Keto vs. Atkins: Which Is the Better Low-Carb Diet?

If the premise behind the ketogenic diet (a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein plan) sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Curious folks around the Internet have been asking: What’s the difference between the keto diet and the Atkins diet?

At their most basic, they’re both low-carb diets. But they’re not exactly the same.

The biggest difference between the keto diet and the Atkins plan might be their origin stories, says dietitian and educator Claudia T. Felty, PhD, RD. “Atkins was designed for weight loss, and keto was designed, it its strictest form, for seizure prevention.” (Really! It was a tool in the treatment of epilepsy, and has only recently been adopted as a slim-down strategy.)

RELATED: 7 Keto-Friendly Recipes People Are Loving on Pinterest

When you crunch the numbers for the two diets, things shake out a little differently too. People on the keto diet usually get 2% to 5% of their daily calories from carbs; while Atkins followers are typically getting around 10% of their calories from carbs (at least at first). Both diets use this ultra-low carb approach to trigger ketosis, a state in which the body burns fat for fuel instead of stored carbs, leading, in theory, to weight loss.

On the keto diet, people usually get somewhere between 75% and 90% of their daily calories from fat, and the remaining 6% to 20% of their calories from protein. In the Atkins plan, fat makes up closer to 60% of daily calories, with protein accounting for closer to 30%, according to the U.S. News and World Report annual diet rankings. (The site ranked Akins 36th out of 40 on its list, and keto 39th.) That helps explain why people think of Atkins as the “all bacon, all the time” plan, while keto is considered the “avocado-a-day” diet.

RELATED: Kourtney Kardashian Says She Did the Keto Diet to Help With a ‘Metal Detox’—Does That Work?

Another difference: The Atkins approach to carbs changes over time. “Atkins has what’s known as the ‘induction phase,’ which is the first phase of the diet. It allows 20 grams of net carbs—total carbs minus fiber. As the diet progresses, the carb amount allowed goes up,” Felty explains. “Keto counts all carbs—not just the net—and the amount tends to be much lower long-term than that of Atkins.”

Adding in more good-for-you carbs as you reach, and then maintain your goal weight brings you out of ketosis. And that might be a good thing: Ketosis can trigger ketoacidosis, which is when excess ketones–a byproduct of fat metabolism–build up in the blood. Left untreated, ketoacidosis can be fatal.

When it comes to losing weight, both plans can help you shed pounds, especially at first. Low-carb diets are often successful weight-loss plans in the short-term as you shed water weight. But the results might not last: In its reviews of the two diets, U.S. News and World Report pointed to longer-term studies that haven’t found much difference between low-carb diets and low-fat diets. There simply hasn’t been enough research to determine if lasting weight-loss success on a low-carb plan is due to cutting carbs, or simply cutting calories.

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If you’re considering going keto or trying Atkins, keep in mind that low-carb diets aren’t always easy to follow. After all, who wouldn’t miss potatoes? “I suggest modifying the diet to allow more carbs–especially the ones you know you can’t live without,” Health contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, wrote in a previous article. “In my experience, moderation is generally the key to shedding pounds for good, optimizing health, and living a balanced, enjoyable life.”

Keto vs. Atkins: What’s the Difference?

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If you been reading all about the ketogenic diet and feeling a little déjà vu, you’re not alone. The high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet sounds a lot like the Atkins Diet, which was developed by the late cardiologist Robert Atkins in the ’70s and took off again in the early 2000s. There are some fundamental differences between the two, however. Let the keto vs Atkins diet showdown begin.

The Similarities Between Keto Vs. Atkins

“The most obvious similarity is they’re both about carb restriction,” says Kelly McGrane, M.S., R.D., founder of The Healthy Toast in Denver. Another similarity is that you’re not counting calories on either one; it’s more about macronutrient distribution. And for most people, consuming very little carbs is drastically different than their typical diet, so both can lead to weight loss. (Related: What Happened When This Woman Went from a Low-Carb Diet to Counting Her Macros)

“Both diets advocate for impressive weight loss quickly,” says McGrane, “but there are really no good studies showing that long-term weight loss sticks with either one of them.”

When you’re just starting out, there’s a good chance either diet will make you feel less than stellar at first (ever heard of the keto flu?). “If you’ve been eating a lot of carbs, you’re likely to feel sluggish and even shaky when you dramatically lower them,” says McGrane.

Keto and Atkins each recommend eating as many whole foods as possible (i.e., not falling into the trap of “dirty keto,”), yet technically, they can both be followed by eating indulgent foods like bacon, full-fat cheese, and processed low-carb packaged snacks, so “it really depends on how the individual is doing it,” says McGrane. There are ways to make eating on either diet healthier, such as swapping in salmon for ribeye, which will give you more vitamins. “Anything—even if it’s healthy—in excess, can be too much for the body,” she says.

The Differences Between Keto Vs. Atkins

While you’re not sticking to a specific caloric intake on either program, following keto does require precisely calculating where your calories are coming from, which is 70-80 percent from fat, followed by 15-20 percent protein and just 5 percent from carbohydrates, says McGrane. A key difference between keto vs. Atkins here is that on keto, you can’t eat too much protein because it can be broken down into glucose, which is typically the body’s source of fuel, “and the whole point is you have to be breaking down fat to get energy” to be in ketosis, she notes.

Atkins doesn’t restrict protein. The classic Atkins 20 Diet is broken into four stages. The initial phase—which is basically a ketogenic diet—includes meat, fish, chicken and shellfish; eggs; fats like butter and olive oil; cheese; and low-carb vegetables. As you progress through the diet and reach stage four, however, you’re able to introduce more foods back in, such as fruit, starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, corn, beets) and whole grains (quinoa, whole-wheat bread, oatmeal), gradually increasing your daily carb intake.

