Mediterranean Diet vs. Ketogenic Diet

Imge of Mediterranean Diet vs. Ketogenic Diet



Nowadays, it is common to hear that someone around you is either doing the keto diet or the Mediterranean diet. Both are great options that can help improve your health. Experts have analyzed the wide range of benefits each one of them possesses.

So let’s learn more about them. What are their similarities? Or are they completely different? Are there any side effects from each one? Which foods can I eat in each eating plan? Are they expensive? And in the end, which one is healthier?

We will answer all of these questions and more!


What is the Mediterranean diet?

Before we start comparing the two diets, let’s start with the basics. What does the Mediterranean diet consist of?

The Mediterranean approach is based on the traditional eating habits of people near the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy.

Researchers saw that people around this area had fewer cardiovascular diseases and better quality of life. 

It is a mostly plant-based diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats. Dairy, fish, and meat are eaten in moderation, and red meat is limited. Added sugars and highly processed products are avoided. Whole, natural foods are the focus of this diet.

The Mediterranean-style diet macros focus on eating most of your calories from carbs, moderate protein, and moderate fat. Thus, it is composed of 50% carbs, 20% protein, and 30% fats.

The majority of the fats should come from healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Saturated fats should be kept at a minimum.

Although it doesn’t specify the total amount of sodium intake, since most of the foods are natural, they are low in sodium by nature. This means that it is one of the best diets to follow for people who have high blood pressure or a family history of the condition.

Can you combine keto and the Mediterranean diet? 

Yes. Although they have different macro ratios, you can combine these two approaches. 
You will use your keto macros to keep carbs low and get into ketosis, but you’ll follow the Mediterranean guidelines when you choose your food sources.

Focus on the plant-based healthy fats included in the Mediterranean plan, and have lean protein, including fish, instead of red meat. You’ll also cut down on processed foods, which is consistent with clean keto.

Similarities between the Mediterranean and keto diets

There are many similarities between these types of eating plans.

Keto or the Mediterranean-style for weight loss

Keto is widely known for its weight loss properties. You can lose around 10 lbs per month, depending on the person.

Studies have shown that Mediterranean-style eating has a similar effect on weight loss thanks to limiting the consumption of processed foods (which are high in calories).

Remember that you still need to consume less calories than your body needs for both diets. Without a caloric deficit, you cannot achieve weight loss.

Keto and the Mediterranean diet for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes

In both scenarios, they can have excellent results in improving your sugar levels. In that case, you can decrease your sugar levels thanks to improved insulin sensitivity.

However, for people with diabetes type 1, the keto approach is not recommended, while you can perfectly do the Mediterranean one.

Mediterranean and ketogenic diets on heart disease

Studies have shown a reduction in cholesterol levels on both eating patterns. By improving your bloodwork, you can help decrease the risk of heart disease.

To do this, it’s important to focus more on consuming unsaturated fats (healthier fats) than saturated fats.  


What’s the difference between keto and the Mediterranean diet?

Although there are similarities between them, you can also find differences, such as:

Macronutrients content

The first difference is the macronutrient content, especially carbs and fats. The Mediterranean diet bases most of its calories on carbs (50%), while the ketogenic diet has very limited carbs (5-10%). In the Mediterranean approach, the fat intake is approximately 30%, while for keto, it is much higher, reaching 70-80% of your total calories. Protein intake remains very similar (around 20%). 

High blood pressure

Both diets have promising results for high blood pressure. However, the Mediterranean approach might be the winner.
Since it focuses on healthier fats (unsaturated), it may be better to decrease blood pressure. You can have similar results if you decide to focus on these same fats while doing keto.


Benefits of the Mediterranean diet and keto

Both eating plans can have tremendous benefits. Here is a list of the most common ones you may get by following either one of these diets (or even combining the two).

  • Health improvements. Both have shown positive results in reducing blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels, reducing insulin resistance, and promoting heart health.
  • Promoting weight loss. In both cases, you can get sustainable weight loss results if you make them a lifestyle.
  • Supporting healthier foods. Both diets promote consuming whole, natural foods. By choosing real foods instead of packaged or highly processed products, you significantly decrease sugar intake, promoting several health benefits (like reducing the risk of diabetes).


