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Plant-Based Vs. Keto: Delving Into The Meat Of The Debate

Plant-Based Vs. Keto: Who Is The Winner Of This Battle?

When it comes to weight loss, there is no diet that fits all. Each body is unique. We all have different needs and goals in mind, and our preferences and dietary restrictions should always be factored into our eating plan. Since there is no diet we have crowned as being the best, that does not mean there are no good diets. It all depends on an individual. You can choose your diet by consulting a dietitian or by comparing different diets, eg. plant-based vs keto diet, and the others until you find one that works for you. 

With that said, which diet between the plant-based and the keto is the better diet? Which of the two is the one you should opt for to achieve weight loss? What is the difference between the keto diet and the plant-based diet? All those questions as well as many more about these two diets will be answered in this informative read.

What Is The Keto Diet?

The keto diet is also referred to as the ketogenic diet. It is a low-carb, high-fat diet with moderate protein (1). Foods rich in carbohydrates are not encouraged in this diet. This leads to certain vegetables, fruits, grains and of course sugars being restricted due to their high glycemic index. The keto diet has a wide range of benefits. It promotes weight loss and better health, and it could also help prevent and control certain diseases (type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc.). 

The main aim of this diet is to push the body into a process referred to as ketosis. Ketosis is the process in which the liver breaks down fats into ketones, which are then used as energy. This comes about from the fact that the body does not have enough glucose to provide itself with enough energy. The keto diet insists on the carb count to be on average less than 50 grams in a day. For the diet, the less the carbohydrates the better. When you are on a keto diet your body changes from using carbs to using fats for energy. This means people on a keto diet are burning fat. This is one of the reasons this diet can be effective when it comes to weight loss.

Two Ways To Do Keto Diet

Although the aim of this diet is to kick the body into ketosis, it is not as easy as you might think. There are two ways through which you can do this: 

  • Through fasting
  • Through restricting your consumption of carbohydrates

When you are on the keto diet you achieve it through an absence of glucose from carbohydrates and that is why you should always keep your carb intake lower than 50 grams (6). If you eat more carbs you might “kick”your body out from ketosis as it is easier to break down carbs for energy compared to fats and if given a choice the body will always choose carbs over fats that why you shouldn’t give your body a chance to choose if you are on a low-carb high-fat diet. 

The name keto comes from the ketones that are the primary sources of energy for a person on the ketogenic diet. This is not a new diet as it existed for a very long time and was used for medical purposes. It is mainly used to control and prevent epilepsy in children (12). This was until the world discovered the numerous health and weight loss benefits it offers.

Different Types Of Ketogenic Diets

There are a few different variations of the keto diet: 

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)

The standard keto diet encourages you to maintain a low carb intake, moderate protein intake and high fat intake (7). It contains the macronutrients in the following percentages. Fats which have the highest intake are at 75%. Proteins follow with an intake percentage of 20%. Finally, carbohydrates are only 5%. This is the most common ketogenic diet.

  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)

The cyclical keto diet involves periods of higher carbohydrates refeed (7). This means that you have a period of low carb intake followed by a period of high carb intake in a week. This could be five days of strictly following a keto diet and two days of high carb intake. 

  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

The targeted keto diet allows you to add carbohydrates around workouts (7). In short, you add carbs when you need them. This can be during your workout or when you have a heavy task you need to perform.

  • High-Protein Ketogenic Diet

This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet. The only difference is that in the high protein keto diet, just as the name suggests, you have a higher intake of protein (7). The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs. 

Read More: What Is Dirty Keto Diet: Demystifying The What’s, Why’s And How’s

What To Eat When On A Keto Diet?

It is very important to know what to eat and what not to eat since this is a very restrictive diet. You don’t want to eat food that will derail your efforts. Here is a list of the foods you should eat if you are on this diet (8): 

  • Low carb vegetables. It is important to stay away from vegetables with a high carb count but that does not mean you should stay away from all vegetables. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are encouraged on this diet.
  • Avocados. They are a good source of healthy fats and this diet needs just that.
  • Meat. Go for lean fresh cuts of red meat, chicken, and turkey.
  • Fatty fish. Fish is allowed on this diet. Fish is also a good source of fats. Go for fish like salmon, trout, tuna and the likes.
  • Nuts and seeds. Different kinds of nuts and seeds are encouraged on this diet. You can eat them as snacks. Examples include almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia seeds etc.
  • Eggs. Go for organic pastured whole eggs.
  • Cheese. This is another source of fats. Unprocessed cheese is the best in this case.
  • Healthy oils. The likes of coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil are encouraged on the diet.
  • Berries. You can try out different types of berries on this diet, examples being raspberries, blackberries and so on.