Keto, on the other hand, eliminates any fruits, and you don’t get to add complex carbs (like sweet potatoes) back in—ever—like you can on Atkins, says McGrane. Overall, keto ends up feeling a lot more restrictive as your food choices remain limited as long as you’re on the diet. (FYI, that’s just one of the reasons why this dietitian is completely against keto.)

Keto Vs. Atkins: Beyond Weight Loss

While keto and Atkins are touted as weight-loss diets, both have been advertised as treatments for a wide range of diseases, including type 2 diabetes. (Related: Can the Keto Diet Help with Type 2 Diabetes?)

A claim of the Atkins diet is that low-carb diets can dramatically improve blood glucose control and insulin resistance, which makes it a good choice for patients who need this; yet a study published in Nutrition & Metabolism found that a ketogenic diet actually led to greater improvements in glycemic control than a low-glycemic diet (like Atkins). Another published review found that very low-carb diets, such as keto, resulted in better improvements in blood sugar control, weight loss, and medication reliance compared with other diets.

The Bottom Line On Keto Vs. Atkins

McGrane doesn’t recommend either diet in the long term, because they require cutting out major food groups. She says women following keto or Atkins can face “very real nutrient deficiencies,” and that keto isn’t the best diet for building muscle “because if you’re truly following it, you’re likely to have lower energy levels,” at least in the beginning. (FYI, here are some other side effects to keep in mind before trying keto.)

However, if you’re someone who tends to reach for a lot of sugary, processed snacks, following one of these can be a good *short-term* solution to clean up your diet, says McGrane. In the long term, it comes down to choosing a diet that can become a lifestyle for you, rather than looking for a quick fix.

  • By Kelsey Ogletree

Is a low-carb or keto diet right for you?

Where to start: For more information on treating epilepsy with a keto diet, watch this video:


11. Cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurological conditions

In treating existing cognitive decline, whether it is Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, switching your brain’s fuel from glucose to ketones appears to have a positive effect.45 Alzheimer’s disease is sometimes referred to as “Type 3 Diabetes” as it appears to include insulin resistance of the brain and a reduced ability for brain cells to take up glucose.46 So switching fuel sources may be beneficial.

The biggest potential for using a ketogenic diet as a therapy may be in mild cognitive decline, but the lack of alternative treatments for severe cognitive decline make dietary changes attractive, although improvement has been difficult to demonstrate.47 This may also be an area where ketone supplementation could be beneficial, but again the level of evidence about consuming extra ketones over and above dietary changes is still low.48

Ketones appear to have a protective effect on the brain in general, and therefore we can speculate that a ketogenic diet may possibly benefit various neurological conditions such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, and other causes of nerve cell damage.49 This remains a hot topic of research.

How low to go for cognitive issues?

Early, limited data suggest a keto diet, which switches the brain’s fuel from glucose to ketones, may be beneficial in improving symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia. While still highly exploratory, some individuals may want to try a ketogenic diet to see if their cognitive function improves when they remain in ketosis. To achieve this, most people would need to routinely stay under 20 grams of carbohydrate a day.

In theory, shifting the brain’s metabolism from glucose to ketones could offer protective effects for other neurological conditions. While ketogenic diets for posttraumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and Parkinson’s disease are now being actively researched, the data is so far very early and not yet conclusive to indicate it as a therapy.

Where to start: Diet Doctor has written some articles about the burgeoning, but still controversial, area and we have also published a video presentation about insulin and the brain by psychiatrist Georgia Ede below:

The ketogenic diet for Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment: can it help?

GuideAlzheimer’s disease and other related neurodegenerative conditions, which impact memory, behavior and decision-making, are now an epidemic hitting all Western societies.


12. Cancer adjunctive therapy

Ketogenic diets have the potential to assist in the treatment of certain cancers. Some cancer cells have an abnormal metabolism such that they depend completely on glucose for their fuel and are unable to oxidize fatty acids.50 Theoretically, switching the body’s metabolism from glucose to fatty acids, as happens in a ketogenic diet, could potentially help treat some types of cancer.51

Based on the need for an altered metabolism, low-carb diets likely would not be as effective as keto diets. In addition, a ketogenic diet may help sensitize cancer cells to make radiation and chemotherapy more effective. Although the ultimate effect is speculative, this could help reduce the required dose to allow for adequate treatment with fewer toxic side effects. 52

Animal research and limited human data suggest that a ketogenic diet may be beneficial when combined with traditional therapies for treating brain, prostate, colon, pancreatic and lung cancer.53 However, we should recognize that forms of cancer may differ greatly, and for some cancers, a ketogenic diet may not be the best approach to use, even in conjunction with medical treatment.54

Importantly, the amount of human evidence supporting a ketogenic diet for cancer treatment is limited, and this evidence supports a ketogenic diet combined with traditional treatment such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. No convincing data exists yet to support that a ketogenic diet is superior to traditional therapy, or that it should be used as a solitary treatment.

This should be considered a scientific field in its infancy, with more information to come.

How low to go?

It is too early to conclusively say keto diets help treat cancer, but preliminary evidence points to potential benefits when combined with traditional cancer therapies.

Furthermore, although no studies of this have been done, for an individual who is controlling type 2 diabetes or other conditions with a keto or low-carb diet, continuing this diet while undergoing cancer treatment might help to maintain overall health.

Where to start: For more information about how diet and cancer may be related, see Diet Doctor’s introductory discussion about the Warburg effect and cancer and the Diet Doctor article discussing existing science and debate around using the ketogenic diet as an addition to standard therapy for the brain cancer, glioblastoma.

13. Lifestyle concerns

Athletic performance

Athletic performance on a keto diet remains a controversial subject with conflicting data.55 Issues of adaptation time, type of exercise, differences of training and racing diets, and baseline fitness all play a role in measuring response. Some studies that found a negative response investigated the effect of a keto diet on performance over as little as four days.56 That is a woefully inadequate time to allow for adaptation to a keto diet.

