Low Carb vs Keto vs Low Fat [Everything you need to know]

  • Date: September 13, 2021
  • Time to read: 9 min.

The keto (ketogenic) diet has been rapidly gaining on popularity over the last few years. By nature the keto diet is low carb, but a keto diet is more restrictive on the number of carbs you can eat than a low carb diet. A low fat diet focuses only on the fat you eat and not the quality of the produce that you are eating. So, whether a low fat, low carb or a keto diet suits you best, let’s find out.

The Ketogenic Low Carb Diet vs Low Fat Diet Plan

There has been more and more hype over the years about the keto diet. It is no surprise that it is one of the most popular diets with celebrities like Hallie Berry, Megan Fox, Mick Jagger, and Adriana Lima being keen proponents of keto.

However, for us, the celebrity endorsement is the least impressive thing about the diet, read on to find out more.

Let’s get into the real difference between a keto diet and a low fat diet plan.

While many may swear about reducing fat intake, studies show low carb plans are actually more effective for both weight loss, reducing high cholesterol, and a number of other health benefits.

If you are new to the keto diet, check out our Keto Beginners Guide, you may also want to read all about ketosis and understanding your macros to get a good foundation in what the keto diet is.

But, if you don’t have time to read all of those articles, we’ll give you a brief recap here.

What is the Keto Diet

The keto diet is actually a way of eating and not a diet at all. It advocates dividing your macronutrients into 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbs. Your 5% of carbs (carbohydrates), should be under 20 grams of carbs per day.

You may hear the keto diet referred to as the ‘High-Fat Diet’ or ‘LCHF Diet’ (low-carb, high-fat)

Firstly, let’s start with the basics, over the years, our bodies have become accustomed to burning glucose (sugar), as its primary form of energy.

You will probably be aware of this in your daily diet (if not already on keto), when you eat something high in sugar, such as a chocolate bar or a sugary drink, you get that energy ‘buzz’, followed by the ‘crash’ at the other side when you’re body has burned through all of that sugar.

The keto diet changes this balance. Carbs are only more complex sugars. By limiting your carb intake (i.e your sugar intake), your body is forced to look for alternative sources of fuel to keep your body going.

If you are eating a diet higher in fat, your body will see this as your new fuel source. Your body will start burning fat for energy instead of glucose.

The keto diet is a great diet for weight loss, but really, this is only the tip of the iceberg, the keto diet has no end of health benefits.

One thing to point out is that, with the keto diet, comes its own language, if we lose you at any time, apologies, and these articles on Keto Terms and Keto Abbreviations, should be able to assist you.

Keto Meal Plan Example

If you are new to the keto diet, an example meal plan is as follows, as you will see, all of the options are largely unprocessed and naturally high in fat and low in carbohydrates.

A sample menu plan when you’re on a ketogenic diet looks like this:

Breakfast: bacon or sausage, eggs, and coffee with cream and stevia

Snack: 1 ounce of cheese with cucumbers or celery

Lunch: Tuna salad or egg salad wrapped in lettuce or lettuce-wrapped burger

Snack: ½ avocado or 10 olives or flaxseed crackers with salsa

Dinner: Cajun chicken with a side of vegetables cooked in butter or steak with vegetables in butter or salad with olive oil and vinegar or grilled salmon with a side of spiral cut zucchini pasta with sauce

Snacks between meals can also include string cheese, a cup of chicken broth, 6 almonds or peanuts, turkey lettuce wraps, hard-boiled eggs, smaller portions of leftover meals, 1 tablespoon of cream, and much more.

There are three different ‘takes’ on how to do the keto diet, Lazy, Dirty and Strict. Strict keto is also known as ‘clean keto’, this can be slightly mor restrictive in the types of food that you can eat, i.e NO processed foods at all.

What is a Low Carb Diet?

We’ve been through what the keto diet is, so now, let’s look at what a low carb diet is.

A low-carb diet is a diet that restricts the number of carbohydrates consumed, such as those found in sugary foods, and carb-heavy foods such as pasta and bread. A low carb diet is high in protein, high in fat, and healthy vegetables.

The difference between the keto diet and low carb diet can be seen in the table below.

Macros Keto DietLow Carb Diet
Carbsunder 20 grams per day50-150 grams per day
ProteinModerate (25% daily macros)High 

Where the low carb diet differs is that it is a lot less restrictive in the number of carbs, and therefore the types of foods you can eat. 

On a keto diet, you cannot eat foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, and various pulses and grains. However, a low carb diet will allow you to eat whole grain products, vegetables, and fruits.

You are still restricted to not eating heavily processed foods.

 Keto DietLow Carb Diet
FruitLimited, low sugarAll 
VegetablesLeafy greensAll 
LegumesNoLentils, black beans etc
GrainsNoWholegrain rice, oats quinoa

Keto vs Low Carb Health Benefits

With a low carb diet, your body will not get the health benefits of your body being in the metabolic state of ketosis.

These benefits include, but are not exclusive to;

  • Mental clarity
  • Reverse or reduce the impact some medical conditions, including neurological disorders such as;
    • epilepsy
    • dementia
    • ALS
    • traumatic brain injury
    • acne
    • cancers
    • metabolic disorders
    • cardiovascular disease

However, some of the shared benefits of the keto and low carbs diet are;

  • Reduced apetite
  • Weight loss
  • Reduce belly fat (visceral fat)
  • Increased level of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL)
  • Reduce the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL)
  • Regulated blood sugar
  • Can lower blood pressure
  • Improved sleep

As you can see, both keto and low carb are amazing options for more than just weight loss, they both have a dramatic impact on your overall health.