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What To Avoid When You Are On A Keto Diet?

There are certain foods that should not be on your grocery list if you are on a keto diet. These foods are (8):

  • Alcoholic drinks. Not so many people know this but alcoholic drinks are high in carbs. They should be avoided when on a keto diet.
  • Grains. Grains are known to be very good sources of carbs and hence should be avoided under all costs if you are on this diet.
  • Fruits. Fruits should be avoided due to their high carb content.
  • Legumes. The likes of peas, kidney beans, chickpeas and so on should be avoided by individuals on this diet.
  • Tubers like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots should also be avoided.
  • Low fat products. These products go against the basic principles of this diet which encourage more fat and not less. These products are also usually highly processed and rich in carbs.
  • Sugary foods. This includes both sugary drinks like soda and sugary foods like cake and ice cream. They should all be avoided as they are unhealthy and contain high amounts of carbs.

Keto And Weight Loss

Does a keto diet help in shedding those extra pounds off? The simple answer is yes. It does help in weight loss. 

There are several ways in which this diet helps one melt those extra pounds. It should be known that the keto diet might help one lose weight quicker compared to other weight loss diets over the first few months (3). This is due to ketosis. As you know by now ketosis is the process in which the liver breaks down fats into ketones. Ketones are then used to provide energy to the body. It takes more calories to convert fats into energy compared to the energy required to change carbs into energy. This in turn helps create calorie deficit, since so many calories are used in this process, hence leading to faster weight loss. 

Losing weight is always translated as losing fat mass. When you are on a keto diet, you are constantly losing fat and less fat is stored as it is now the main source of energy. This means you are less likely to gain weight while on a keto diet since fat is hardly being stored. The breakdown of fats also helps you lose weight. 

Most foods encouraged on this low-carb high-fat diet are actually very filling (14). What this means is that they make you feel fuller for longer. This makes one consume much less calories than they normally would. This helps create a calorie deficit and promotes weight loss. 

A study was done to see which one between a low-carb diet and a low-fat diet was able to promote more weight loss (10). The study took 12 months. Some people were put on the low-carb diet while others were put on the low-fat diet. The results showed that the individuals that were assigned to the low-carb diet experienced greater weight loss compared to those on the low-fat diet. This shows just how efficient could the keto diet be when it comes to weight loss.

Plant-Based Diet

The plant-based diet which is sometimes referred to as the plant-forward eating pattern focuses on foods that primarily come from plants (11). This does not limit it to only vegetables and fruits but also nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and even beans. Unlike what most people might think, being on a plant-based diet does not mean you are a vegetarian or a vegan, it only means you prefer or rather choose more foods from plant sources. This diet emphasizes the importance of fresh whole foods and discourages you from consuming processed foods. 

People believe that the plant-based diet is more of a lifestyle than a diet. Some people have animal products in their plant-based diet while others don’t. This diet is different from the vegetarian diet and the vegan diet although the two diets are thought of as variations of the plant-based diet. The plant-based diet is a more general diet that encourages more plant foods. It, however, does not prohibit individuals from eating animal source products (4). 

The vegan diet does not allow meat, poultry and fish of any kind as well as honey, milk and eggs (5). The vegetarian diet does not allow meat, poultry and fish but allows eggs and other dairy products (5). The plant-based diet focuses on consuming plant-derived whole foods that are unrefined and minimally processed (13).

Food To Eat When On A Plant-Based Diet

It is important to know what you should eat once you are on this diet. Here is a list of foods that are okay for you to eat while on a plant-based diet (2): 


Fruits are quite important in a person’s diet. They provide a person with essential nutrients that help keep the body healthy. Some of the fruits you can eat are: berries, citrus fruits, bananas, apples, melons, grapes, avocados, mangos and so on. 

