With the rise of different diet options, it can be challenging to determine how they differ from one another. Are you confused about the differences between the keto and Mediterranean diets? Don’t worry; we have you covered!

Here’s a complete breakdown of each diet alongside the latest research covering the benefits and side effects of eating keto and Mediterranean style.

What Is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic (keto) diet is a popular high-fat, low-carb eating style that has shown benefits in epilepsy treatment, weight loss, and lowering the risk of many diseases (1).

The keto diet is characterised by its low carb intake in proportion to protein and fat. Traditionally, the keto diet macronutrient distribution is roughly 70% of total calories from fat, 20% from protein, and a mere 10% from carbs (and sometimes 5%).

Individuals on a keto diet often experience ketosis, a natural metabolic state that occurs when a low-carb eating style is followed for a prolonged period. Ketosis occurs when carbohydrate intake is extremely low and the body shifts to using fat instead of glucose for fuel . Fat is turned into ketones, which are used up for energy (2).

What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is associated with people living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, Spain, and Greece. It grew in popularity after researchers found that the people living in the region have a lower risk of diseases and live longer, healthier lives (3).

The Mediterranean diet consists of 50% daily calories from carbs, 25% from healthy fats, and 25% from lean protein. Red meat and saturated fats are also kept to a minimum.

Unlike many other diets, the Mediterranean diet remains a sustainable choice for the health-conscious. Because of this, it is constantly rated as one of the most straightforward diet plans to follow (4).

Keto Diet vs. Mediterranean Diet

So, what makes the keto and Mediterranean diets so different from each other? Several things, it seems! Both diets encourage differing food consumption, provide various health benefits, and come with specific side effects.

Here are some key differences between the popular keto and Mediterranean diets.

Foods

The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet, so sweet and starchy foods are avoided. A traditional keto diet is based on the following foods: 

  • Meat, including beef, pork, ham, sausage, and chicken
  • Fatty fish, including salmon and mackerel
  • Full-fat dairy products, including cream, cheese, and yoghurt
  • Eggs
  • Healthy fats and oils, like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive and coconut oils
  • Low-carb veggies, including spinach, kale, mushrooms, and broccoli

Individuals on the keto diet avoid high-carb or sugary foods, like cake, cookies, and soda. However, this also includes avoiding most fruits, starchy veggies like pumpkin, potatoes, parsnip, and all grains.

On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet is high in plant foods and relatively low in meat and animal products. A traditional Mediterranean diet is based around the following:

  • An abundance of vegetables and fruits (any type)
  • Wholegrains, including oats, rice, wheat, and corn
  • Nuts, seeds, and healthy fats
  • Fatty fish and seafood at least twice a week
  • Eat moderately: chicken, eggs, and dairy products
  • Eat rarely: red meat

Individuals on the Mediterranean diet avoid highly processed foods, added sugars, trans fats, and refined grains. Interestingly, a glass of red wine a day is also encouraged, although optional.

Overall, both the keto and Mediterranean diets contain plenty of lean protein and healthy fats from whole food sources. The key difference is the higher amounts of carbohydrates from plant sources in the Mediterranean diet.

Health Benefits

Both diets have been studied extensively for their health benefits. For short-term weight loss and lowered disease risk, the keto diet is a popular choice. Researchers often associate high-fat and protein-rich diets, like the keto diet, with increased satiety, keeping you feeling fuller for longer (5).

A study also found that when individuals followed the keto diet for weight loss, the hunger hormone ghrelin was suppressed (6). This is great news for anyone looking to shed some excess weight! The keto diet has also been linked to decreasing some of the significant risk factors of chronic conditions, including reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels (7).

The omega-3 rich Mediterranean diet is associated with increased heart health and lowered inflammation rate (8), which may promote an increased lifespan. Researchers recently found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet had lower stroke and heart attack rates than those who followed a low-fat eating style (9).

Because the Mediterranean diet is high in antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, this may help lower inflammation levels throughout the body. Inflammation is linked to many diseases, including obesity, cancer, and diabetes, all of which lower your lifespan (10).

Overall, studies found that healthy fats, lean protein, and antioxidants are the key to a healthier and longer life. Both the keto and Mediterranean diets contain all three, in varying amounts.

Side Effects 

Researchers often praise the keto diet for short-term use, but not much is known about the long-term effects. Some symptoms that can arise include vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by insufficient amounts of nutrient-rich fruits and veggies (11).

Many people also experience the keto flu due to carb withdrawal. The keto flu comes with nausea, diarrhoea, fatigue, lowered concentration, and mood changes (12). On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet isn’t associated with any particular side effects, as food groups aren’t necessarily cut out, just limited.

Many side effects of diets usually ease after the transition period as the body gets used to a new eating style. If any symptoms persist, it is recommended to check in with your doctor.

The Bottom Line

Both keto and Mediterranean diets vary in the foods eaten, health benefits, and potential side effects. When choosing the diet right for you, it’s essential to consider what eating style is best for your health goals.

Keto Diet vs. Mediterranean Diet

Written by Karina Francois

Naturopath | Herbalist | Ultra Lite Practitioner 

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