The Ketogenic Diet vs. The Ikigai Diet

This time I made avocado natto. I just added natto in the avocado paste without the bread.

As I have been researching autophagy, I have come across many people who practice the ketogenic diet. It seems that autophagy and the keto diet go well together, and many of the keto diet followers practice intermittent fasting.

Come to think of it, James Clement, the author of The Switch: Ignite Your Metabolism with Intermittent Fasting, Protein Cycling, and Keto, was recommending the keto diet, too.

So, what is the ketogenic diet or the keto diet?

According to Healthline, the following explanation is what the keto diet is about.


The ketogenic diet is a very low carb, high fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low carb diets.

It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.

Ketogenic diets can cause significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has some health benefits.


It says that the standard ketogenic diet consists of 70~80% fat, 20% protein, and less than 10% carbs. Apparently, there are many different versions of the keto diet, the one close to the Paleo diet with its high meat consumption, or the opposite vegan keto, and more. It is difficult to categorize the ketogenic diet as one diet.

Since the keto diet is big among intermittent fasting practitioners, today, let me share with you how the Ikigai Diet is different from it.

I have never practiced the keto diet, and I still don’t know much about it to make any judgment on it. So this is just my feeling from my observation.

Nutritional balance

One difference between the keto diet and the Ikigai Diet is the composition of nutrients. The Ikigai Diet isn’t a low carb or low anything diet. It has a medium amount of everything. If you eat Ma Go Wa Ya Sa Shi I plus grains, it automatically becomes like that. If we have something high, that would be vegetables. So, it is more like high vegetable, medium protein, medium carbs, and medium fat.

We don’t measure it, so it isn’t certain.

As for carbs, we only have whole grains, not refined grains. Mostly fermented whole grains and 1 bowl(about 100 grams)of it for each meal and since we have two meals a day, just 200 grams a day, which is about 140 grams of sugar. Or we might have potatoes such as sweet potatoes or taros.

Anyway, it isn’t a high carb diet even compared to many placed in the Blue Zones.

Fiber Diversity

One thing I am concerned about the keto diet is that its low carb aspect. As I wrote in Chapter 6 Low Carb Diet vs. Brown Rice in the book, it is okay to practice a low carb diet for a short period of time, but when you continue it for a long time, you need to think of other aspects such as getting enough fiber, and so on.

This depends very much on how you practice the keto diet. If you gain the majority of your fat from meat, you probably have a lack of fiber. If you gain your fat from nuts and have a lot of vegetables, as well, maybe it is better, in spite of your low grain consumption. However, grains are a very good source of fiber, especially if you diversify your grain intake, including Zakkoku, native grains. You are missing certain types of fiber which can benefit your diverse gut microbiomes.

According to Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, the author of Fiber Fueled, it is good to have as many different kinds of fiber as possible to meet the demand of diverse gut microbiomes. The gut microbiota is a diverse world just like microorganisms in the soil or vegetation in the rain forests, or universe. To feed all kinds of microbiomes, you need all kinds of fiber and that comes from diverse food sources. He says we need about 30 different kinds of plants per week for it. That seems difficult to get from keto diets.

The Ikigai Diet, on the other hand, is a diverse fiber diet by having Ma Go Wa Ya Sa Shi I plus grains as major food sources.

Ma Go Wa Ya Sa Shi I means your grandchildren are kind. It is used as a mnemonic device to remember what foods to eat daily. It is advocated by a food researcher and doctor called Hiroyuki Yoshimura to spread the benefits of Washoku.

Ma stands for Mame, which means beans.
Go stands for Goma, which means Sesame seeds.
Wa stands for Wakame seaweed.
Ya stands for Yasai, which means vegetables.
Sa stands for Sakana, which means fish.
Shi stands for Shitake mushrooms.
I stands for Imo, which means potatoes, including sweet potatoes and taros.

Ma Go Wa Ya Sa Shi I is a guideline to promote the healthy aspects of Washoku culture. You hear about it all the time, almost at every healthy eating seminar you attend. It is a buzzword in the Japanese natural food community.

If I were to translate it into English, it would be something like BSSVFMP.

