to help you make an informed decision on which one to choose.
What is a Low-Carb Diet?
As the name suggests, a low-carb diet involves restricting dietary carbohydrates, mainly from processed sugar products, grains, and bread. In this diet, the carb intake (~75–150 g/day) is higher than that in a keto diet, but this does not offer the latter any advantage over the former, so long as one’s daily caloric intake from carbs is at 10–30 %.
A low-carb diet has several health benefits, including lowering blood glucose levels and improving heart health. It is also most commonly used as an effective weight-loss method. Below is a slightly more elaborate list of the pros and cons that one can expect from pursuing this weight-loss / fitness regime.
- Stable blood sugar and energy levels
- Great for people who cannot follow strict diets
- Can be sustained and made into a lifestyle
- Limits the intake of certain foods and fruits (e.g. mangoes)
- May affect the intake of micro-nutrients
- Over time, you may feel tired and weak
- Chance of constipation
What is a Keto Diet?
Ketogenic or keto diet is an extreme form of a low-carb diet. It involves the intake of only fats and very low to zero carbs on a daily basis. Keto has become a very popular fad diet in recent years; you can consume only 30–50 g of carbs/day, given that it comprises 5–10 % of your daily caloric intake from carbs in a day. A disproportionate percentage of your daily caloric consumption is met by fats, and the remaining by protein.
In contrast to a low-carb diet, a keto diet can have therapeutic effects on your body that improve and treat refractory epilepsy or, according to most recent research, impair the growth of certain types of cancers. And of course, a keto diet also helps in losing a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. Below is a list of the pros and cons that one can expect from pursuing this weight-loss / fitness regime.
- Has therapeutic benefits
- Enhances insulin sensitivity
- Reduces food cravings
- Helps in lowering cholesterol level
- Can cause nutrient deficiency
- During diet transition, one is likely to get the keto flu
- Following a very strict and unrealistic high fat diet can cause adherence problems; difficult to make it a part of one’s lifestyle
- Low consumption of fiber may lead to a disturbed gut
Which Diet is Better?
While you can decide which diet is best suited for you, many factors need to be considered. Although both diets focus on limiting the consumption of carbs, keto goes a bit far as it nearly eliminates any and all carbohydrates from our diet — this means no fruits, no vegetables, no nuts, no lentils, and so on. Since the keto diet increases one’s intake of fat, it is quite unsustainable and has been known to cause unwanted side effects. In contrast, a low-carb diet simply reduces the amount of carbs consumed and only eliminates those carbs that are known to cause difficulty in digestion / energy conversion. It is far more sustainable, is known to have fewer side-effects than the keto diet and is, therefore, likely a better option for most people.
That said, it is still vital to consult a dietitian or your healthcare provider before committing to any one of these diets to reduce the risk of health complications.