Fully adapting to a keto diet may take a lot of time, something many athletes may not have in preparation for an event. Yet to see maximal benefit, there needs to be a shift in fuel metabolism to ketosis and adequate adaptation to this state.57 It is estimated that this adaptation period typically lasts four to six weeks, but in some cases may take much longer.58

The leading book on the keto diet and athletic performance is The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff Volek PhD, RD and Dr. Stephen Phinney, MD, PhD.59 The authors note on the book’s website: “The key fact underlying this book is that you can train your body to burn fat by simply changing your diet over a period of a few weeks, thereby turning blood sugar and glycogen into secondary fuels. Once you make this transition, you can then train harder, perform longer, and recover faster.“

Based on anecdotal reports, it appears there are subsets of endurance athletes who thrive on a ketogenic diet, just as there are subsets who do worse.60 As of now, the science does not adequately define a way to predetermine who will do well and who will not. If one is willing to do a self-experiment for a minimum of six months, then a trial of a ketogenic diet seems reasonable.

For those who struggle, transitioning to a non-ketogenic low carb diet, such as 150 grams of carbs per day, might allow athletic performance to improve, especially for the more glycolytic (glucose burning) activities such as sprinting or interval demands (for example, jiu jitsu). We don’t have solid evidence to compare a non-ketogenic low-carb diet to a high-carb diet, so again self-experimentation is likely the key to finding the best individualized approach.

Verdict: In theory, endurance exercise performance could improve with a keto diet after a prolonged adaptation period, but the data are inconclusive.

Mental health, performance, and attention

This is an area full of anecdotal reports but with a shortage of scientific evidence. In theory, shifting the brain’s metabolism from glucose to ketones could be beneficial for cognitive function in general. Therefore, a ketogenic diet of under 20 grams is required. Even then, however, there is no consensus as to improved cognition. This is an era best left to self-experimenters to see if they happen to see improved mental clarity and less brain fog.

Verdict — No clear evidence. Self-experimentation with a keto diet is reasonable, as carbohydrate is a non-essential nutrient. Diet Doctor has written a few articles that explore the nature of the evidence so far for both mental health conditions and for attention deficit disorder.

Is a no carb, low carb or moderate carb diet the best choice for someone living with diabetes? This is a question I’m asked almost daily, and today I will try to answer it by sharing my experiences with all three diet types.

Before I jump into the different diets, let’s get the obvious answer out of the way which is “it depends”. The diet that is best for you will always depend on your goals and activity level – the diet that works for you might not work for me, and vice versa. If you are trying to build strength and muscles, you shouldn’t follow the same diet as when you are trying to lose weight.

In the same way, someone who runs every day has different dietary requirements to someone who sits in an office all day and doesn’t exercise.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the details of the different diets!

The moderate carb diet

The general recommendation for a non-diabetic person is to get 40-60% of their daily calories from carbs. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, that’s between 200 and 300 grams of carbs a day.

For people with diabetes, this is generally too many carbs, but I do get pretty close to this when I exercise a lot and am trying to build muscle mass. During my last building phase, I averaged about 200-250 grams of carbs a day, but I was also lifting heavy weights 5-6 days a week. As long as I stick to low glycemic carbs (except right after my workout), I can eat that many carbs and still have very good blood sugar control.

The great thing about the moderate carb diet (aside from eating lots of tasty carbs) was that I managed to lean out slightly while adding some nice muscle mass. However, I wouldn’t consider this a weight loss diet by any means. Most people, myself included, won’t be able to “keep it clean” all of the time, and there’s really no room for error on this diet, as you can easily start putting on some fat as well.

My “standard” diet when I am not trying to gain muscle or lose weight is around 100-120 grams of carbs a day for a 2000-calorie diet. You can see exactly what my typical diet is like in this post.

The low carb diet

There is no clear definition of exactly what a “low carb diet” means, but when I talk about low carb diets, I refer to a diet consisting of approximately 50-75 grams of complex carbs a day (not including vegetables).

I’ve found this to be the sweet spot for most type 1 diabetic women (myself included) when dieting. I only go this low when I want to slim down, like when I want to drop the last few pounds for a photo shoot or fitness competition.

An added benefit of a low carb diet is that it makes good blood sugar control easier. I divide my daily carbs between several meals and combine them with lean protein and good fats, so I hardly see any blood sugar fluctuations after meals.

I know that this will be controversial to a lot of people in the diabetes community, but, in general, I don’t recommend a low carb diet as an optimal every-day maintenance diet. It’s great for weight loss and can help with blood sugar control, but it also decreases your metabolism and energy levels.

If you live an active lifestyle (and especially if you do resistance training), the moderate carb diet provides you with the energy you need to fuel your workouts, while still allowing for great blood sugar control.

The no-carb (ketogenic) diet

The theory behind the ketogenic diet is that by consuming almost no carbs (less than 5% of your total calories), your body will start converting fat into fatty acids and ketones. Ketones can replace glucose as your body’s main energy source, meaning that your body mainly relies on fat for energy. In theory, this should make it very easy to lose excess body fat if you limit your calorie intake at the same time.

Because you eat almost no carbs, you also, in theory, need very little insulin, making blood sugar control easier.

I tried the ketogenic diet and it did not work for me AT ALL! I only had 20 grams of carbs a day and my insulin sensitivity went bonkers. Since fat is released more slowly into the bloodstream than complex or refined carbs, I didn’t see any crazy blood sugar fluctuations, but my insulin needs increased by 100% in comparison to when I was eating a low carb or moderate carb diet.

Needless to say, my experience with the ketogenic diet was that I gained weight FAST. Not really what I was going for. My blood sugars were nice and stable although often trending high but since gaining fat isn’t part of my goal, I can honestly say that I will most likely never try a ketogenic diet again.

I know that some people successfully follow a ketogenic diet for diabetes management, so my experience may not be typical, but I cannot recommend a ketogenic diet at this point. You don’t need it for good blood sugar control, and the downsides can be serious.