Side effects of the Mediterranean diet and keto

For the Mediterranean approach, there might be no significant side effects. Since you don’t remove or limit a food group, there are no significant risks. Nevertheless, it is a lifestyle change, so it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider to switch to this eating plan.

On the other hand, the keto diet has more side effects that need to be considered.

  • Keto flu. You might feel sluggish, fatigued, nausea, headache, or foggy brain during the first weeks.
  • Decreased performance. While your body adapts, you might need to reduce your exercise intensity.
  • Highly restrictive. When eating out or attending social events, it might be harder to find a keto choice than a Mediterranean-style option.
  • Risk of having nutritional deficiencies. If you are not careful, you might not get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
  • Constipation. The reduction in carbs (where many people get most of their fiber) might produce constipation during the first days. Be mindful of eating fiber-rich vegetables to help with this.


Foods to eat on a Mediterranean diet vs. keto

Although they have different macronutrient ratios, they have similar food recommendations.

Keep in mind that these are general guidelines. When doing a keto diet, there is no one-size-fits-all. It depends on your daily number of carbs. Thus, there is usually some wiggle room that will allow you to include several of the carb-based options as long as you control your portion size.

Beans and legumes In moderation Allowed
Condiments and sauces Allowed (low-carb) Allowed
Dairy Allowed (low-carb) Allowed (low-fat)
Sugar-free drinks Allowed In moderation
Sugar-sweetened beverages Not allowed Limit
Alcoholic drinks Allowed (low-carb) In moderation (red wine)
Eggs Allowed In moderation
Fish and seafood Allowed Allowed
Fruits In moderation Allowed
Grains and starches In moderation Allowed
Herbs and spices Allowed Allowed
Meat and poultry Allowed Allowed (focus on white meat)
Nuts and seeds Allowed Allowed
Oils and fats Allowed Allowed
Processed foods Limit Minimize
Sugar-free sweeteners Allowed In moderation
Natural sweeteners Allowed (low-carb) In moderation
White and brown sugars Not allowed Limit
Starchy vegetables In moderation Allowed
Non-starchy vegetables Allowed Allowed


The table above gives us a comparison between the foods to eat and to avoid in both the Mediterranean and the keto diet. As you can see, they have a lot of similarities in their food recommendations and some differences as well.

If you are not sure if a food is low in carbs, you can always check if a food is keto-friendly or not. This will help you stick to ingredients that are good for ketosis.


Cost of the Mediterranean diet vs. a low-carb diet

For both diets, the costs can be adapted according to your budget. Since the Mediterranean plan bases most calories on carbs, and grains tend to be cheaper, it might be more affordable than basing your diet on fats.

Some ingredients in both diets might be costly. Adding olive oil, fish, and fresh ingredients (like fruits and vegetables) can be expensive. However, you can choose which ingredients to buy. To reduce the costs, make sure to buy locally and stick to produce that’s in season. Sometimes it’s also cheaper to buy frozen vegetables, berries, and fish.

In the end, it all depends on the ingredients you buy and where you shop. But, since the Mediterranean-type diet allows for more food options, including grains, it might be cheaper.

Which one is better, keto or Mediterranean diet?

Both can be great options. The Mediterranean diet is usually healthier since it is more balanced, allows you to eat from all food groups, focuses on whole foods, and cuts out ultra-processed products. 

If you are looking to achieve weight loss faster, the keto diet may be the one for you. However, since it limits carbs, you might end up having nutritional deficiencies if you are not careful. Make sure to add lots of different color veggies to provide different nutrients to your diet. Lastly, it’s up to you to choose healthy ingredients on this diet instead of processed products. So it will be only as healthy as you make it.



Even if they seem very different, there is a lot of overlap, and they are both an excellent option for those that want to improve their health. You can combine them to get the best of both worlds.

Stick to a plan you can see yourself doing in the long run. If you are ok with following a low-carb lifestyle, then the keto approach is the one for you. If you have a hard time managing a reduced carb intake, you might want to go with the Mediterranean eating plan. Either way, being conscious of what you eat and why is a good sign that you are on a healthy eating path.