The year of keto was 2018. The word ‘keto ’ trended as one of the top ten highest health terms searched on google and keto food products have been popping up almost quicker than we can try them. Gaining popularity alongside the ketogenic diet are the many different low-carb high-fat diets, otherwise known as LCHF diets. Both the Keto diet and LCHF focus on a high intake of healthy fats and a restriction on carbohydrates, but what is the difference between the two, and if you’re thinking of switching to one, which is better? In this article we’ll go through the main differences between the two and look at who each diet is more appropriate for.
keto vs lchf: the differences
The most notable difference between the ketogenic diet and LCHF diets is that the ketogenic diet has a strict limit on carbohydrates, while LCHF does not. Although two people may be sticking to the same grocery list, the person on the ketogenic diet will be monitoring their carbohydrate intake closely while someone on LCHF can eat another handful of blueberries without as much care. There is no true limit to carbs if you’re on a LCHF diet.
This limit on carbohydrates coupled with the high-fat intake is what makes the keto diet what it is. On a strict ketogenic diet, your body switches from burning glucose for fuel to burning fat for fuel. If you’re eating a low-carb diet, but not counting how many carbs, you may easily go over the carb threshold and prevent your body from entering ketosis (the state where ketones - rather than glucose - are burned for energy).
If your goal is to enter ketosis, the strict limit on carbohydrates is key to success. For example, those following a ketogenic diet can eat berries, but have to be careful about not going overboard. Although blueberries are a keto friendly food, eating too many with one meal can be enough to provide too much glucose and throw you out of ketosis. Someone eating LCHF is not trying to get into ketosis, and therefore can have an extra handful of blueberries.
It is important to note that even if you’re eating low-carb high-fat, that does not necessarily mean you’re eating keto. A ketogenic diet is always a low-carb, high-fat diet, but a low-carb, high-fat diet is not always a ketogenic diet. This is where many people may become frustrated, as they feel they’re doing everything right but not experiencing the many listed benefits of the keto diet. Ketosis is not simply a compass guiding you in a general direction, it is a metabolic state that can be literally measured, quite different from the idea of generally eating a diet consisting of low-carb and high-fat foods.
when and for who?
Now that we’ve gone over the main differences, we’ll touch on who might consider each diet. As we’ve discussed, the ketogenic diet is a metabolic state that switches your body from burning glucose as fuel to burning fat as fuel, while LCHF is a general way of eating that involves consuming foods that are generally low-carb and high-fat. Both diets have been shown to help with weight loss, improving glycemic control and insulin sensitivity in a number of groups including those with type two diabetes.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to the question ‘which diet is better’. If there is one thing that can be said with certainty, it is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to diets. Both the ketogenic and LCHF diet have therapeutic benefits, and each individual will respond differently to each diet. Some people note feeling great including more carbs no their diet, while others notice great benefit from strictly limiting carbs. If you’re someone with a condition that has been shown to benefit from either a ketogenic diet or LCHF diet, talking with either a doctor or health professional and looking into the pros and cons of each may be useful.
As a nutritionist and keto coach, I am a proponent of the keto diet and find it can be very therapeutic, for some people. However, I do not believe it is always best or necessary, and LCHF diets can be a great option for those who do not need to abide by the strict rules of the keto diet.
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