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Is the Mediterranean Diet Low Carb?

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  Published on May 12th, 2023
  Reading time: 4 minutes
  Last modified April 19th, 2023
The Mediterranean diet is naturally low carb

Browse any bookstore and you will quickly find that there are endless diets you could be pursuing. Many people love the keto lifestyle but want to incorporate elements of other diets into their eating habits. The Mediterranean diet is one of the more popular diets for its commitment to a menu of simple whole foods, but is the Mediterranean diet low carb?  

Before you decide to hop on the Mediterranean bandwagon, here is what you should know about carbs and how they affect your diet. 

Low-Carb and the Mediterranean Diet 

If you adhere to the keto diet, you know how important it is to track your macros for every meal that you consume. The emphasis is on low-carb foods that are high in healthy fats and moderate amounts of protein. How does the Mediterranean diet compare to this view on food intake?  

The truth is that you will find some overlap between the two diets. For the vast majority of people who adhere to the Mediterranean diet, they find that they consume fewer carbs and more fats than they did on the standard American diet–this makes it very similar to the keto lifestyle. 

The difference is in the foods that are emphasized in this diet. Instead of remaining solely low-carb, dieters following the Mediterranean diet can indulge in lots of higher-carb whole foods, including starchy vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains. There is also a special emphasis on the healthy fats found in olive oil. [1]

Is the Mediterranean Diet Low Carb?

Foods allowed on the Mediterranean diet

When it comes to the keto diet, your goal should be to stay under a certain number of carbs per day (usually between 20 and 50 grams daily). [2] The Mediterranean diet ends up being low carb due to the nature of the foods that people in this region would naturally eat. However, this diet does not prescribe a certain maximum number of carbs daily, and chances are that the amount of carbs you eat on a Mediterrean diet will not be low enough to keep you in ketosis. 

There is no calorie counting or macro tracking with the Mediterranean diet. The diet does not prescribe set portion sizes or calorie restrictions, allowing you to eat until you feel satisfied as long as you consume the right foods. [3]

If you are going to eat carbs on the Mediterranean diet, you should make sure that you source them from healthy foods. Instead of turning to highly-processed foods that are prepackaged at the grocery store, you will want to eat unrefined, fiber-rich carbs. These can include items like fruit, whole wheat bread, or beans. [4]

Mediterranean and Keto Diet

There are tons of benefits to both the Mediterranean and the keto style of eating, so why try to decide between the two? Combining the two powerful diets is a great way to lose weight and feel better. You can harness benefits like better heart health, lowered risk of stroke, and lower blood pressure. [5] [6]

The real question boils down to how you can combine both diets when parts of them seem to contradict one another. 

If you’d like to follow a Mediterranean version of keto, start with the foundation of the Mediterranean diet and work backward to find your way into ketosis. For example, the Mediterranean diet’s emphasis on healthy fats is congruent with the high fat consumption found in the keto diet. Stick with healthy foods like olive oil and avocado to get these fats in your diet.

From here, you can start to whittle down the Mediterranean diet and weed out those pesky carbs that kick you out of ketosis. While the grains and beans might not fit within your macros for keto, you can still have seafood, which is one of the staple ingredients on Mediterranean diets. 

Some foods that are popular with keto followers would have to be excluded or limited with the Mediterranean keto diet, such as red meat. This can be consumed a couple of times per month but is generally replaced by either poultry or seafood on the Mediterranean diet. It might be keto, but some people believe it detracts from some of the heart health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. [7]

In both cases, you will want to eliminate foods that you likely already know are bad for you: those with added sugar, trans fats, processed meats, and convenience foods that come prepackaged in the supermarket. 

Overhauling Your Diet

Choosing between keto and the Mediterranean diet does not have to be mutually exclusive. You can harness the benefits of both diets with a little meal planning, giving you all of the benefits of weight loss, heart health, and more. Both are designed to teach you a new way of eating that is much healthier than the standard American diet.  

Low-carb is a great way to shed stubborn pounds, and the Mediterranean diet holds the possibility of keeping you just as healthy as keto (though not necessarily in ketosis). Depending on your lifestyle, body type, and goals, one or the other of these diets may work better for you–or you may want to follow a Mediterranean-style keto diet.

Ashley Simpson is a freelance writer dedicated to helping people improve their lives -- in every way possible. She understands that food and diet are necessary components to a healthy lifestyle and experiments with both. When she isn't typing away, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son.



Bai, N. (2022, July 8). Keto and Mediterranean diets both help manage diabetes, but one is easier to maintain. News Center. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2022/070/keto-mediterranean-diet-diabetes.html 


Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2019, May 22). Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for weight loss. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/ 


Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2023, April 3). Diet Review: Mediterranean diet. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/dietreviews/mediterranean-diet/ 


Harvard Medical School. (2021, February 15). Low fat, low carb, or Mediterranean: Which diet is right for you? Harvard Health. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/low-fat-low-carb-or-mediterranean-which-diet-is-right-for-you 


Martínez-González, M. A., Gea, A., & Ruiz-Canela, M. (2019). The Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation research, 124(5), 779–798. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.313348


Nissensohn, M., Román-Viñas, B., Sánchez-Villegas, A., Piscopo, S., & Serra-Majem, L. (2016). The Effect of the Mediterranean Diet on Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 48(1), 42–53.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2015.08.023


American Heart Association. (n.d.). Increased heart disease risk from red meat may stem from gut microbe response to digestion. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://newsroom.heart.org/news/increased-heart-disease-risk-from-red-meat-may-stem-from-gut-microbe-response-to-digestion 

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