Keto vs. Paleo: What’s the Difference?
Many claim that their diet is the ultimate solution for a healthier lifestyle. Among the most popular options today are the Keto and Paleo diets, each with fervent followers who attest to their efficacy in promoting weight loss and preventing diseases.
However, before committing to either plan, it's essential to understand what they entail and which one aligns better with your health goals.
This article delves into the similarities and differences between the Keto and Paleo diets, examining their benefits and potential drawbacks to determine which one reigns supreme.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is a way of eating that emphasizes natural, nutrient-rich foods over modern processed foods. It is based on the theory that current food systems, production, and processing methods can harm human health. By following the eating habits of ancient hunter-gatherers, you may be able to enhance your body's natural biological function, leading to better digestion and overall health.
This diet emerged in 1975 when gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin wrote about its benefits in his book, The Stone Age Diet. However, Dr. Loren Cordain is often credited with founding the modern Paleo movement and popularizing it with his book, The Paleo Diet, in 2002.
Today, the Paleo diet remains popular with a large community of people who follow the Paleo lifestyle.
What foods are permitted in the Paleo Diet?
The primary foods on the Paleo Diet include:
- Grass-fed meats, such as beef, lamb, and venison
- Chicken (preferably pasture-raised)
- Eggs (preferably organic and cage-free)
- All fresh, nonstarchy vegetables accept corn, which is actually a grain
- All starchy vegetables, such as beets, butternut squash, and potatoes. (Corn is excluded because it is a grain, not a vegetable.)
- Specific unrefined fats and oils, such as olive, flaxseed, coconut, and avocado oils.
- Natural sweeteners, including maple syrup and raw honey. Note: 8th Wonder Organic Sparkling Teas are included on this list because they are naturally sweetened.
What foods are prohibited on the Paleo Diet?
The foods to be avoided on a Paleo Diet include:
- All grains, including whole grains and any foods made with grain flour
- Legumes, including beans and peanuts
- Refined sugar
- Refined vegetable oils
- All processed and junk foods
- Beverages sweetened with refined sugar
Is Paleo a low-carb diet?
The Paleo diet is typically low in carbohydrates, particularly compared to Western diets. By cutting out processed foods containing added sugar, grains, and dairy, many high-carb foods are no longer consumed.
However, the Paleo diet still includes fruits, starchy vegetables such as potatoes and beets, and natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup in moderation. Therefore, it is higher in carbs than the keto diet.
What are the health benefits of a Paleo Diet?
Research suggests that Paleo offers a wide variety of health benefits, including:
- Easier weight loss. Following a Paleo diet can aid in weight loss by reducing the intake of empty calories and providing high amounts of protein and fat, which promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction.
- Slimmer waistline (1)
- Reduced blood pressure (1)
- More regulated blood sugar levels and reduced insulin resistance, thus defending against metabolic syndrome (2)
- Reduced inflammation (3)
- Reduced risk of death from any cause, including disease, health complications, or exposure to hazardous materials (3)
- A reduction in cardiovascular risk factors (4)
- A reduced chance of developing a nutrient deficiency because the Paleo Diet emphasizes nutrient-dense foods.
What is the Keto Diet?
The Keto diet, or the ketogenic diet, is a low-carb diet emphasizing high-fat intake. It puts your body into a metabolic state called nutritional ketosis, which produces compounds known as ketones and burns fat, including the fat in your diet and your body fat, for energy instead of glucose.
To achieve and maintain ketosis, you must significantly reduce your carbohydrate intake and prioritize healthy fats, low-carb vegetables, and some protein.
The Keto diet may be a newer trend, but it has been employed by medical professionals as a therapeutic approach for specific ailments, such as epilepsy, as early as the 1920s.
How does Keto work?
The ketogenic diet utilizes the body's natural fat-burning ability to promote weight loss and fuel activity. The key to achieving this is to significantly reduce your carbohydrate intake while upping your intake of healthy fats.
The diet stimulates the body to access fat stores, similar to fasting. By altering the balance of macronutrients - fat, carbohydrates, and protein -, it aims to induce a state of ketosis.
