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Keto vs Whole30 Diet: Differences, Similarities, and Which is Better

Disclaimer

The ketogenic and Whole30 diets are popular eating patterns that increase health by avoiding foods that cause problems. Examples of these problematic foods are grains, processed sugars, and junk food items. 

On the other hand, both diets encourage natural foods, such as meat, seafood, eggs, butter, and ghee.

While they share similar strong points, they also have stark differences, and knowing them helps you to determine which diet works best for you.

Read this article on keto vs Whole30, including their basics, similarities and differences, and common questions and answers on the topic.

What is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic or keto diet is a very low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein approach. Carbohydrates are limited to only 20-50 grams in a day and this forces your body to enter ketosis, a natural metabolic state where ketone bodies (produced by the liver) increase (*).

This diet was first used in 1921 as a therapeutic intervention for pediatric epilepsy. Nowadays, people use it to increase lose weight, enhance mental clarity, improve their mood, and control their blood glucose levels (* , *).

Several studies demonstrate that keto also helps with dementia, traumatic brain injury, and certain cancers (* , *).

Foods that are allowed on the keto diet include:

  • Proteins: beef, chicken, turkey, salmon, shrimp, mussels
  • Fats: butter, ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, MCT oil
  • Fruits and veggies: salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, avocado, berries
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds
  • Sweeteners: stevia, monk fruit, allulose
  • Beverages: plain coffee, tea, sparkling water, pure alcohol, low-carb beer

What’s off-limits on the keto diet:

  • Grains: rice, quinoa, barley, wheat flour, oatmeal, barley, bulgur
  • Refined carbs: bagels, waffles, white rice, breakfast cereals
  • High sugar or starchy fruits and veggies: bananas, dates, grapes, potatoes, beets, carrots, lentils
  • High-carb alcohol: regular beer, bloody mary, margarita, piña colada

The keto diet is sustainable and can be followed long-term for overall health and fitness. Additionally, it has multiple variations (such as cyclical keto and targeted keto) where you may increase your carbs strategically to support your workouts.

What is the Whole30 Diet?

As the term implies, the Whole30 diet removes unhealthy foods for 30 days (*). It’s an elimination diet that cuts out grains, legumes, sugar, artificial sweeteners, all types of alcohol, dairy, and food additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG), carrageenan, and sulfites.

The Whole30 diet is a good option for those who want to make better food choices and avoid digestive issues (and other symptoms) resulting from food intolerances.

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For instance, lactose, which is found in dairy, may cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and joint pain in sensitive individuals (*). Another example is gluten sensitivity, which triggers symptoms like bloating, brain fog, diarrhea, and fatigue within hours after eating grains (*).

Because you eliminate grains and other unhealthy foods from your diet, Whole30 may lead to more benefits, such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced cravings
  • Better relationship with food
  • Improved gut health
  • Clearer skin

After the 30-day elimination period, you may start reintroducing food groups one at a time — dairy, for instance — and closely observe their effects on your body. An example would be adding back heavy cream to your morning coffee or having cheese as a snack. 

If you don’t experience digestive issues, cravings, skin problems, headaches, and decreases in your performance, you can keep all the foods you’ve added back (*). If not, then it’s best to avoid these “trigger foods” indefinitely.

What’s the Difference Between the Keto and the Whole 30 Diet?

Although keto and Whole30 emphasize clean eating and cutting out sugar, they have key differences, starting from the fact that Whole30 is short-term. Read more below.

Short-Term vs Long-Term

The Whole30 diet completely avoids all harmful foods for 30 days, whereas the keto diet doesn’t impose a time limit. You can go all-in and reach ketosis within 24 hours or take a slow and steady approach by gradually reducing your carbs based on your tolerance.

Furthermore, you can stay on keto for as long as you would like (for example, 6 months or more) if you feel good on this diet.

Since the Whole30 diet is limited to only 30 days, it requires strict adherence. This means planning all your meals ahead of time, paying attention to nutrition labels, and learning to navigate social gatherings.

Counting Macros

Another difference between keto and Whole30 is that Whole30 doesn’t ask you to count anything. You’re not supposed to track your carbs, fat, and protein — and even your calories for the day. All you need to do is eat the foods that are allowed — such as meat, fish, and eggs — until you feel satiated.

On the other hand, the keto diet restricts carbs to 50 grams or lower so that you reach ketosis. Eat more fat and keep protein moderate (or have a higher intake if you’re on a high-protein keto diet). Knowing your macros, with the use of a keto calculator, and tracking them closely will make it easier for you to enter ketosis and reach certain goals, such as weight loss and blood sugar control.

Nutritional Ketosis

Is Whole30 keto? No. The Whole30 diet doesn’t have a carb limit, so it’s not meant to put you in ketosis. However, it tends to be lower in carbohydrates than a standard American diet (SAD) since it cuts out grains, traditional baked foods, and processed items, which are major sources of carbs.