As I wrote in the beginning, what the optimal diet is for you depends on your goals. Personally, I find a low carb diet optimal for weight loss and a moderate carb diet optimal for maintaining and building muscle mass.

As a final note, some people with diabetes also follow an all-carb all-fruit diet in which they eat over 600 grams of carbs a day and get great results. This is not something I would ever try, but it clearly shows that there are many different diets that can work well for diabetes management. The best thing for you to do is to experiment, take notes, learn from your mistakes, and find the diet that works for you and your body!

Recommended next post: How to Lose Weight When You Live with Diabetes

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Why a low-carb diet may not be so good for you

A large-scale, two-part study now published in The Lancet Public Health journal examines the effects of high, moderate, and low carbohydrate intake on mortality risk.

Share on PinterestThe results of a new study could make you think twice before turning down carbs.

As more and more people are concerned with losing weight, the prevalence of the low-carb diet is increasing.

However, new research points out that both too much carbohydrate and too little in our diet may be a cause for concern.

Also, according to the new research, if you must choose between two types of low-carb diet, you should choose the one that replaces carbs with plant-derived proteins and fats.

Such diets may help prolong life — unlike the diets that replace carbs with animal proteins and fat.

Dr. Sara Seidelmann, who is a clinical and research fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, led the research.

According to her, “Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight loss strategy.

“However, our data suggest that animal-based low-carbohydrate diets, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged.”

“Instead, if one chooses to follow a low-carbohydrate diet, then exchanging carbohydrates for more plant-based fats and proteins might actually promote healthy aging in the long-term.”

Dr. Sara Seidelmann

Studying carbohydrate intake and mortality

Dr. Seidelmann and colleagues explain the motivation for their research. Previous studies, they say, have suggested that low-carb diets are good for weight loss and metabolic health.

However, these findings referred only to the short term. The long-term effect of a low consumption of carbs on mortality risk has not garnered enough attention in the research community, and the studies that have examined the matter yielded conflicting results.

Also, studies have not yet looked at the fat and protein sources in these low-carb diets, and their impact on mortality risk.

To remedy this, the researchers studied over 15,400 people, aged 45–64, who registered in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study in 1987–1989.

The male study participants reported an intake of 600–4200 kilocalories per day, on average, while the females said that they consumed 500–3600 kilocaleries per day.

The participants answered questions about their dietary habits both at the beginning of the study and 6 years later, at follow-up. The questionnaire asked about what types of food and drink the participants consumed, in what portions, and with what frequency.

Then, the scientists analyzed the link between overall carbohydrate consumption and mortality from any cause.

In the second stage of the study, the team conducted a meta-analysis of cohort studies that summed up over 430,000 people from across the world.

Moderate-carb, plant-based diet may be ideal

The first part of the study revealed that both a low intake of carbs (less than 40 percent of the total energy intake coming from carbs) and a high intake (or over 70 percent) correlated with a higher risk of premature mortality.

By comparison, a moderate carb intake of 50–55 percent of the total energy was found to correlate with 4 more years of life expectancy, compared with people who consumed too little carbohydrate.

The second part of the study reinforced these findings and found that replacing carbs with animal proteins in a low-carb diet correlated with a higher risk of mortality than consuming carbs in moderation.

“Too much and too little carbohydrate can be harmful but what counts most is the type of fat, protein, and carbohydrate,” says study co-author Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA.

Senior study author Dr. Scott Solomon, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, weighs in on the findings.

“This work,” he says, “provides the most comprehensive study of carbohydrate intake that has been done to date, and helps us better understand the relationship between the specific components of diet and long-term health.”

“While a randomized trial has not been performed to compare the longer-term effects of different types of low-carbohydrate diets, these data suggest that shifting towards a more plant-based consumption is likely to help attenuate major morbid disease.”

Dr. Scott Solomon

Keto Versus Atkins: How Do the Two Low-Carb Diets Compare?

There is certainly no shortage of diet types to choose from these days. From Whole30 and gluten-free to plant-based living, it can be hard to find one that works for you and your real life.

While dieting trends are constantly changing today, the most popular diets promote real whole foods for lasting results that go beyond weight loss.

The ketogenic diet and the Atkins diet are two of the most followed nutritional plans because of their low-carb approaches.

With thousands of fat loss success stories from plans like the 28-Day Keto Challenge, it’s no wonder low carb diets are all the rage.

If you’re looking to lower your intake of carbohydrates in a healthy way, keto or Atkins may be good options for you. But, even though they have a low-carb approach in common, there are a few key differences between the diets.

Here, experts share how these diets compare and what to know before starting them.

What is the ketogenic diet?

Also known as the keto diet, it’s a super high-fat diet that also includes an adequate amount of protein and a very low carbohydrates intake.

Thousands of women have taken the “28-Day Keto Challenge“. It’s your essential guide to living the keto lifestyle.

“The keto diet is 70 percent fat, 25 percent protein, and 5 percent carbohydrates,” says Samantha Lynch, registered dietitian nutritionist.

Due to the low amount of carbs in this diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. This forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. These replace what would normally be converted into glucose (from carbohydrates) as the source of energy.

“It typically takes three to six weeks for the body to make the transition to running on fat,” adds Paul Salter, R.D., M.S., and founder of Fit in Your Dress.

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What is the Atkins diet?

Dr. Robert Atkins founded this diet, also known as the Atkins nutritional approach, in 1972. Marketed as a low-carbohydrate diet, it’s often regarded as the diet that started the low-carb craze.

“The diet began as a simple low-carbohydrate approach. emphasized more protein and fats (including saturated fats) and a reduction in carbohydrates.

Therefore carbohydrates consumed come from high-fiber, satiating options,” Salter says. Over the years the diet has evolved to include four distinct phases.

  1. Induction: You are restricted to no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. Emphasis is placed on high-fat and high-protein foods, with the source of carbohydrates coming from dark, leafy greens.
  2. Balancing: You begin to incorporate more nuts, low-carbohydrate vegetables, and small amounts of fruit.
  3. Fine-tuning: Once you’re close to your goal weight, you will begin to add more carbohydrates until the weight loss slows down.
  4. Maintenance: You may eat as many high-fiber carbohydrates as you can tolerate without regaining weight.