Below is the typical macronutrient breakdown on the Keto Diet:
- Fat: 65-90%
- Protein: 10-30%
- Carbohydrates: less than 5%
This means 65-90% of your calories should come from fat, 10-30% from protein, and less than 5% from carbs.
The Keto diet differs from a regular diet by favoring fat over carbs, with moderate protein consumption. It aims to trigger the metabolic breakdown of fat in the body, which requires strict control of macronutrient intake to maintain ketosis.
What foods are permitted on the Keto diet?
The foods you can enjoy on the Keto diet include:
- Grass-fed meats, like beef, lamb, etc.
- Low-carb dairy products, including butter, cheeses, and cream. (Make sure you purchase the full-fat versions. Remember, the Keto Diet emphasizes dietary fat.)
- All nonstarchy vegetables
- Nuts and seeds (no more than ¼ cup daily)
- Unrefined oils, such as coconut, flaxseed, olive, avocado, and walnut oil.
What foods are prohibited on the Keto diet?
The following foods and food groups should be avoided while on the Keto diet:
- All grains, including whole grains and foods made with grain flour
- All sugars, whether natural or refined
- Fruits. Even though eating fruit is frowned upon, some people on a Keto diet include up to ¼ cup of berries daily.
- All starchy vegetables, such as corn, potatoes, etc.
- Processed or junk foods, which typically include any foods made with refined vegetable oils
- Legumes, which include peanuts and beans
- Any low-fat dairy products that are sweetened, including most ice cream and yogurts.
- Any beverages sweetened with sugar
What are the health benefits of a Keto diet?
Most people turn to Keto to lose weight, as it has been shown to promote rapid weight loss (5). But it does offer other health benefits, including:
- Reduced inflammation in many areas of your body, including the joints, heart, and brain.
- May help prevent several common conditions, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, brain fog, and various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (6,7).
- Helps guard against neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.
- Boosted energy levels
- Reduces food cravings and hunger due to the ketones, which naturally rein in hunger.
What are the similarities between Paleo and Keto diets?
While they have differences, Paleo and Keto diets share several similarities. Here are some of the key similarities between these two diets.
Both focus on whole foods.
Essentially, the Paleo and Keto diets prioritize consuming whole-food sources for nutrients. A whole food undergoes minimal processing before it reaches your plate.
Both diets promote ditching ultra-processed foods and opting for whole foods such as fresh vegetables, meat, fish, and nuts.
This similarity is noticeable in the exclusion of processed fats, oils, and sweeteners in the guidelines of both the paleo and keto diets.
Both (mostly) cut out added sugar.
The Keto and Paleo diets commonly aim to avoid heavily processed foods, including limiting added sugar intake.
While both diets discourage the consumption of added sugars, paleo dieters have more flexibility as they allow unrefined sources like honey and maple syrup.
However, due to its high carb content, the keto diet strictly prohibits any form of added sugar, whether refined or not.
Naturally sweetened beverages, like 8th Wonder Organic Superfood Teas, are permitted in both diets, though those on Keto must factor in the carb content.
Both exclude grains and legumes.
The Paleo and Keto diets advise against consuming grains and legumes for different reasons.
Those following Paleo choose to eliminate grains and legumes due to their supposed absence in early human diets and the presence of antinutrients within them.
Antinutrients, including lectins and phytates, can hinder the absorption of essential minerals and nutrients and may cause digestive discomfort when consumed in large quantities (8).
However, recent research suggests these compounds may offer some health benefits (8).
In contrast, the Keto diet eliminates grains and most legumes primarily because of their carbohydrate content. These foods contribute a significant amount of carbs to the diet, which can throw the body out of ketosis if consumed while on Keto.
Both highlight the inclusion of healthy fats.
Both the Paleo and Keto diets are committed to achieving optimal health through the consumption of unrefined, healthy fats.
These diets suggest a moderate-to-liberal intake of selected refined oils, like olive and avocado oils, as well as nuts, seeds, and fish, which are known to benefit heart health because of their poly- and monounsaturated fat content (9).
