Low Carb vs Keto, which diet is right for you?

Date Posted:29 June 2021 


Dietary trends come and go, but low carbohydrate diets have been shown time and time again to be favoured for weight loss. The latest diet gaining buzz is “Keto”, a very low carbohydrate diet promising rapid results.

What are Carbohydrates?     -     Carbohydrates are the naturally occurring sugar, starches and fibre found within food. Our bodies turn carbohydrates into energy (glucose). Carbohydrates are one of the basic food groups, along with protein and fat, that help us to maintain health. They are important for brain function, mood and memory, as well as providing a quick energy source for muscles.

Carbohydrates can be further classified as Simple, or Complex     -     Simple carbohydrates are found in processed and refined foods like sodas, syrup and lollies. They lack vitamins, minerals and fibre and eating them in excess can lead to weight gain, particularly around the waist.

Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, legumes, potato, oats, cereal grains, fruits and vegetables. They are nutrient dense, full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, and offer a slow release source of energy for the body, helping us to have regular bowel movements and promote a healthy heart. Carbohydrates in general are often blamed for weight gain, but a diet rich in complex carbohydrates including fruits, vegetables and wholegrain can help you to feel fuller for longer and reduce body weight!

What is Low Carb?     -     A standard Australian diet contains over 300g of carbohydrate. Some people choose to lower their carbohydrate intake as a way of maintaining their weight. Any carbohydrate reduction under 150g is considered a “low carb” eating plan and the sweet spot of carbohydrate intake is highly personalised. On a low carb diet, protein intake may be high.

150g of carbohydrate may include oats, berries and a banana for breakfast, a sandwich and salad for lunch, a piece of fruit as a snack and potato or sweet potato plus carrots and legumes with dinner.

What is Keto?     -      A stricter form of a low carbohydrate diet is called “Keto”, where carbohydrates are reduced to 50g and under. Though highly fashionable in 2020, the Keto diet is not new. In fact, its been used successfully for managing drug resistant epilepsy for almost 100 years!

In place of carbohydrate, dietary fat is increased to provide the energy to get through the day, and protein intake is moderate. Increasing fat and reducing carbohydrates means the body has to start using energy from fat in the form of “Ketone bodies” instead of glucose.  This is known as dietary ketosis, and needs to be monitored often through blood or urine to ensure you are burning fat as energy. The Keto diet often results in rapid weight loss, but it is not without sacrifice.

To get an idea of what 50g of carbohydrate may look like on your plate, one medium banana has approximately 25g of carbohydrates, and one small potato has approximately 30g of carbohydrates! With these 2 items alone, you’d be over your daily carbohydrate allowance on a Keto diet.

Those on a Keto diet may choose lower carbohydrate fruits and vegetables such as berries, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, capsicum, zucchini, cauliflower, cabbage, celery and broccoli to provide them with fibre, vitamins and minerals from fresh produce. Protein and fat in the form of meats, sausages, processed meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds and oils make up a large portion of the keto diet.

Which is the superior diet? 

  1. The difference in a low carb and keto diet is carbohydrate intake.
  2. Maintaining a keto diet is very difficult with a 50g or lower allowance of carbohydrates, and due to this, it is often used as a short term strategy to reduce body weight quickly.
  3. A low carb diet can be maintained longer term, with more variety from up to 150g of  wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, increased protein and less restriction.
  4. Over time, the difference in weight loss from a low carb or keto diet becomes negligible, however the rapidity of results that keto provides may be enticing for some.
  5. Be sure to check with your health professional to determine which diet may be suitable for you to minimise unwanted side effects.


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