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Keto Versus Atkins: The Pros and Cons

Before you settle on which diet that you want to move forward with it’s important to be aware of the pros and cons for each.

Atkins Diet: Pros

The Atkins diet offers quick weight loss results and reduces appetite and cravings, especially for sweets.

According to Lynch, there is less insulin produced in the body. This is because the diet is low on carbs and doesn’t include any sugar.

Insulin in the pancreas often lowers blood sugar levels, she adds, leading to fluctuating blood sugar (glucose) levels. These fluctuating levels are responsible for cravings. So when there is less insulin produced, there are less fluctuating sugar levels, and, therefore, fewer cravings.

Due to the dip in insulin production and blood sugar levels, the Atkins Diet can be a great resource for reversing diabetes or pre-diabetes and help people manage PCOS, says Lynch.

“If you have quick weight loss, even if you have like a 10 percent weight loss of your body weight, your blood sugar levels are more likely to be within normal ranges. We always shoot for a 10 percent drop,” she says.

Lynch adds that in order to stabilize blood sugars, you should eat a high-protein, high-fiber diet.

Atkins Diet: Cons

The Atkins diet can also cause electrolyte imbalances. Additionally, according to Lynch, the Atkins diet can lead to reduced muscle mass and weakened bones.

“If you lose weight quickly, your body is obviously going to use ketones. But it will also use your muscle mass for energy,” explains Lynch.

“If you use your muscle mass for energy, you’re lowering your muscle mass. Because so many people gain back the weight, what happens is they actually have a higher percent body fat and less muscle mass.”

Additionally, Lynch says that many people who gain back the weight find that they have a lower metabolic rate than they did before they initially lost the weight. Though studies have been conducted to try to prove this, further research is required.

The diet may also lead to osteoporosis, says Lynch. Salter adds that “with a very high fat intake, if somebody is not restricting their fat appropriately between saturated and unsaturated and relying too heavily on saturated fat, that could pose a risk for osteoporosis.”

Again, there have been various studies done that both prove and dispute this. To make sure that you’re consuming all the vitamins and minerals you need, it’s best to consult a registered dietician.

Keto Diet: Pros

Historically, the keto diet was invented to help people with epilepsy. According to Salter, the keto diet was hypothesized to help people with epileptic seizures.

It “robbed the brain of sugar,” including sugar that came from broken down carbohydrates. He explains that sugar was believed to fuel the nerve impulses that caused the epileptic seizures.

Similarly to the Atkins diet, the keto diet can also help with the maintenance of blood sugar levels and reduce the risk or severity of type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, studies have shown that people in ketosis have decreased levels of triglycerides and increased levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).

“By reducing blood sugar levels, you’re going to reduce triglycerides. Triglycerides are basically excess carbohydrates or they’re fat in the liver. Triglyceride levels are affected by the incline of blood sugar levels and weight loss,” Lynch explains.

She adds that high consumption of soluble fiber may also help lower cholesterol.

The lower blood sugar levels also play a role in the decreased risk of heart disease.

“Again you’re removing tons of high sugar food. And you’re eating a large number of leafy greens which are healthy, good-for-you fats. That is going to have a positive effect on your heart health as a whole as well,” Salter says.

Keto Diet: Cons

Arguably the biggest con for the keto diet is that many people never truly achieve ketosis.

“The main difference is the Atkins diet includes a gradual increase in carbohydrate intake. far more sustainable, after completing a period of time following a very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) approach. The ketogenic diet is a very-low-carbohydrate diet at all times,” Salter says.

“ the ketogenic diet, you have to meet these precise eating guidelines. If you do not eat to the guidelines, you actually don’t induce the state of ketosis necessary to experience those benefits.”

Lynch echoes the sentiment. “Unfortunately, most Americans want results and they want them quick. I always remind people: You didn’t gain the weight overnight, so be realistic with your expectations,” she says.

Additionally, the keto diet, when followed incorrectly, may lead to an electrolyte imbalance.

“A lot of people will experience an electrolyte imbalance, especially when transitioning from a traditional western diet to a keto diet. When you stop eating carbs you do lose a lot of sodium and potassium that are common in those foods,” says Salter.

He adds that it’s important that people be aware of the risk and take electrolyte supplements to replenish their stores. This is especially true for people who work out regularly and lose electrolytes through sweat.

There are four types of electrolytes to be cognizant of: potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium. According to Lynch, many of the foods not allowed on these low-carb diets provide the highest sources of electrolytes for most people.

“A lot of the grains have magnesium, potassium comes in a lot of fruits and vegetables,” she says. In order to ensure you get the nutrients you need, she adds that you should consult a dietician before starting the diet.

Which diet is better for me?

An important thing to keep in mind is that if you have a fit lifestyle, both diets probably won’t work well for you. “For a fit and active lifestyle, it’s going to be hard to maintain either of these diets,” Lynch says.

“However, if you do lower-intensity exercises like yoga, pilates, barre, and walking, it will be easier to maintain. Remaining in ketosis is not advised and can be dangerous.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that, when it comes to keto versus Atkins, the keto diet lays out specific guidelines. However, the Atkins diet does not.

“The main difference is the ketogenic diet is much more precise. You have to be precise in order to achieve those benefits,” says Salter.

“I think the Atkins diet is more flexible and might be less intimidating, which is something some people gravitate towards. However, on the other end of the spectrum, some people need that rule-based approach. need all of these specific diet guidelines in place because otherwise, they’re going try to break the rules or bend them. So it depends on the individual.”

Regardless of which diet you choose, there are two major things to keep in mind before starting any new diet. The first is to always check with a physician or registered dietician.