Additionally, both diets discourage heavily processed fats, such as trans fats, which can be detrimental to one's health if consumed regularly (9).
While Keto significantly emphasizes fat as the cornerstone of the entire diet, Paleo uses this recommendation to support overall health, although not necessarily as a high-fat diet.
Both may promote weight loss.
Many people turn to Keto and Paleo diets for weight loss, yet their long-term effectiveness remains to be determined due to limited research. However, studies on short-term weight loss show promise.
An investigation of postmenopausal, obese women on the Paleo diet revealed a 9% weight loss after six months and a 10.6% loss at 12 months, with no significant change at the 24-month mark (10).
Additionally, research on low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets like Keto suggests that adopting this eating style can result in short-term weight loss (11). This may be due to the high fat intake, which can decrease appetite and overall calorie consumption, or because ketosis leads to more efficient elimination of fat stores.
However, further research is necessary to establish a clear causal relationship (12).
What are the differences between Paleo and Keto?
Below are the main differences between Paleo and Keto.
Paleo stresses ideology, while Keto emphasizes macronutrients.
The Paleo and Keto diets differ in their overall wellness and lifestyle approaches.
The Paleo diet emphasizes whole foods available during the Paleolithic era and encourages specific exercise and mindfulness practices to accompany the dietary pattern. This includes incorporating short, intense workouts and stress-reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation. By incorporating these lifestyle practices, the Paleo diet aims to support the holistic health of the body and mind.
However, while the Paleo diet is specific regarding food choices, it does not emphasize macronutrients. You can eat as much protein, fat, and carbohydrates as you want, as long as they are from the approved list of foods. You may also drink as much of the healthy, delicious, and refreshing 8th Wonder Organic Sparkling Superfood Teas as you like since there are no carb restrictions with Paleo.
By contrast, the Keto diet has no associated ideology or lifestyle component. Instead, it focuses primarily on macronutrient distribution and encourages healthy food choices. Any additional lifestyle changes made while on the Keto diet are strictly personal preferences and are not part of the diet guidelines.
Keto permits dairy and some soy foods.
When following a ketogenic diet, consuming dairy products is not only allowed but also encouraged. Many ketogenic meal plans commonly include high-fat dairy options such as heavy cream, butter, and unsweetened full-fat yogurt. However, dairy products with a low fat-to-carb ratio, like ice cream and milk, are prohibited on the Keto diet.
Soy-based foods like tofu, tempeh, and soybeans are also acceptable on the keto diet if they are within the specified macronutrient allotment. But soy milk is not usually recommended.
In contrast, the Paleo diet restricts almost all dairy options. Grass-fed butter is the only permitted dairy product on the Paleo diet. However, there is debate about whether this aligns with the Paleo ideology since dairy was not a part of the Paleolithic era's diet.
Paleo also does not permit soy products, as they fall under the legume category of foods.
Paleo permits whole-food carbohydrates.
The paleo diet restricts specific carb sources but is not necessarily a low-carb diet like Keto.
Since Paleo doesn't focus on macronutrients, it's possible to have a high-carb diet if you choose the right foods within the specified parameters. Grains, refined sugars, and legumes aren't allowed, but paleo still permits carbs from whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and unrefined sweeteners. As mentioned above, 8th Wonder Organic Sparkling Teas fall within the allowed category as they do not contain added sugar. Instead, they are naturally sweetened by the specific organic fruits in each flavor combination.
In contrast, the Keto diet restricts all rich carbohydrate sources, including starchy vegetables, grains, sweeteners, most fruits, and most legumes.
To maintain ketosis, the total carb intake should remain below a certain threshold, which means many high-carb foods, regardless of their source, aren't suitable for a Keto diet.
Paleo heavily emphasizes meat products.
The paleo diet has been a subject of concern due to its heavy reliance on meat products, making it an unsuitable option for vegetarians, vegans, and primarily plant-based eaters.
