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What’s the Difference Between Low Carb and Keto?

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  Published on June 7th, 2020
  Reading time: 3 minutes
  Last modified January 25th, 2023
difference between keto and low carb

You might be wondering about the difference between the keto diet and just going low carb. Let’s dive in…

What is Low Carb?

Simply speaking, going low carb means lowering the number of carbohydrates you’re consuming. With low carb, you’re more mindful of the carbs in your diet and limiting or avoiding carb-heavy foods like wheat bread and pasta.

Carbohydrates are a type of nutrient that can be used for energy in the body. Your digestive system turns carbohydrates into glucose or blood sugar and your body uses this sugar for energy for your tissues, cells, and organs. Any extra sugar is stored in your muscles and liver for later use [1].

There are three macronutrients in the human diet: protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Every food is broken down into these nutrients. Some foods contain all macros (macronutrients), and others only contain one or two. With low carb, you’re just lowering one of these macronutrients.

What is Keto?

The ketogenic diet doesn’t just involve lowering your carbohydrate intake; rather, it’s a state of metabolism where you’re primarily burning fat and ketones for energy instead of sugar (glucose). The ketogenic diet isn’t just about lowering carbs, it’s about a shift in metabolism that can benefit your health.

With keto, you increase your consumption of healthy fats, include a moderate amount of protein, and lower your carbs to around 50 grams or less a day. You can decrease your carb consumption, but not necessarily be in a state of ketosis.

You could try our keto calculator if you’re interested in calculating your macronutrients. With a ketogenic diet, for example, your macros might be around 5% carbs, 60% fat, and 35% protein. The goal is to achieve these percentages of macro intake overall, not at each meal. It’s also important to remember that people are metabolically different and can achieve a state of ketosis with varying carb counts and dietary alterations.

Research suggests the ketogenic diet has metabolic advantages and can be beneficial for the mitochondria and for various diseases and conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, and inflammatory dermatologic disease [2] [3].

Studies reveal the lack of sugar and the healthy fats on the ketogenic diet can reduce inflammatory markers. When compared to a low-fat diet, keto is superior for reducing inflammation [4] [5].

What are Ketones?

To better understand the ketogenic diet, it’s helpful to know a little bit about ketones. When there’s little to no glucose (sugar) available, your liver produces ketones and keto acids from the breakdown of fats. Ketones and keto acids are your body’s alternative fuel source. This can happen during fasting when you’re not eating or when you’re on the ketogenic diet and you’re consuming more healthy fats and fewer carbs.

During this time, insulin is low and certain signals in your body cause fat to be released from your fat cells. The fat travels through your blood circulation to your liver where it’s processed into ketone units. The ketones circulate back into your bloodstream where they’re picked up by your muscles and other tissues to fuel your metabolism.

When you’re in the beneficial healthy metabolic state of ketosis, your blood sugar levels don’t spike too high because the production is regulated by the right balance of glucagon, insulin, and other hormones [6].


To figure out if you’re in ketosis, you can test your ketones, either in your breath or urine.

Conclusions About the Difference Between Keto and Low Carb

Carbohydrate restriction and going ‘low carb’ has advantages and can help you achieve a state of ketosis; however, the ketogenic diet and the increase of healthy, nutritious, essential fats delivers myriad metabolic and health benefits. With the right ketogenic nutrition plan, you can be sure you’re in a state of ketosis. The ketogenic diet is excellent for those with certain chronic medical conditions, those looking to lose weight, boost energy and athletic performance, and more.

Your body needs essential fatty acids. Instead of just lowering your carbs, why not take it a step further and try the ketogenic diet where wild-caught salmon packed with omega 3 fatty acids is most certainly on the menu?

Are You Going Keto?

Did you learn something new about the difference between just being low carb and going keto? Share your experience with the ketogenic diet and lowering your carbohydrate intake!

Steph Green is a content writer specializing in and passionate about healthcare, wellness, and nutrition. Steph has worked with marketing agencies, written medical books for doctors like ‘Untangling the Web of Dysfunction,’ and her poetry book ‘Words that Might Mean Something.’ In 2016, after four years of struggling with her own health problems and painful autoimmune disease, Steph developed a life-changing and extensive knowledge of keto, nutrition, and natural medicine. She continues on her healing journey and enjoys helping others along the way.



U.S. National Library of Medicine. Carbohydrates.


Fomin, D. A., Mcdaniel, B., & Crane, J. (2017). The promising potential role of ketones in inflammatory dermatologic disease: a new frontier in treatment research. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 28(6),


Storoni, M., & Plant, G. T. (2015). The therapeutic potential of the ketogenic diet in treating progressive multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis International,


Forsythe, C. E., Phinney, S. D., Fernandez, M. L., Quann, E. E., Wood, R. J., Bibus, Doug. M., Kraemer, W. J., Feinman, R. D., & Volek, J. S. (2007). Comparison of low fat and low carbohydrate diets on circulating fatty acid composition and markers of inflammation. Lipids,


Masino, S. A., & Ruskin, D. N. (2013). Ketogenic diets and pain. Journal of Child Neurology, 28(8), 993-1001. doi: 10.1177/0883073813487595.


University of California, San Francisco. Diabetes Education Online: Ketones.

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