Ketogenic and Mediterranean diets are among the most, if not the two most popular and trending diets for health. So… “Which is better?”
The internet likes to pose questions like this, pitting diets against each other as a form of click bait. In other words, simplicity sells. However, you you’re smarter than that, right? You want the nuance, don’t you? The truth of the matter is that you can’t pit a ketogenic diet against a Mediterranean diet because they are defined by fundamentally different variables.
A ketogenic diet is about your macronutrient breakdown. By definition, it doesn’t really matter where those macronutrients come from, so long as you get into ketosis. By contrast, a Mediterranean diet only cares where those macronutrients come from and can be higher or lower in carbohydrates.
In other words, keto is flexible with respect to macronutrient sources and Mediterranean is flexible with respect to macronutrient proportions. These two diets (or groups of diets) are defined by different axes and are, therefore, complementary!
A Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy wholefoods and basically devoid of processed foods. It often includes lots of Omega-3-rich seafood and monounsaturated-rich olive oil and olives. While fish and fat are keto-friendly, a Mediterranean diet is more liberal in the way of produce. It can not only include non-starchy vegetables (keto-friendly), but also starchy vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
A keto diet is defined by achieving the state of ketosis. This usually requires restricting carbohydrates to less than 10% of net caloric intake. And, while it’s absolutely a good idea to eat a “clean” keto diet devoid of processed foods, it’s not required. Furthermore, foods rich in saturated fats that are not as popular on a Mediterranean diet, such as red meat and dairy products (and coconut products), are hallmarks of many ketogenic diets. This may be for a few reasons: (i) red meat and dairy are more readily available and cheaper, at least in America; (ii) many people may have developed a taste preference for red meat and dairy; (iii) since high-fat red meat and dairy are portrayed as “unhealthy” foods by the standard nutritional guidelines, they became a “forbidden fruit” (pun intended), making their consumption extra gratifying. Notice, however, the tendency of individuals on a ketogenic diet to eat saturated-fat-rich oils and protein sources is driven primarily by psycho-social factors, and not nutritional factors.
Here’s the bottom line: A ketogenic diet and a Mediterranean diet are like latitude and longitude. They are not opposing, but perpendicular. Keto is defined by macronutrient breakdown, while Mediterranean is defined by macronutrient source. So, in the end, the question “Which is better?” is a silly question. The question that really matters is, “Do the foods in this picture look yummy to you?!”
*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of MDLingo.com, its affiliates, or its employees.