Although the terms low carb and keto are often used interchangeably, they are distinct in many ways. Keto is a type of low carb dieting, but as you will see, low carb encompasses a broad range of eating styles, not all of which are ketogenic in nature.
So, what's the difference? Let's settle the low carb vs keto diet confusion.
What is Low Carb Dieting?
“Low Carb” is a general umbrella term used to describe a variety of diets that cut back on the amount of carbs consumed.
Popular types of low carb dieting include:
- Low-Carb Paleo – Restricting net carbs to less than 100g while eating a paleo diet.
- The Atkins Diet – a low carb eating plan created by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins which consists of 4 phases of carb restriction.
- Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet – This diet combines carb restriction with the plant-based nutrition of the mediterranean diet.
- Zero-Carb – Eating almost exclusively from the animal kingdom (meats and fats).
- Low-Carb, High-Fat (LCHF) – Probably the most similar to a ketogenic diet, low carb high fat dieting is mostly an umbrella term. Some people prefer the flexibility of this term, as more specific diet such as keto restrict certain food categories, while this does not necessarily.
Although there are many specific types of low carb dieting, “low carb” can also be an unspecified way of eating.
There are many people who eat “low carb”, meaning they restrict carbs to their own comfort level, but they do not ascribe to a particular low carb dieting plan, and may not even necessarily track their carb intake closely.
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet is a very specific type of low carb, high fat diet. It's sometimes also referred to as the ketogenic diet.
The goal of a keto diet is to force your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, in which your body begins to use ketones for energy instead of glucose. Ketones are essentially fat converted into energy that the body can use.
This is done by restricting net carb intake to under 50 grams of net carbs per day. Ideally, under 20 grams of net carbs per day.
Read my more in-depth info about the keto diet and what ketosis is here.
Keto vs Low Carb: Major Differences
The difference between the keto diet and other low carb diets is about specificity. The keto diet has a very specific carb restriction number (usually less than 20g of net carbs per day). Meanwhile, many other low carb diets allow for up to 100g of net carbs per day.
In addition, if you follow the ketogenic diet properly, certain foods should be eliminated regardless of carb count. For instance, milk, peanuts, and grains are off limits on a strict keto diet. This is not always the case with other low carb diets.
Why Choose Keto Specifically?
While cutting carbs is beneficial for health in general, keto almost guarantees something that many other low carb diets cannot: dietary ketosis
It is this metabolic state that trains our bodies to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose. It is also this metabolic state that offers a hoard of health benefits including decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, boosted weight loss, and physical endurance.
Read more about dietary ketosis in my post here.
Subscribe below to follow along this FREE keto diet basics series. I'll be sharing meal ideas, offering personal tips from being on the keto diet for nearly 2 years, and answer frequently asked questions.
You can read about my keto journey here.
If you have questions about the keto diet, please feel free to leave a comment. I will get to your question as soon as possible. I may even turn your question into an article!