Can you combine the keto and Mediterranean diets?

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Some people might find it challenging to adapt to the strict rules surrounding such a low-carb intake when following a keto diet, and a question many people ask is whether you can combine keto with the Mediterranean diet. 

The short answer to this question is yes. 

The Mediterranean diet includes a lot of fats, like keto, but also incorporates many carbs. Therefore, if combining these two diets, carbs would need to be limited to an acceptable extent that still takes the body into ketosis. 

The Mediterranean keto diet still encourages many of the same factors as each diet on its own, which revolve around clean eating. They both also advise that you eat a lot of high-fat foods like olive oil, nuts, fish, and avocado, along with plenty of veggies such as leafy greens. 

Throughout this guide, I am going to look at the benefits and downsides of combining these two popular diets and how to make them work to your advantage. 

But first, let’s take a look at what the Mediterranean diet demands and how it can be compared to keto.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

mediterranean diet

The name of this diet gives a lot away about what it’s all about. The Mediterranean diet is basically the standard diet of people who live in and around the Mediterranean. 

Because this is more of a dietary way of living than an actual diet plan, there aren’t exactly strict rules that you have to follow to make it work. It basically focuses on eating healthy foods such as whole grains, beans, legumes, fish, nuts, and other unsaturated fats. It also includes plenty of vegetables

Eating these foods means avoiding processed, harmful fats like those found in dairy, bread, pastries, and other unhealthy foods. 

People in some Mediterranean regions also drink less alcohol, maybe the occasional glass of red wine, but otherwise not much at all, which can be a big problem for people when it comes to calorie consumption. 

The Mediterranean diet is high in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Some of these include:

  • Potassium
  • Vitamin B
  • Folic acid
  • Fibre
  • Vitamin C 
  • Vitamin E
  • Omega 3

These essential vitamins are beneficial to your general health. They are significantly increased in this regard due to the consumption of foods such as grains, vegetables, beans, peas, fruit, and oily fish. 

The Mediterranean Diet Compared with Keto – The Benefits

The fact is that both of these diets, when done correctly, are beneficial to your health and, after a few weeks, will show a notable difference in your well-being and fitness. 

Let’s look at some of the similarities more closely. 

  • Improve Biomarkers: Biomarkers are integral body parts that can be measured to assess your general health and indicate any conditions. For example, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides are all biomarkers. By eating low-carb, high-fat diets, these biomarkers are significantly enhanced. 
  • Promote Clean Eating: The Mediterranean and keto diets are solely focused on one thing: clean eating and less processed foods. They both strongly revolve around wholesome, high-quality food known to improve your wellness.
  • Cost – The good news is that both of these diets will cost you around the same amount of money. While they’re both similar in price, something to note is that due to the lack of processed foods, both of these diets can end up being rather costly. However, you can work around this by looking into meal box deliveries
  • Weight Loss – Of course, most people considering either of these diets aims to lose weight, and both the Mediterranean and the keto diet can achieve the same successful end goal in this area. 
  • Adherence Levels Adherence levels show how many people will likely stick to a diet after starting it. Studies have shown that both diets have a similar level of about 25%. This shows that it might not be the kind of diet that indicates dropout but instead the individual’s willpower, determination, and circumstances. 

The Difference Between The Mediterranean Diet and Keto

difference between keto and mediterranean diet

There are a couple of general differences between these two well-known diets, which we have covered in more detail here.

  • Food Tracking – While the keto diet requires quite a lot of planning and macro calculations using apps such as My FitnessPal, the Mediterranean diet isn’t quite so demanding. The Mediterranean diet relies more on what you’re eating rather than how much of it. 
  • Fat Consumption – The baseline for fat consumption on both diets is generally the same; however, there are some differences concerning the kind of fats you should be eating. 

The Mediterranean diet states you should consume fats solely from the likes of healthy oils and fish, whereas the keto diet allows you to pretty much grab your fat from any source as long as it’s low in carbs. 

  • Sustainability – People often question how sustainable such a drastic lifestyle change can be, and the truth is that keto for the long haul should be considered carefully. Long-term overconsumption of high-fat foods can be damaging and cause health conditions such as high cholesterol. 

Also, when you begin to consume carbs again, you’ll quickly see the weight pile back on. The Mediterranean diet, however, is much more sustainable in the long term due to the nature of its nutritional potential. 

