Low Carb vs. Keto – What’s the Difference?

Low Carb vs. Keto – What’s the Difference?

Video | Carb Grams for Low Carb vs. Keto | Food Choices: Low Carb vs. Keto | Which Diet to Choose

You’ve heard that reducing your carbohydrate intake can help you lose weight. But how low must you go when it comes to cutting carbs? In this video, I’ll explain the difference between a low carb and keto diet, so you can determine which one is right for you. 

Low Carb vs. Keto – At-A-Glance


  • Carbohydrate intake varies from keto to low-carb to traditional diets
    • Keto Diet: <50 total grams of carbs/day
    • Low-Carb Diet: 50 to 125 total grams carbs/day
    • Traditional Diet: 225 to 325 total grams of carbs/day
  • Low Carb Diets provide a wider range of carbohydrate-containing food choices than keto
    • Low Carb Choices: non-starchy vegetables, low-carb fruits, nuts, seeds, small amounts of starchy vegetables
    • Keto Choices: mainly non-starchy vegetables with small amounts of low-carb fruits, nuts, and seeds
  • The diet that is right for you will depend on factors such as age, activity level, and metabolism

Low Carb Vs Keto-What’s the Difference? [Video]

How Many Carbs for Low Carb vs. Keto

There is no established cut-off point, but it is generally accepted that for a person who eats 2,000 calories a day to be considered a low carb dieter, their daily carbohydrate intake needs to be below 125 total grams. To be considered in the keto range, their consumption would drop to less than 50 grams per day. In contrast, the standard dietary recommendation for carb intake starts at 225 grams and goes up.

So, you can see that to move from a traditional diet to a low carb diet; even the healthiest eater will need to cut their carb intake in half to enter the low carb range and by at least three-fourths to enter the keto range.

Food Choices Low Carb vs Keto

Food Choices: Low Carb vs. Keto

Both a low carb and keto diet require you to reduce your carbohydrate intake. But what does that look like in real life? Which carbs are off-limits and which are ok? 

When it comes to foods that contain carbs, there is a big difference in health value. On one end of the spectrum, you have nutrient-poor, carbohydrate-dense, sugary and processed snack foods. On the other end, you have nutrient-dense, low-carb non-starchy vegetables. 

Starch Equals Carbohydrate

Both low carb and keto diets eliminate sugar and refined foods. Where the two diets start to differ is with starch.

Starch is a term that describes the carbohydrate molecule. Starchy food contains long chains of sugar molecules bonded together. So essentially, the more starchy a food is, the more carbohydrates it contains.

A keto diet is a very-low-carb diet, so starchy foods, like grains, potatoes, corn, rice, pasta, and bread, are omitted. However, a keto dieter can eat non-starchy vegetables, which include foods like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus. And, for some, small amounts of low-carb fruits, nuts, and seeds can be added. 

A low carb diet is less restricted, so there is room for larger portions of non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and a wider variety of fruits. And, while starchy foods are still limited on a low carb diet, they are not entirely omitted as they are with keto.

Ranking Carbohydrates

Which is Right for You as a Weight Loss Tool?

So, which diet is right for you as a weight-loss tool? The answer to that question depends on several factors that are unique to you, including your age, activity level, and how taxed your metabolism is due to factors like obesity, health conditions, or history of yo-yo dieting.

Therefore, you will have to experiment to find the level of carbs that is right for you. Keep in mind that moving from a high-carb to a low carb lifestyle is a big change for your body. While it is possible to jump right into a keto diet, you’ll give your body time to adapt if you start in the low carb range. For instance, you can reduce your daily carb intake to no more than 100 total carbs per day to see how your body responds.

If the results are not what you’d hoped for, you can reduce your carb intake to find what’s works for your unique metabolism.

Either way, you’ll need to know what you can eat. I have a list of 100 low carb foods that you can download for free on my website.

About the Author

Becky Gillaspy, DC, is the author of The Intermittent Fasting Guide and Cookbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.

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