Sugar Busters Diet vs. Keto

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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Cutting carbs is one strategy people often use to lose weight. While many diets follow this approach, two of the most low-carb plans are the Sugar Busters diet and the keto diet.
If you have heard of both, you may be wondering which one is the best to follow and why. 

In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between these two diets to help you decide. 


What is the Sugar Busters diet? 

This eating style came from a book published in 1995 called Sugar Busters! Cut Sugar To Trim Fat!

It is based on the theory that sugar is a toxic molecule. Since it is responsible for increasing your insulin levels, it is said to promote fat storage in the body. 

To avoid spiking your sugar and insulin levels, its main focus is to cut down on refined carbs (sugars, honey, and refined grains) to promote weight loss. You focus then on having foods with a low glycemic index. 

This means that you cut back on sweets, processed foods, and refined grains. Anything that can spike your sugar levels is eliminated from the diet. 

You can still have other foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats. Alcohol is allowed in moderation as long as it doesn’t have any added sugars. The recommended option is red wine


Similarities between Sugar Busters and keto


Stop eating simple carbs

One of the similarities between these diets is that they look for a reduction in their carbs. Both diets eliminate simple or refined carbs, which increase your insulin levels. 

Low glycemic foods like berries, leafy greens, zucchini, mushrooms, lemons, limes, broccoli, apples, and oranges are the ones recommended to consume in both of these diets. 

Foods like sugars, honey, and refined grains (like white bread) are eliminated. 


Limit saturated fats

Although you have a more significant consumption of fats on keto, you are encouraged to have a higher intake of unsaturated fat while lowering saturated fats. 

Saturated fats from animal products (mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, and cream cheese) should be consumed only in moderation.
On the other hand, it’s better to consume unsaturated fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

Promote weight loss

Finally, they are both good options for those looking to shed some pounds. You will lose weight with these eating plans if you have a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than your body needs). 

Additionally, thanks to weight loss and healthy food choices, there can be a decrease in the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. 


Differences between Sugar Busters and keto


Macronutrient distribution 

The macros amounts are different in these diets. On a ketogenic plan, you strive for a very low-carb approach. This means that you have 5-10% carbs, 20% protein, and 70-80% fats. 

On Sugar Busters (SB), they recommend consuming 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fats. They have a higher carb and protein content than keto and a lower fat intake. 



Finally, the biggest difference between them is that keto promotes a ketosis state and the other doesn’t. 

On a ketogenic diet, since you have a very low intake of carbs, your body needs to produce ketones to provide the necessary energy. This promotes a ketosis state. 

On the other plan, since there is not a significant decrease in carb intake, Sugar Busters does not get you into ketosis.


Benefits of Sugar Busters and keto

There are several benefits of following either SB or the keto diet. Here are some of the benefits you might encounter with either one. 

  • Weight loss. In both diets, you can achieve weight loss. Since you reduce the increase of highly processed foods, it’s easier to have a caloric deficit which leads to weight loss. 
  • Potential to improve blood work. There can be a decrease in your glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. 
  • May decrease risk of chronic illness. Weight loss and healthy eating can lead to a reduction in chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. 
  • Better quality of food. Highly processed foods like bread, pastries, and cookies are replaced by more nutritious foods like non-starchy veggies, protein, and healthy fats. 


Side effects of Sugar Busters and keto

The most common side effects you can get are when following a keto diet. Since you still have a moderate carb intake on the SB diet, there are almost no side effects. 

Here are some of the side effects you might get when following a ketogenic diet. 

  • Keto flu. During the first couple of days, you might find yourself having symptoms like fatigue, foggy brain, headache, and lack of energy. 
  • Constipation. Since you reduce your carb intake, it might increase the likelihood of constipation. Make sure you have enough non-starchy veggies and water throughout the day.
  • Nutrient deficiency. This might happen since a food group (carbs) is significantly reduced. To avoid this, have different nutrient-dense foods throughout the day. Make sure to have at least 3 different color veggies each day. 
  • Restrictive. For some people, it might be challenging to stop eating foods that are high in carbohydrates. 


Keto vs. Sugar Busters foods

One of the biggest differences between these diets comes in the types of foods you can include. While there are some that you can have in both cases, there are others that you cannot. 

In the following table, you can compare the food options for these diets. 

Beans and legumes In moderation
Condiments and sauces ✓ (low-carbs) ✓ (without sugar)
Dairy ✓ (low-carbs) ✓ (low fat, no sugar added)
Sugar-free drinks
Sugar-sweetened beverages X X
Alcoholic drinks ✓ (low-carbs) ✓ (red wine)
Fish and seafood
Fruits In moderation
Grains and starches In moderation
Herbs and spices ✓ (low-carbs)
Meat and poultry
Nuts and seeds
Oils and fats
Processed foods ✓ (low-carbs) X
Sugar-free sweeteners
Natural sweeteners X X
White and brown sugars X X
Starchy vegetables In moderation X
Non-starchy vegetables


As you can see, most refined foods like sugars, and processed foods are avoided in both diets. 

However, on the SB plan, you can still have whole grain options like brown rice. While some grains and starches can be included on a keto diet, you need to be very careful with the portion size to ensure you stay within your carb budget. Here we take a closer look at which foods you can have on keto and in what amounts.


Keto vs. Sugar Busters costs

Since they include similar foods, they have similar costs. It depends on where you get your groceries and what type of foods you buy. 

If you stick to a natural approach, buy local foods you can get from your local markets. The costs are relatively low.
However, when purchasing foods in restaurants that are keto, or baked keto goods, these are more expensive compared to meals made with grains, proteins, and vegetables (SB approach). 

To keep your costs low, plan ahead and try to have as many meals at home as possible. 


Which one is healthier?

Since the SB plan follows a more moderate approach, it may be slightly easier to follow. If you were eating a lot of sugar beforehand, this is a surefire way to lose weight. If not, then you may not lose weight unless you eat less. 

On the other hand, when you follow the keto diet, you generally don’t have to think consciously about eating less. Fat is very filling, so most people tend to naturally eat less when following a ketogenic plan.

For both diets, variety is key in order to get all the nutrients your body needs to be healthy.

Both diets focus on eliminating refined foods that are high in sugars, low in fiber, and high in calories. This means they are both encouraging healthy eating habits. 


Bottom line 

Either option is an excellent choice for a healthy lifestyle. Choose the one you can see yourself in the long term. This promotes sustainable habits and long-term weight loss results.
Whether it is the SB or the ketogenic diet, make sure you have lots of vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and some fruit.