  • Sugar – The difference in both of these diets regarding sugar intake is that while keto pretty much restricts it all together, the Mediterranean diet discourages it. It pushes you to eat more wholesome foods in place of sugary foods. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Keto and Mediterranean Diets

Let’s take a look at the comparison of benefits between the Mediterranean and the keto diets.

Keto AdvantagesKeto Disadvantages 
Reduce blood sugar Unpleasant side effects such as bad breath, keto flu, and constipation or diarrhea 
Reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, diabetes, and cancerHigh cholesterol
Reduces appetite and cravings Expensive
Significant weight loss results
Cuts down chemically processed, high-calorie foods and snacks
Difficult to keep track of
Mediterranean Diet Advantages Mediterranean Diet Disadvantages
Tons of health benefitsMore risk of overeating
Lowers cholesterol It may take longer to see the results
More food choices than keto 
Less sugar and carb restrictions 
The most cost-effective than keto
Environmentally friendly
Safer and less health risks 
Easier to track

When looking at the differences side by side, it’s clear that there are much fewer downsides with the Mediterranean diet than with the keto diet. 

So what if you were to combine the two?

Combining Keto with the Mediterranean Diet

As you can see, the Mediterranean does share quite a lot of similarities with the keto diet plan, which you can better understand with our beginner’s guide to the keto diet

However, the one thing we all know about the keto diet is how strict it is when it comes to carbohydrate consumption.

This is because the keto diet relies on something called ketosis, a state in which the body starts to burn fat for energy instead of carbs.

So how do you combine the two without overloading on carbs? That’s easy.

The easiest way to follow both of these diets simultaneously is to concentrate on adhering to the Mediterranean diet but keep the carbs as low as you’d be advised to on a keto diet; this can be between 20g and 50g per day, depending on your personal health, age, weight, and goals. When you look at it this way, it’s pretty simple. 

For example, on the Mediterranean diet, it is acceptable to consume high-sugar fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole-grain carbohydrates; however, these should be avoided when aiming for ketosis. 

Instead, try replacing these carbs with foods such as broccoli, leafy greens, avocados, and small amounts of dairy products. 

If you’re struggling with meal ideas, check out this guide to what to eat on keto

What Foods Can You Eat on a Mediterranean Keto Diet?

Below is a list of suitable foods to help you achieve your combined Mediterranean and keto diet goals. 

  • Protein – All kinds of meat and fish can be consumed on this combined diet; this includes eggs, beef, pork, chicken, fish, lamb, and other forms of seafood.
  • Fat – Healthy fats such as rapeseed and olive oil and fats from fish and dairy are acceptable. 
  • Vegetables – Low-carb, non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. 
  • Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds contain tons of healthy fats and can be consumed in moderation. 
  • Low-Sugar Fruits – Avoid high-sugar fruits and instead aim for items such as berries, avocados, tomatoes, and citrus. 
  • Sweetener – As sugar is not permitted on keto, you’ll have to opt for keto-friendly sweeteners such as stevia to appease your sweet tooth.
  • Plenty of Seasoning – With such restrictions on food, it’s essential to season your meals well with herbs and spices such as salt, pepper, chili, garlic, and smoked water to enhance the flavor and keep your meals interesting. 

Ultimate Outcome

The bottom line is, yes, you can combine keto with the Mediterranean, and if you put this into practice safely and stick to it, the results can be phenomenal, and your health will instantly start to improve. 

For some people, keto alone is too stressful and overly restrictive, so combining it with the Mediterranean option and simply lowering your carbs and ensuring they’re coming from healthier sources will still see you meet your fitness goal. 

Suppose you’ve decided that combining the two diets isn’t going to work for you. In that case, the evidence is stacked to say there are much fewer disadvantages to a Mediterranean diet than there are with keto. 

If side effects and longevity are your primary concerns, keto might not be for you. 

Whatever diet you choose to help you on your journey toward achieving your goals, it’s crucial to find the proper diet that works for you and that you can stick to. And if you still need help figuring it out after reading this guide, read more about the benefits of keto and try speaking to a dietician who can better assess your individual needs. 

The Author

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John has been learning about and experimenting with low carbohydrate diets since the around 2006. He has successfully used the keto diet to lose over significant amounts of weight in the past and currently follows a low carb diet for a variety of reasons including general health, weight management, and managing mood levels.

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