Is a Keto Diet or Low Carb Diet Healthy?

Both a keto diet and a low carb diet can be deemed a ‘healthy diet’, the both only encourage the consumption of unprocessed foods and focus on natural foods.

Both keto and low carb can also be adapted to suit a vegan diet or a paleo diet.

Furthermore, both diets have been attributed to combating mild health conditions as well as chronic disease.

So, we have established the similarities and differences between low carb and keto diets, but now, let’s look at how these differ from a traditional diet pushed by the big diet companies such as Slimming World, Weight Watcher, and Slim Fast etc.

Low Fat Vs Keto

Low fat diets, such as though advocated by the big diet companies are very different in their ethos. A low fat diet is only concerned with exactly that; that the foods you are eating are low in fat.

They do not concern themselves with the number of grams of carbohydrates that you consume, the number of grams of protein you eat, or which is most important, the quality of what you are eating.

If you look at any food that is labeled up as being, ‘low fat’, they are normally full of sugars and other processed ingredients.

There are a number of side effects of eating a low fat diet such as;

  • Feeling hungry constantly
  • Being physically hard to sustain
  • Psychologically difficult to maintain
  • Not nourishing enough for your body

The with the keto diet none of the above are issues.

Feeling Satisfied and Avoiding Hunger

The keto diet typically is much more about choices instead of deprivation. This is because you are able to consume a wide variety of ‘real’ and delicious food with lots of satisfying meats, seafood, dairy, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats (such as butter and olive oil).

This means that you do not have to miss out on any of your favorite tasty meals, nor do you feel guilty if you are ‘indulging’ in fatty cut of meat, such as pork belly or lamb.

What is more is that a keto diet is easier to follow than a low fat diet because the keto diet will make you feel fuller for longer (due to all of the fats that you are eating), so you won’t feel the constant hunger that you can feel on a low fat diet and, therefore, feel the need to eat.

This is because reducing carbs helps regulate blood sugar, so you do not end up with blood sugar spikes that cause hunger and cravings as we have discussed above.

Long Term Sustainability

This has always been an issue to me in the past when I have tried low fat diets, they are not sustainable in any way.

One of the most important factors in the actual success of any way of eating will be its sustainability over the long term, i.e the ability for the way of eating to fit within your lifestyle.

If a diet plan (or way of eating) does not fit within your lifestyle, it will not be sustainable and you will not be able to stick with it, therefore, you will not feel the health benefits or enjoy the weight loss benefits.

Keto will win over low fat every day. The simple reason? When individuals are satisfied and not white-knuckling their way through the day, waiting for their next meal, the probability of long-term success increases exponentially increased.

This is one of the main reasons that low carb or keto diet is a lifestyle and not just a temporary ‘fad’ diet.

The Psychology of Keto

As we have discussed above, low fat diets do not work, as you are always feeling hungry, also, you are made to feel guilty for eating ‘tasty’, full fat, foods. You are depriving your body of what it wants.

Living in this constant state of ‘guilt’ makes a low fat diet, very difficult to sustain.

In comparison, on a keto diet you are eating satisfying, full fat, full taste foods, you never have to feel like you are ‘going without’.

Psychologically, this means that you are not fighting a battle with your own willpower, you o not have to feel the internal struggle that you do with a low fat diet.

What this ultimately means is that you are able to be kinder to yourself, which is great for anybody’s mental health.

When you learn to love yourself, you can focus your energy on other elements of your life, your family, your fitness, your work, which will mean you will be more effective in other areas of your life, this is really one of the most amazing takeaways from the keto diet.

What The Studies Show

Studies have shown that a low fat diet is generally only a temporary diet.

They acknowledge that you cannot sustain them because there are too many temptations; the keto diet does not restrict you in the same way,  so it is easier to maintain on a long-term basis.

That means the weight you lose stays lost and is the reason that low carb is a lifestyle and not just another fad diet.

More Studies Support Low Carb Diets Over Low Fat

Since 2002, more than 20 randomized controlled trials have been published that demonstrate the fact that low carb diets are more effective for weight loss.

This cannot be said about many of the fad diets.

Several studies, including Volek et al, Foster GD, et al, Keogh et al, Westman et al, and Gardner et al have proven that low carb eating leads to greater weight loss, and especially visceral fat (belly fat).

Also, it improves HDL cholesterol, insulin levels, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure as compared to low fat plans.

The above studies and others support the fact that low carb wins over low fat in weight loss and reducing risks for heart disease and reversing the impact of diabetes.

As always, nothing in this article, of this site is intended as medical advice, you should always seek medical advice before starting any diet plan.

Final Thoughts: Low Carb vs Keto vs Low Fat

If short term (i.e a couple of weeks) weight loss and you’re not looking for any health benefits, a low fat diet may be for you as you will be able to sustain this. If you are looking for a healthier lifestyle overall, but do not want the health benefits of ketosis, low carb may be for you. If you are looking at a new way of living that will improve your overall health, not only weight loss, keto is for you.

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