You want to ensure that the changes you plan to make to your diet are right and safe for you. The second is to make sure that you pick a diet that can become a lifestyle.

“My biggest piece of feedback to people is to make sure it’s an approach you can foresee yourself doing for the long term. Not a quick-fix rash diet approach,” says Salter.

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You can’t scroll through your Instagram without seeing a handful of celebrities (like Kourtney Kardashian and Adriana Lima) and social media influencers showing off their flat bellies while singing the praises of their favorite low-carb meals. And if your New Year’s resolution is to shed those pesky pounds, you might be this close to hopping on the carb-restrictive bandwagon.

But before you become one of the more than 13 million people posting about their #lowcarb life, here’s what you need to know about two increasingly popular weight-loss plans: keto and Atkins.

Keto Diet 101

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In short, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, ultra-low-carb plan. Tried by Jenna Jameson, Savannah Guthrie, and Halle Berry, this diet works by sending the body into ketosis, a physiological state that occurs when your body is forced to burn fat cells instead of glucose (due to the absence of carbs) as a form of energy.

“In order to reach ketosis, you have to keep carbohydrate intake to a minimum, so you need to eat about 75% of your calories from fat, 20% from protein, and about 5% from carbs,” says Julie Upton, MS, RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health.

Keto For Carb Lovers: 100+ Amazing Low-Carb, High-Fat Recipes $24.95

And when the body uses the glucose that’s stored in our muscles as glycogen for energy, the scale goes down. “Our muscles store about 3 grams of water for every gram of glycogen, meaning we can lose quite a bit of weight right away when we tap into glycogen stores for fuel,” says GH Nutrition Director Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN. “That’s why someone who loses weight in ‘just one week!’ from a low-carb plan is likely losing water weight, not necessarily real weight that stays off over time, but the immediacy can be motivating at the beginning of a weight-loss diet.”

Atkins Diet 101

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With Rob Lowe as the latest (and first male) spokesperson for this widely known low-carb diet, it’s no wonder people are (once again) taking the Atkins route. “Atkins is a diet where you replace many of your carbohydrates with protein and healthy fats — meaning foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats,” Upton says. (FYI: The diet was created by a cardiologist named Robert C. Atkins back in the ’60s.)

The diet is divided into four phases where carbs are slowly re-introduced as the stages go on. Phase 1 is the most drastic since it’s about sending your body into ketosis with a daily intake of protein, fat, and 20 to 25 grams carbs — where about 15 grams should be from veggies. Phase 2 boosts the daily carb intake to 25 to 50 grams and more carb-filled foods are added to the diet, such as berries, melon, and legumes. Phase 3 ups the daily carb intake to 50 to 80 grams — where starchy veggies, more fruits, and whole grains are added to the plan. And Phase 4 increases the daily carb intake to 80 to 100 grams.

Atkins has created a more relaxed plan (called Atkins 40) where Phase 1 begins with a daily carb intake of 40 grams. Both versions nix simple carbohydrates (bread, bagels, cereal, juice, dried fruit), starches (white pasta, white potatoes, white rice, corn, chips), and anything with added sugars.

The Pros and Cons of Keto and Atkins

Generally speaking, eating fewer carbs can be healthful since the typical follower of the Western diet takes in more than the daily recommended amount of carbohydrates (about half of our calories per day, where at least half of these grains derive from whole grains, according to the 2015-2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans).


However, London stresses that any diet ultra-low in carbs — such as keto and phase 1 of Atkins — can result in some unwanted short-term side effects (like constipation and bad breath), as well as some serious long-term ones (increased risk of osteoporosis, kidney and liver issues, and decreased immune function). Also, one large study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2018 found that low-carb diets should be “avoided” since followers are at a greater risk of death due to heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Upton highlights the additional cardiovascular complications that may arise from the keto lifestyle. “The keto diet doesn’t emphasize healthy fats — it just promotes any type of fat, like heavy cream, butter, and lard,” she explains.

London also feels that a super-restrictive plan like keto sets you up for failure since one innocent mom’s night out will result in immediate weight gain. “Keto diets rely on an extreme technique to (temporarily) move the scale down a few pounds, and basically eliminates all joy associated with eating real food and living life,” she adds.

But this isn’t as much the case with Atkins. “What’s great about Atkins 40 is that it encourages choosing smarter carbohydrates in place of simple added sugars from sneaky sources and emphasizes polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are two evidence-backed strategies for better health and long-term weight loss,” London says. “I also like the emphasis on whole-food sources of fiber, which makes the plan more realistic than extreme eating plans that almost entirely eliminate a food group.”

The Bottom Line

London and Upton both find more promising results from following the Atkins plan, but this diet is not realistic for everyone. “You may find yourself dreaming of bagels instead of feeling good on the plan,” London adds. “That said, Atkins’ reincorporation of starches and the plan’s increased veggie intake can be super effective, and the maintenance phase can feel much more attainable for the long term.”

For anyone looking to consume less carbs in their regime, London shares this advice:
“Fill up on veggies of all kinds — starchy and non-starchy — choose lean protein, low-fat dairy, and nuts and legumes as much as possible, and allow for the occasional dessert or indulgence (about 150 to 200 calories daily). Hardcore restrictions can backfire big time, so go easy on yourself!”

Since eating preferences and dietary needs vary from person to person, it’s advised to check with your doctor before starting any new weight-loss program.

Amy Capetta Amy Capetta has been writing health and lifestyle articles for over 15 years.© Keto diet foods

When it comes to low-carb diets, there are most likely two that come to mind: keto and Atkins. But in the keto vs. Atkins debate, is there really a difference? And if there is, is one better for you than the other?

The two diets are easy to confuse because they both are low carb diets and both can allow the body to enter into a state of ketosis. However, the diets are not interchangeable. Sharon Brown, clinical nutritionist and founder of frozen bone broth company Bonafide Provisions and Maryann Walsh, MFN, RD, CDE explain how the keto and Atkins diet actually differ. And for more, be sure to check out the 20 Healthiest Low-Carb Foods.