Read More: Fruitarian Diet: Is Eating ‘Nature’s Candy’ For Breakfast, Lunch, And Dinner Healthy?


Just like fruits, veggies are important sources of vitamins and other nutrients that are essential to the body. Examples of vegetables you can include in your plant-based diet are: kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, peppers and so on. You should also work to include tubers or what most people refer to as root vegetables in your diet. The likes of potatoes, turnip, beets and so on.


Legumes are quite important on this diet. They are essential especially if you choose not to include animal source products in your diet. They are a good source of plant-based protein. Examples of legumes are: lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, peas etc.


Seeds can be eaten as snacks. They are good sources of various nutrients like calcium and vitamins as well. Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds are examples of seeds you can include in your diet. 


These are good sources of plant-based protein. Almonds, cashew nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts are good examples of nuts. 

Healthy Fats

You can get healthy fats from avocados, walnuts, chia seeds, olive oil etc. 

Whole Grains

They are a good source of fiber and carbohydrates.They also contain some minerals that are important to one’s body. They include whole wheat flour, brown rice, oats, buckwheat, barley etc.

These are some of the foods you should eat if you are on a plant-based diet. 

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Foods To Avoid When On A Plant-Based Diet

You should try to eliminate or reduce the intake of these foods if you are on a plant-based diet (2):

  • Processed food
  • Sugary food and drinks like sodas, cakes, biscuits and so on.
  • Deep fried food
  • Fast food

Plant-Based Diet And Weight Loss

The plant-based diet is very effective when it comes to weight loss. It is able to promote weight loss through so many different ways. The first way is through the foods encouraged on the diet. Remember, to lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit. The best part about food on this diet is that they are low-calorie foods. This is true for most vegetables and fruits. Thus people on a plant-based diet could lose weight faster because of a reduced energy intake in general.

The foods on this diet are also high in fiber. Fiber has a filling effect that makes one feel fuller for longer. This prevents one from eating as much as they would if they were on a different diet. This helps promote weight loss.

Different studies have been done to prove if this is actually true. A study was conducted on a group of people. The people were divided into two groups. One group was put on a vegetarian diet and the other one was put on a regular diet (9). The results showed that the individuals on the vegetarian diet lost considerably more weight compared to people who were on a regular diet. There is also evidence that people on vegetarian diets have lower BMI compared to people who eat meat. This goes to show that truly the vegetarian diet is effective when it comes to weight loss.

Keto Diet Vs. Plant-Based Diet: The Verdict

As you have seen, both these two diets are quite different. One emphasizes on lowering the carb count significantly while the other focuses on plants as its primary food. They are both effective at weight loss in their own way. The keto diet is quite effective when it comes to fast weight loss. This is due to the fact that ketosis requires a lot of  energy hence promoting quick weight loss over the first few months. The plant-based diet is also effective when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. This is due to the fact that most of the food in this diet is  low calorie food and it is quite hard to gain weight while eating low-calorie food. 

Apart from weight loss, both these diets have a series of benefits and risks that make it hard to pick out a clear-cut winner between the two. For example, people on a plant-based diet may lack some nutrients that can only be found in animal source products. When it comes to the keto diet, eating too much unhealthy fats may increase the chances of getting certain cardiovascular disorders. 

Remember the best diet is always specific to an individual. The plant-based diet may work for some people while it may not work for others. Dietitians are in a better position to tell you which of these two diets works better for you. Other things to consider while choosing between these two diets is how you feel about meat. If you cannot live without meat then the keto diet is the right diet for you. If you can live without meat you should consider the plant-based diet.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


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  2. Everything you need to know about plant based diets (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
  3. Keto Diet (n.d., health.usnews.com)
  4. Plant-Based Diet for Beginners: The Health Benefits & More (n.d, mindbodygreen.com)
  5. Plant-based, vegetarian and vegan diets (n.d., heartfoundation.org.nz)
  6. Should you try the keto diet? (n.d., health.harvard.edu)
  7. The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide to Keto (2018, healthline.com)
  8. The Ketogenic Diet – A Keto Guide for Beginners (2020, ruled.me)
  9. Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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  12. What’s a Ketogenic Diet? (2019, webmd.com)
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