Keto and Whole30 Diet Similarities

Meanwhile, here’s a list of similarities between these diets:

Weight Loss

The Whole30 plan may not have been designed with weight loss in mind; however, weight loss does happen to a lot of people as a result of cutting processed foods. That’s because whole foods tend to be lower in calories and reduce binge eating, whereas processed foods are the opposite (*).

The keto diet, on the other hand, results in weight loss through carbohydrate restriction, which leads to water weight loss and then followed by fat loss (*). One study found that on the keto diet, obese individuals lost as much as 13.6 kg at two months (*).

Should you follow keto or Whole30 for weight loss?

That may depend on your other goals (for instance, if you’re aiming for ketosis or looking to address a health problem, like epilepsy) and what you’re able and willing to restrict.

A Focus On Whole Foods

Based on what was discussed earlier in this article, Whole30 and keto recommend eating foods in their natural state.

Although they can be restrictive in certain areas — for example, Whole30 may include all fruits while keto only permits low-carb fruits like berries — the bottom line is that both diets consider highly processed foods harmful to health.

Evidence suggests that highly processed foods increase a person’s risk of becoming overweight or obese. On top of that, it raises your likelihood of metabolic syndrome, which refers to a group of conditions that may lead to coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke (* , *).

By prioritizing whole foods in your diet, whether through Whole30 or keto, you can reduce your chances of health problems.

Both Diets Involve Restriction

In nutrition and fitness, restriction can help you reach certain goals (such as sustained fat loss) aside from reducing your exposure to trigger foods that cause digestive issues (such as dairy and grains).

Because Whole30 and keto involve restriction, they can be challenging to follow — at least in the beginning. Like those who’ve succeeded, you’ll be able to stick with either diet by focusing on its benefits, planning and preparing ahead, and finding ways to enjoy it.

To prevent nutrient deficiencies, make sure to rotate the foods that are allowed in your chosen diet. Also, you may want to consider taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement in case you’re still unable to meet your nutrient needs.

Protein Is Important

Whether you choose to follow keto or Whole30, both of them are good sources of protein. Protein spares lean muscle during weight loss, repairs tissues, and helps boost your immune system (* , *, *).

Keto-approved and Whole30-approved foods that are high in protein include beef, pork, chicken, tilapia, tuna, almonds, and chia seeds.

What’s the Downside with Keto and Whole30 Diets?

Both diets involve restriction in certain areas — keto restricts carbs while Whole30 restricts problematic foods. Following rules such as these can do more harm than good to some people by affecting their relationship with food.

While these diets are supported by science and improve physical health in many aspects, they may aggravate stress and anxiety in certain individuals (although not everyone). This is one reason why diets aren’t always successful (*).

If you think that keto or Whole30 diet rules trigger overeating or make you feel limited, then it’s best to look for another approach that’s more relaxing for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more answers to common questions on Whole30 vs keto below:

Which diet is healthier?

It depends on the person using the diet. For example, the keto diet is considered healthier or more beneficial for those who are struggling to control their blood sugar levels and have a lot of weight to lose. Meanwhile, Whole30 might probably be a better option for those who want to address food sensitivities.

Does Whole30 put you in ketosis?

It’s possible for someone to enter ketosis without being aware of it if they reduce carbs drastically, regardless of their normal diet. As for Whole30, it’s not intended to put you in ketosis, which is the goal of the keto diet. Whole30 eliminates grains and junk foods, but it doesn’t urge you to track carbs and other macros.

Do doctors recommend Whole 30?

Most doctors don’t normally recommend the Whole30 diet, but some do, including registered dieticians who are well aware of its benefits. If you have specific health issues, it’s a good idea to speak with an expert before trying it.

Keto vs. Whole30: The Verdict

Whole30 and keto are generally healthful because they advocate for whole foods and eliminate those that may increase a person’s risk of weight gain, digestive troubles, skin problems, and other issues resulting from grains, sugar, and highly processed items.

Both diets might seem similar, but they differ in that keto limits carbohydrates (an entire macronutrient) with the goal of reaching ketosis, while Whole30 removes foods known to be problematic (high-carb or not).

If you’re still undecided, give each diet a try and notice how you feel. That’s how you’ll find your optimal diet. As always, do your research and consult a healthcare provider before starting a new plan.

Curious about keto? We have a 30-day program that has all the resources you need to make it work for you.

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Masood W et al. Ketogenic Diet. 2022 June 11

Moreno B et al. Comparison of a very low-calorie-ketogenic diet with a standard low-calorie diet in the treatment of obesity. 2014 March 4

Pagliai G et al. Consumption of ultra-processed foods and health status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 2020 August 14

National Heart, Lung, and Blood. METABOLIC SYNDROME.

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