Keto vs. Atkins diet: What are the main differences?

The main difference between the keto diet and the Atkins diet lies within the reason why each diet was originally created. The keto diet—which is short for ketogenic—was originally popularized as a therapy for epilepsy in the 1920s and 30s, not a weight loss program.

“It was developed to provide an alternative to fasting, which also pushes the body into a state of ketosis and had demonstrated success as an epilepsy therapy,” explains Brown.

The Atkins diet, on the other hand, didn’t come to fruition until 1972. Cardiologist Dr. Robert C. Atkins created this low carbohydrate diet to promote and expedite weight loss.

Walsh adds that the keto diet encourages consumption of more natural, non-nutritive sweeteners such as monk fruit and stevia instead of products with sugar alcohols—meaning erythritol and glycerin—or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. The Atkins diet doesn’t place as much emphasis on natural ingredients, as long as the product is low carb.

What is the keto diet?

“Technically speaking, a ketogenic diet is any diet that restricts carbohydrates and protein to a level that pushes the body into a state of ketosis—these levels can be different based on individual carbohydrate tolerance,” says Brown.

It’s no wonder why there is confusion between the two diets. The definition of the ketogenic diet could be equated to the Atkins diet.

“However, the traditional ketogenic diet, as used for the treatment of epilepsy, is comprised of 75-80 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 0-5 percent carbohydrates,” she clarifies.

The keto diet requires a high fat intake, moderate protein intake, and minimal carbs and is unchanging. The Atkins diet is structured differently.

This low carbohydrate diet has three key phases: induction, on-going weight loss, and pre-maintenance. Oftentimes you’ll hear about a fourth stage, which refers to maintenance.

“The introduction phase can be classified as a traditional ketogenic diet restricting carbohydrates to 15-20 grams per day, or about 0-5 percent of daily caloric intake for most people,” says Brown.

The second stage allows between 15 and 40 grams of carbohydrates per day which Brown points out could have a ketogenic effect for some people, but again, is different from the traditional keto diet.

Brown says the third stage allows you to increase your carb intake by 10 grams per week until you level out at around 40-60 grams of carbs per day. However, others can go up to 100 grams of carbs per day depending on their weight loss goals.

Walsh says the main focus of the Atkins diet is limiting carbs without restricting protein as much as someone following the keto diet. As a result, though, it makes it difficult for someone following the Atkins diet to stay in ketosis as 50-60 percent of the protein turns into glucose (sugar).

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Is one diet more effective than the other?

Brown says that the traditional ketogenic diet is the best approach for treating epilepsy, whereas the Atkins diet may be a better long-term approach for keeping weight off. Since the keto diet is so restrictive, it’s difficult for many to maintain.

Ultimately, both diets are effective for weight loss, it just comes down to what you want to gain from the diet.

“The keto diet is favorable for those who desire to enter the state of ketosis and reap the benefits of it beyond weight loss,” says Walsh.

The Atkins diet allows for more flexibility on carb intake, but the carb restriction on the keto diet boots mental clarity, clearer skin, and promotes satiety.

Which diet do you prefer?

Both Brown and Walsh prefer the keto diet over the Atkins diet for similar reasons.

“The Atkins Diet, as it is known today, has morphed from a diet that prescribed eating whole foods found in nature—meat, fish, full-fat dairy, and green vegetables—into a branded line of products that are meant to imitate foods that are not part of a low carb, or any whole foods-based diet,” says Brown.

Foods like cookies, muffins, and bars are labeled as low carb but in return are heavily processed and loaded with additives and artificial ingredients. As a result, low-carb natural foods are sacrificed for brand name products.

“The modern Atkins Diet is less about eating real food and more about buying products with the Atkins name and eating anything that fits the macros,” says Brown. “The approach to keto, Atkins, or, any diet for that matter, needs to be a whole food approach where the diet is comprised of foods that come from nature, not labs or factories.”

As mentioned above, a lot of Atkins diet products contain large amounts of sugar alcohols to substitute sugar, primarily one called maltitol which Walsh says is known for kindling gastrointestinal discomfort. Another reason she prefers the keto diet over the Atkins diet is that there is a greater market for keto-friendly products.

“While preparing meals and snacks with fresh vegetables, meats, and cheeses are encouraged in both diets, it’s much easier for consumers to find keto-friendly meal replacements and snack products as there are currently many options by numerous brands at all different price points available due to keto’s current high popularity,” says Walsh.

Bottom line.

To review, the keto diet calls for high consumption of fat, moderate consumption of protein, and minimal to no carbs. The main goal of the keto diet is to promote and maintain a constant state of ketosis which has many health benefits, the top one being a treatment for epilepsy. The Atkins diet, on the other hand, is split into phases, the first of which mirrors a ketogenic effect, but allows for more carbs by phases two and three. While both diets are effective means of weight loss, it’s important that you take a step back and look at what foods

“Whatever food program you choose, always take a whole food, grown by nature, approach,” says Brown. “Your body is a machine, designed to be fueled by food first.”

I Tried the Keto Diet for 10 days and here’s what I learned (MSN)

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I Tried the Keto Diet for 10 Days and Here’s What I Learned

What if we told you that indulging in all the butter, cheese, and steak you want can help your energy levels soar, crush cravings, and melt inches off your frame? Well, those are the lofty results the ketogenic (or keto, for short) diet promises—and the actual outcomes aren’t that far off.

Here’s a digestible rundown of how the diet works: Eating no more than 10 percent of your calories from carbs, about 20 percent from protein, and about 70 percent from healthy fats causes the liver to produce ketones, or byproducts of breaking down fat for energy, allowing your body to enter ketosis. (I religiously logged my macros on MyFitnessPal.) Sticking to this low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet allows your body to burn fat for fuel rather than glucose—our primary source of energy.

And who doesn’t want that? I sure did, and therefore decided to give it a whirl.

