Health benefits? Weight loss? Depending on your goals, these are two distinctly different diets – and by diet, it’s more about nutritional intake, not depriving yourself – and each has many benefits. It really boils down to your preferences, and what you are trying to achieve. One focuses more on plant-based nutrition and the other on high protein, high fats, and lower carbs. Both have been around for some time; the Mediterranean diet has been renowned for ages and the keto diet has been increasing in popularity recently.
The Mediterranean Diet
This eating plan is more of a lifestyle than what we know as a “diet.” The name reflects the eating pattern of the population who lives in the Mediterranean Sea. People who reside in countries such as Italy and Greece have been eating this way for centuries, but it wasn’t recognized as a diet until the 1960s. Researchers found that those who live in this area were thriving in health and had far fewer diseases than those who live in the United States.
So, what does it consist of? It includes an abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, and healthy fats; a moderate amount of chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy; and limited amounts of red and processed meats, added sugars, and processed foods. Those who abide by this diet will frequently enjoy meals with others, have an occasional glass of red wine, and being physically active most days are also components of the Mediterranean Diet.
The Keto Diet
The Ketogenic “Keto”’ Diet, dates back to the 1920s, where doctors were treating people with epilepsy with this strategy. This is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that has since been evaluated for weight loss, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. The keto diet is comprised of a very low carbohydrate intake, with less than 5 percent of all calories coming from carbs. When carbohydrate intake is exceptionally low, the body begins to break down fat for energy through a process called ketosis. The liver turns fat into ketones, which are used for energy until you begin eating carbs again. It may sound a bit scientific and more structured, but many have reaped the rewards of this diet in a variety of ways.
The main foods that make up a Keto Diet include meat, fish, cheese, eggs, oils, avocados, butter, cream, nuts, seeds, and low-carb vegetables. Higher-carb vegetables, most dairy, grains, beans, fruit, and processed foods are limited or eliminated since they drive up carb intake.
Clearly, there are pros and cons to each diet. The Mediterranean Diet is quite liberal and due to the lack of structure, people may experience difficulty following it. On the flip side, the Mediterranean Diet does abide by serving sizes and calorie counts. Many may think this diet is time-consuming and expensive, due to the specificity of ingredients, recipes, and foods to eat, but it’s really no more time-consuming and expensive than the Keto Diet.
However, many people benefit from the lack of structure with the Mediterranean Diet. Truly, there aren’t too many restrictions. The basic philosophy is to eat more foods that are good for you and fewer foods that are bad for you. People seem to adhere to this better and longer, as a structured diet (like Keto) can start to feel exhausting which leads to burnout.
While the Keto Diet can lead to rapid weight loss, when the body starts to enter ketosis, many people experience something known as the “Keto Flu.” It’s called that because it feels similar to the actual flu. There are so many chemical changes in the body when one starts this, so the body reacts with flu-like symptoms. The good news is that it passes rather quickly. This diet does require a lot of planning, and often the assistance of a nutrition professional so you can ensure you are following it correctly. There is a specific science to Keto and it can seem a bit daunting at first. But those who are successful have fully committed to this plan and are willing to do what it takes to achieve their goals. However, this isn’t a diet that is recommended to follow forever, and as many Keto veterans can tell you, it’s not very sustainable in the long run. When you stop your Keto Diet, you may experience a lot of weight gain.
This diet also hasn’t been researched in the long term, so there is uncertainty about what a high protein, high-fat, and low carb diet can do to the body in the future. Many nutrition experts will actually have you get your hormones tested with your doctor’s office to ensure you are of the right health capacity to begin and endure such a structured diet.
What we do know is that the Keto Diet will help you lose weight, lower your blood sugar, and improve your insulin condition. You eliminate a lot of food groups here, which is what leads to mass weight loss. You are also consuming a great deal of fat which makes you feel fuller, longer. The high amount of protein will also reduce the appetite and kick up your metabolism so you are burning more calories.
The Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also linked to a longer life. It has been scientifically proven that when you consume olive oil or nuts, you will have lower rates of heart attack and stroke. The Mediterranean Diet helps lower inflammation, which is linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, among other conditions. (This may be part of the reason the diet is linked to better cognitive function as one gets older).
Because the Keto Diet is very low-carb, it ditches most plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which studies show are linked to reduced inflammation and better health outcomes. Consuming far too few carbohydrates long-term could lead to the shortening of your lifespan.
If you are considering both diets, realistically think of what you can follow and what your body needs. Everyone is different. You can also consult with a medical professional regarding each to get some better insight into what is best for you.