If You're Going Low-Carb, Consider Going Plant-Based

As Part 2 to my previous post, “New Research Challenges the Low-Carb Craze”, I’d like to delve deeper into the findings from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study on plant-based versus animal-based low-carb diets. If you haven’t read my other blog post on this yet, be sure to check that out here.


A Plant-Based Diet is Recommended When Cutting Carbs

Typically, followers of low-carb and ketogenic (“keto”) diets consume a lot of high-fat meat and dairy products to offset their restricted carb intake, which research has linked to higher mortality (death) rates. Keto dieters opt for foods high in fat and protein and low in carbs to induce ketogenesis for weight loss, which has been shown to be effective in the short-term. Studies on the long-term health effects of this diet trend, like altered blood lipid profiles, are conflicting and require more research to confirm safety.

The ARIC Study reported that displacing carbs with plant-based sources of protein and fat, on the other hand, may actually lower mortality rates.

These data provide further evidence that animal-based low carbohydrate diets, which are more prevalent in North American and European populations, should be discouraged. Alternatively, if restricting carbohydrate intake is a chosen approach for weight loss or cardiometabolic risk reduction, replacement of carbohydrates with predominantly plant-based fats and proteins could be considered as a long-term approach to promote healthy ageing.
— Seidelmann, Sara B, et al.

Other Benefits of Plant-Based Diets

A well-planned and diverse plant-based diet is often low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fibre and certain vitamins. Typical low-carb diets that centre around meat and high-fat dairy products tend to skimp out on nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and grain products, which are staples in a healthy plant-based diet. This may explain why ditching animal products in favour of plant sources of protein and fat in a low-carb diet lower mortality rates. Research has uncovered many other benefits to going plant-based, including a reduced risk of:

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Some cancers


What Moderate vs. Low Carbohydrate Intake Means

In the ARIC study, low-carb was defined as less than 40% of daily calories from carbs and moderate intake was defined as 50-55% of daily calories from carbs. So what does that really mean?

For someone consuming 1500 calories per day, a low intake would equal 150 grams of carbs or less. A moderate intake for this calorie target would equal about 188-206 grams of carbs.

For someone on a 2000-calorie diet, a low intake would equal 200 grams of carbs or less. A moderate intake here would equal 250-275 grams of carbs.

If you’re looking for individualized help in planning a healthy plant-based diet, book a free consultation with us today.


  • Seidelmann, Sara B, et al. “Dietary Carbohydrate Intake and Mortality: a Prospective Cohort Study and Meta-Analysis.” The Lancet Public Health, 2018, doi:10.1016/s2468-2667(18)30135-x.

  • “What You Need to Know About a Healthy Vegetarian Eating Plan.” Unlock Food, 1 Apr. 2018, www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vegetarian-and-Vegan-Diets/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-a-Healthy-Vegetarian-E.aspx.

Ryan Stallard