Skip to Content

Considering a Low-Carb or Keto Diet? Here’s What You Need to Know

Last updated: October 25, 2021

If you’re like many Americans, you’ve probably thought about losing weight at some point in your life. It could be that your doctor recommended it or that you stepped on the scale one day and felt disappointed. Or maybe you just want to feel better. 

Whatever your reason, you’ve likely heard of the highly popular low-carb and keto diets. You may wonder whether either is right for you. We reached out to Lori Knapp, Clinical Dietitian at Thedacare, to find out what’s behind these trends and what you need to know before you jump in.

What is a Low-Carb Diet? 

As you may have guessed by the name, a low-carb diet focuses on reducing your intake of carbohydrates. 

“A low-carb diet is a way of eating that restricts dietary carbohydrates, mainly from starch, sugar-sweetened beverages, and fruit,” Knapp says. 

A low-carb diet is a way of eating that restricts dietary carbohydrates.

Lori Knapp, Clinical Dietitian, ThedaCare 

While there’s no one definition of low-carb, generally this type of diet consists of consuming only 10-30% of your total calories from carbs. That’s about 50-150 grams. 

For many low-carb dieters, this means increasing their intake of proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats. This compensates for the feeling of fullness normally reached through eating carbs. 

Studies have shown the diet can have a significant short-term effect on decreasing weight. This is primarily because extra protein and fat will help you feel full longer and eat less. It also may provide other health benefits to those with diabetes, such as improving cardiovascular risk factors.   

What is a Keto diet? 

Originally offered as a treatment for childhood epilepsy in the 1920s, nowadays the ketogenic — or keto — diet is used primarily for weight loss. The diet typically is comprised of 70-80% fat, around 20% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates. 

“When following a keto diet, the goal is to reach ketosis,” Knapp says. 

In a state of nutritional ketosis, the body will begin to use fat as its main fuel source instead of the carbs it normally uses. Subsequently, the body will produce ketones from fat in your liver. 

Similar to the low-carb diet, the keto diet can help with short-term weight loss, as well as improve blood pressure and cholesterol. The primary difference between the two diets, however, is that the keto diet is more rigorous and requires constant, careful measurements of your food intake. It also often involves having to cook most — if not all — of your meals. As a result, the keto diet often is more difficult for people to sustain.  

What are the Potential Consequences of Restrictive Diets? 

Though they’re safe to follow in the short term, low-carb and keto diets may lead to some long-term health issues. This is especially evident with the keto diet. 

“The keto diet could lead to nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, and poor bone health over time,” Knapp says. 

Experts are still evaluating the long-term health effects of low-carb diets. Many point out that restricting carbs could contribute to vitamin or mineral deficiencies, as well as gastrointestinal issues.  

How do You Know Which Diet is Best for You? 

“It really depends on an individual’s health issues and needs,” Knapp says. 

Generally speaking, the low-carb diet often has better results because it’s more sustainable than the ultra-strict keto diet.  

“Alternatively, there are variations to the keto diet that allow for fruit and a more moderate fat intake,” Knapp says. “Limiting carbs is still the focus, but the calorie counting isn’t quite as restrictive.” 

If neither the low-carb diet or keto diet is for you, one of the following diets might be more to your liking: 

  • Mediterranean Diet: If you’re OK with staying away from most red meats and incorporating a fair amount of olive oil, fish, and legumes into your diet, this is a nutritionally balanced option that allows for diversity in food and flavor. 
  • DASH Diet: Short for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” this option allows you to enjoy an assortment of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods, while limiting your sodium intake.  
  • Flexitarian Diet: True to its name, this diet provides the flexibility to replace most — but not all — of your meat consumption with proteins like beans, peas, or eggs. It’s a great option if you aren’t ready to go full vegetarian.   

“No matter which diet you’re considering, discuss it with your doctor or a registered dietitian first,” Knapp says. “Your best bet is to choose something that is balanced, sustainable for the long term, complementary to your lifestyle, and — most importantly — well-suited for your specific nutritional needs.”

Learn the many benefits of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, and speak to your doctor when you’re ready to design your personal weight loss plan. 

Tags: keto diet low-carb diet pros and cons restrictive diets Weight Management

Related Articles

Link to the full post Weight Management

What to Expect at Your Initial ThedaCare Bariatrics Class

Link to the full post Health & Well-Being Heart Health Weight Management

Benefits of Walking

Back to site