Keto Versus Plant-Based Diet: Which Is Better For Cancer Prevention?

Cancer was one of the top three leading causes of death in the United States in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While treatment options for cancer are continuing to expand and improve, there are many lifestyle modifications you can make to help lower your chances of developing it. One area you can focus on is your diet. According to Healthline, making healthy changes to your diet can reduce your risk of developing cancer by up to 50%. There are a variety of foods with cancer-preventing components, as well as certain diets that may help — including the ketogenic diet and a plant-based diet.

The ketogenic diet, or keto, consists of taking in food with a low-carb and high-fat content. While a keto diet can consist of any food under the high-fat, low-carb umbrella, many choose to incorporate meat, fish, and eggs into their meals — as well as leafy greens, berries, yogurt, and cottage cheese (via Healthline). The keto diet is thought to be beneficial for cancer prevention as it helps you to lower your blood sugar levels, which is detrimental to the growth of cancer cells which thrive on glucose.

Aspects of a plant-based diet

While a keto diet is high in fat and low in carbs, a plant-based diet is typically low in fat with a moderate amount of carbohydrates (via Verywell Health). It's important to note that while a plant-based diet isn't necessarily vegan or vegetarian, those who do choose to go plant-based typically limit the amount of meat and animal products they consume, or choose to eliminate them from their diet altogether (via Healthline). Other aspects of a plant-based diet include limiting processed foods as well as anything with excess oil and sugar in favor of vegetables, fruits, legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and black beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grain options like brown rice, quinoa, and rolled oats, per Healthline. 

There is evidence that plant-based diets are good for cancer prevention. This is thanks to the fact that this diet naturally eliminates foods that cause inflammation and resistance to insulin, per Verywell Health.

Plant-based diets lower cancer risk

While both keto and plant-based diets are thought to have beneficial properties that can lower the risk of developing cancer, a 2022 study reported that plant-based diets are better not only for preventing cancer, but for supporting the metabolism of cancer survivors, per Verywell Health. Study author and hematologic oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Urvi Shah, explained that plant-based diets are high in phytochemicals, which are known to help lower your risk of cancer.

While the study highlighted that a plant-based diet is the best option for cancer prevention, you can choose to combine a keto diet along with a plant-based diet if you wish. Because the emphasis of a ketogenic diet is on the levels of fat and carbohydrates you take in rather than specific foods, you can choose to focus on plant-based options that fit this category. This includes avocados, non-starchy vegetables like asparagus and mushrooms, and olive oil (via Verywell Health).