Although consuming meat in moderation is generally acceptable, excessive amounts may not benefit one's health. Studies indicate that the high consumption of processed and red meat may increase the risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer deaths. (13, 14).
Which diet is better?
Paleo and Keto diets have their benefits, depending on how they are applied and individual health and weight loss goals.
However, comparing the two, the Paleo diet is generally considered the healthier option for most individuals.
The Paleo diet allows for more flexibility in food choices and provides a broader range of nutrients that the body requires on a daily basis. Additionally, the wide range of food choices promotes a healthy lifestyle, making it easier to maintain even in social gatherings.
In contrast, the Keto diet may be helpful as a treatment method for specific health conditions, including obesity, but it is not suitable or healthy for everyone. For example, Keto is a high-fat diet essential for achieving and maintaining ketosis. But it is imperative to avoid consuming too much saturated fat on a high-fat diet, as studies have shown it may increase heart disease risk.
In addition, the limited food options on the Keto diet can make it challenging to get adequate nutrients, potentially undermining your health and further complicating its maintenance.
Finally, maintaining ketosis requires strict compliance and careful planning, and adapting to different social situations can be challenging.
Frequently asked questions
Do you lose weight faster on Paleo or Keto?
Regarding rapid weight loss, Keto appears to be the clear winner.
Many people find the Keto diet a highly effective way of achieving weight loss goals, as ketosis encourages using fat as energy.
However, the Paleo diet can also be an effective, if a bit slower, method for weight loss as it eliminates processed foods and empty calories while providing high levels of satiating protein and fat.
Can you be in ketosis on Paleo?
You can combine the ketogenic and Paleo diets to reap the benefits of both. Simply follow the Keto macronutrient ratios while sticking to only Paleo-approved foods. This way, you can achieve ketosis and enjoy the health benefits of Paleo eating.
Who should not do the Paleo diet?
Before attempting the Paleo diet, it is advisable to consult your doctor regarding any underlying health conditions. Specifically, individuals at risk for heart disease, kidney damage or have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes should refrain from following the Paleo diet. Pregnant women should also consult their physicians before attempting the paleo diet.
Does Paleo get rid of belly fat?
Research has indicated that the Paleo diet can efficiently decrease belly fat. As per a study, ten fit women adhered to the Paleo diet for five weeks. They witnessed an average decrease of 3 inches in their waist circumference, a measure of belly fat, and an overall weight loss of around 10 pounds (15).
Is Paleo or Keto better for inflammation?
Both the Paleo and Keto diets can potentially have anti-inflammatory effects. People with autoimmune diseases frequently favor the Paleo diet because it excludes many common allergens like dairy and gluten.
Meanwhile, the Keto diet has been linked to protection against various chronic diseases, including Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cancer, due to the anti-inflammatory effects of ketones produced during ketosis.
Is Keto or Paleo better for building muscle?
Regarding bodybuilding, both the Keto and Paleo diets can effectively improve athletic performance, promote lean muscle growth or prevent muscle loss (17), and accelerate fat loss (18).
It's a common myth that building muscle on Keto is impossible, as studies suggest that ketosis facilitates fat-burning and preserves lean muscle mass during weight loss (19).
By incorporating resistance-training exercises, it's possible to maintain a muscular, lean, and fit body on either of these diets.
Athletes may prefer the Paleo diet due to its higher carb content, fueling workouts, and aiding muscle recovery. On the other hand, those who are "fat adapted" or adapted to the keto diet (20) often experience increased endurance and strength (21).
The Keto diet is high in fat and low in carbs, which may lead to weight loss and improved blood sugar control. The Paleo diet emphasizes whole foods that were available to early humans, and it promotes exercise and wellness practices.
Both diets can have positive health impacts when properly planned, but the restrictions of these diets can also be challenging to maintain.
For most people, the Paleo diet is a better option as it offers more flexibility in food choices and is easier to maintain long-term.
It is recommended to consult a physician or nutritionist before starting any diet. They can help ensure you get all the necessary nutrients and minerals for a healthy lifestyle.
Additionally, regular physical activity and a balanced lifestyle are essential to maintaining good health.
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