B: beans
S: Seeds such as sesame seeds, nuts such as almonds
S: Seaweed such as Wakame, Hijiki, Konbu, and Nori
V: Vegetables
F: Fish
M: Mushrooms
P: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, taros

In the Ikigai Diet, we eat all kinds of beans such as soybeans, kidney beans, azuki beans and chickpeas. We eat all kinds of nuts and seeds, all kinds of seaweeds, all kinds of vegetables, all kinds of mushrooms, all kinds of potatoes, and all kinds of grains. We end up eating over 30 different kinds of fiber regularly.


Another difference is sustainability. The Ikigai Diet isn’t necessarily a nutrition-based diet, even though it has a relatively good nutritional balance. One of the reasons we don’t measure the amount of each nutrient is that we don’t want to be caught up in that mentality too much because it can make us narrow-minded. If you lead a holistic lifestyle, you naturally have a nutritional balance. The centenarians in Japanese Blue Zones don’t circulate the grams and neither do the centenarians in other Blue Zones.

We eat based on our Satoyama lifestyle, which is what we can produce organically and locally. Our diet is tied with our food production system. The Ikigai Diet is based on a philosophical concept called Sanpo-Yoshi, where you are happy, the people you have direct contact with are happy, and society is happy. Our diet should be aligned with a sustainable agricultural system.

If you have 70 to 80% fat in your diet, you may have to include a lot of meat in your diet, or avocados, avocado oil, coconut oil, and so on. I know avocado is a very popular ingredient in the keto diet even if you decide to practice a plant based keto diet.

Depending on where you live avocados are not locally available. I know they aren’t in Japan. The majority of avocados are imported from Mexico. Since avocados have become a superfood, it created a big production in Mexico and this type of monoculture farming is destroying traditional polyculture farming.

I am not saying you shouldn’t eat avocados, and I even eat them from time to time like having avocado natto, but basing them as the main fat source is a different matter. There must be sustainable ways of producing avocados, too, so avocados themselves are not to be blamed. All I am saying is you need to take food production into consideration, as well.

Grains are a Sustainable Food Source

I know some people talk about the Paleolithic period being natural and we should eat like hunters and gatherers. While I understand their view, I also think that we have not lived like that for thousands of years, and throughout the world, people have been growing crops.  It isn’t impossible to live like hunters and gatherers, especially in the countryside where I live, we can always hunt deer and wild pigs,  but I think it is more natural to live based on the present sustainable agricultural system.  The great thing about rice, wheat, oats, and barely is that we can store them. We can’t store avocados, on the other hand. When I think of a diet, I always think about how we can produce the food sustainably, and that includes how to store food, too. I don’t think it is wise to dismiss this benefit of grains and potatoes only from the nutritional aspect. There are ways to overcome the demerits of carbs while still keeping them as our main food source. In the Ikigai Diet book, I provided many ways for it.

You don’t need to go back to the prehistoric period, but go back to a century ago where you practiced polyculture farming. You grew grains, beans, and diverse vegetables. You also practiced pastoral farming, and you circulated resources from it to vegetable and grain growing. Everything was done on a moderate scale just enough to feed the community. Fishing was part of your lifestyle, too. Your diet then was more like the Blue Zone diet, eating a lot of vegetables, beans, potatoes and grains, having fish a few times a week, and occasionally meat. The meat was eaten during the times of Hare, festivals and celebrations.

In that sense, the Ikigai Diet is not a Paleolithic diet, it is a pre-industrial age diet.

Anyway, that’s my opinion, and as I said before I don’t know enough about the keto diet to make a judgment on it. I am sure there are people practicing the keto diet sustainably, and we can’t ignore the benefits of it, too. Well, as far as ketosis is concerned, by practicing intermittent fasting you are in ketosis for a certain degree anyway, so you should be able to gains some of the benefits without practicing the ketogenic diet. However, if you need to lose weight dramatically, it may not be enough, and you might gain benefits by practicing the keto diet. The keto diet can work better to gain short-term effects. The Ikigai Diet is a long-term diet for a healthy individual to continue for the rest of your life, but to get to such a state, you might first need to put yourself on a diet like keto for a while.

What’s Wrong with Avocados?



The Ikigai Diet: The Secret Japanese Diet to Health and Longevity

POD Paperback