Naysayers swore I’d be irritable, hungry, and wouldn’t last three days. Yet regardless of the doubtful outpouring, my will to enter the magical state of ketosis remained unsullied.

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1. I Gained Energy

After reading countless blog posts about fellow dieters reporting exhaustion and fatigue during the first few days, I actually noticed my energy levels soar. In fact, I felt as if I had downed three cups of coffee sans cream. At one point, the restlessness and jitters were a bit overwhelming. Though, after a few days progressed, my energy levels began to balance, and I felt more productive and clear-minded. Brain fog, begone!

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2. My Stomach Became Flatter

You know when you wake up with a noticeably flatter stomach and wish it would remain that toned all day? Well, that normally transient state became quite permanent on keto. My bloating subsided, and I was convinced my abs would uncover after just a few more days on the diet—and it wasn’t just all in my head. “Often times, if someone has GI issues from too much fiber, reducing it can lead to less bloating,” Jim White, RD, ACSM, and owner of Jim White Fitness Nutrition Studios, shares with us. “In addition, one gram of carbs holds onto one gram of water. When you decrease carbs, you can lose water weight, hence a flatter stomach.”

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3. Bulletproof Coffee Isn’t as Magical as it Seems

You may have heard all the buzz surrounding bulletproof coffee and its claims to supercharge brain power and bless you with newfound mental clarity. Unfortunately, lacing my morning cup of joe with unsalted grass-fed butter and MCT oil didn’t result in the wondrous effects Silicon Valley execs and Hollywood stars report. The best benefit, personally, was that the brew provided some serious lip moisturizing benefits with every sip.

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4. My Cravings Became Nonexistent

This must’ve been the most striking side effect of them all. My once-ravenous appetite decreased dramatically. Enter: I stopped incessantly snacking at my desk, quit pouring bowls of cereal after dark, and remained unscathed by my colleagues spooning Ben & Jerry’s new low-cal ice cream right in front of my face. The self-proclaimed Carb Queen has been officially dethroned.

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5. Meal Prep Is Key

Prepping your meals in advance is one of the essential tactics to maintaining ketosis. Allowing your willpower to make food decisions when you’re hungry will seriously increase your chances of grabbing any grub in sight, potentially kicking you out of ketosis. If you’re serious about sticking to this diet and experiencing all of its miraculous effects—including weight loss— remember to devote some time to meal prepping.

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6. I Discovered a Bunch of New Foods

In the process of learning how to make time for meal prep, I also discovered a handful of new favorite foods. Because let’s face it, I couldn’t live on eating whole avocados in one sitting and dousing everything in cheese and butter for 10 days. I had to get creative in the kitchen. To boost my daily fat intake, I experimented with foods I’ve never thought I’d love before going keto. Low-carb picks such as House Foods’ tofu noodles (pictured above) and Keto Carne (zero-sugar beef jerky), as well as high-fat snacks such as Cacao Vita’s single-origin cacao nibs, became my go-to kitchen staples. For breakfast, I found myself munching on two squares of 90-percent cacao with some almonds (see below) or two tablespoons of Kite Hill Chive Cream Cheese Style Spread (this stuff will make you forget about real cheese!).

For lunch, I often fried turkey and beef meatballs or packed a tofu scramble. Dinner was usually a piece of salmon with veggies or two-egg omelet with cheese. Eating out was by far the hardest. But if you must hit up your local sushi joint, go with the Naruto roll, which wraps fresh fish in cucumber instead of rice. Remember, you can always ask your waiter to modify your meals.

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7. The Heart Healthiness of Going Keto is Still Up in the Air

Consuming so many animal products had me questioning whether or not the keto diet is detrimental to heart health, so I spoke with cardiologist Adam Splaver, MD, clinical cardiologist and co-founder of Nano Health Associates, who reassured that “as long as you are consuming good fats, not a problem.” On the contrary, “bad fats can promote atherosclerosis,” he said, adding that hydrogenated fats are to be avoided and healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are highly recommended for keto… as I spooned my way through an entire avocado, again.

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8. It’s Hard to Maintain Ketosis

Using ketone testing strips, which measure your levels of ketone bodies via urine, I noticed how my level of ketosis fluctuated after each meal and time of day. Forking into just half a sweet potato would kick me out of ketosis, so I resolved to avoid high-glycemic produce, no matter how healthy they may be. By day seven, the strips informed me that I had reached a deep level of ketosis—aka, my self-inflicted carb deprivation was definitely paying off. If you’re planning to try this diet, I highly recommend purchasing test strips to determine your individualized upper carb limit and get an idea of how certain foods affect your ketosis levels.

Day nine was my downfall. I regretfully binged on chocolate frozen yogurt and microwaved stroopwafels. Cutting my net carbs to 10 grams the next day had me feeling extra moody and groggy, and by the end of day 10, I completely succumbed to all of my favorite carb-laden vices. Whoops.

My first week on the keto diet went remarkably well—as in, I wasn’t swearing like a sailor or drooling over every whole-wheat roll my friends popped into the toaster. However, the influx of cravings and insatiable hunger I experienced toward the end of my experiment made me realize that this diet isn’t very sustainable.

“Any time you drop entire macro or food groups you once loved, you will start to crave it,” White informs us. “I say be flexible with it. I know keto is all about getting into ketosis, but it won’t kill you to tailor it a little and increase the carbs. What’s the point of going on a diet that is short-lived and you eventually gain all your weight back?”

Moving forward, I definitely plan to adopt a low-carb diet. Personally, cutting carbs—especially processed, refined carbs—completely alleviated the occasional bloating and abdominal pain I suffered from and endowed me with long-lasting energy. And by the end of the ten days, I had lost about a pound and a half and few centimeters off my waist—not enough to fit into my enshrouded pair of AG jeans, but a sufficient amount to feel some sense of pride.

Convinced to embark on your own ketogenic journey? Before you start, stock up on these 20 Best Foods for the Keto Diet.


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