Keto vs. Mediterranean: What Diet Is Really Better for You?

Before you load up on butter and bacon, find out how the popular high-fat, low-carb keto diet stacks up against the plant-forward Mediterranean diet.

If you're like the millions of people who consider trying a new eating plan each year, you may have considered the ketogenic (keto) diet. The keto diet maintains its popularity thanks to the countless social media influencers who tout how well it helps achieve weight loss goals.

So, what are the benefits and potential downsides of the keto diet compared to, say, the Mediterranean diet? Here's a breakdown of each diet plan to help determine what lifestyle is optimal for weight loss and overall health.

What Is the Keto Diet?

The high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein keto diet typically has a macronutrient distribution pattern of the following:

  • Fat: 55% to 60% of total calories
  • Protein: 30% to 35% of total calories 
  • Carbohydrates: 5% to 10% of total calories  

The premise is that restricting carbs to minimal levels will shift your metabolism into ketosis. With ketosis, your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel.

To shift into ketosis, your meals and snacks should focus on fats like oils, avocado, butter, and bacon. Because fat is almost unlimited, you can enjoy fat-rich choices like butter, bacon, cheese, ribs, greasy burgers, and oily fish.

The keto diet limits your carbohydrates to a minimal amount equal to what you’d get in an apple or two per day. Additionally, you can enjoy a moderate amount of protein—about three ounces at three meals per day—like beef, pork, poultry, seafood, and eggs.

What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

The traditional Mediterranean diet is reminiscent of dishes from Spain, Italy, and Greece. The eating plan calls for a macronutrient distribution pattern of the following:

  • Carbohydrates: About 55% to 60% of total calories 
  • Fat: Approximately 20%–30% of total calories from fat (with saturated fat kept to minimal levels)
  • Protein: About 15% of total calories 

To follow a Mediterranean-style eating plan, you’ll want to stick with the following core principles:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Strive to eat at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day.
  • Whole grains: Enjoy at least three servings per day.
  • Beans: Make meat-free meals with beans and legumes several times a week.
  • Nuts: Enjoy a handful as a snack or as part of a meal every day.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Use as your primary fat in place of butter or spreads.
  • Red meat and dairy products: Eat in moderation.
  • Red wine (optional): Enjoy a glass with dinner.

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied dietary patterns worldwide. A mounting body of research has demonstrated the Mediterranean diet's role in reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, and other chronic diseases.

Some evidence suggests that those who adhere to a traditional Mediterranean-style eating pattern will likely live longer, healthier lives. The Mediterranean diet is so beneficial that it is often considered the gold standard for healthy eating among nutrition professionals and researchers.

Things To Consider With Keto

Alternatively, the keto diet started as a therapeutic diet during the 1920s as an additional way to help manage childhood epileptic seizures. And then in the 21st century, the keto diet significantly increased in popularity as a way to lose weight quickly, becoming a trendy way to lose weight.

The problem is that long-term adherence to such a low-carb lifestyle is almost impossible. Most keto devotees can only stick to it by having scheduled "off" or "cheat" days every week. 

Because the keto diet limits bread, cereals, grains, fruit, and starchy vegetables, you're more likely to develop nutritional deficiencies if followed long-term. Some evidence suggests that diets that restrict carbohydrates, like the keto diet, are low in the following nutrients:

  • Thiamin
  • Folate
  • Vitamins A, E, and B6
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Potassium

Additionally, the keto diet is more resource-intensive. The eating plan calls for many animal-based foods and processed fats, like oils and nut butter, to meet your daily caloric needs. Research has found that animal-based, processed foods adversely affect the environment.

Plus, can you live the rest of your life without eating potatoes, bread, pasta, rolls, or rice? Technically, maybe. But you may end up lacking essential nutrients.

In contrast, the Mediterranean diet is a sustainable, plant-based eating plan where tasty meals are made with local, in-season produce picks. The Mediterranean diet is also easier to stick to for life because it's so delicious and less restrictive. Essentially, it's a win-win for weight loss.

Which Eating Plan Is Right for You?

The Mediterranean diet is an excellent eating plan for everyone because it offers a balance of foods from all food groups. The eating plan nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while encouraging healthy protein and fat choices. 

On the other hand, the keto diet is popular because it leads to quick weight loss. But it's essential to have a food plan you can maintain long-term to avoid regaining weight. 

Because keto is low-carb, it's sometimes considered for people with diabetes. Still, research has found that the Mediterranean diet was equally effective in improving blood sugar. Also, the Mediterranean diet is more nutritionally balanced than the keto diet and doesn't have the risk of worsening cholesterol levels.

A Quick Review

Although the keto diet gets much media attention, it's not the most accessible food plan to follow or maintain. The keto diet lacks many critical nutrients for overall health and longevity. If you're considering trying the keto diet, talk with your healthcare provider before starting to ensure it is safe for you. 

And if you're searching for a healthy way to lose weight, reduce your risk for chronic diseases, and improve the health of the planet, veto keto and enjoy the flavor and flexibility of the Mediterranean diet.

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