The world has been blessed with two unique diets that are both known to be effective for people of all ages and body types. The paleo and ketogenic diets have taken the world by storm, but they also sound pretty similar, don’t they?
While the paleo diet is a more significant part of my life, I have followed the keto diet before, and both offer benefits. To try and figure out what works best for you, we look at the exact difference between keto and paleo diets. Here’s a breakdown of paleo vs keto—the battle of the diet giants!
What Is Paleo?
The paleo diet is popularly known as the caveman diet. It’s based on the principle that we should attempt to consistently consume only those foods that have been available to the homo sapien species for millennia now.
It’s an extremely popular diet that operates on the fundamental theory that modern food is inherently poor for our systems as it operates on processes that are entirely new to the species. We simply haven’t gotten adjusted to these techniques so far.
Eating like our caveman ancestors instead of consuming processed foods is far more agreeable with our systems, according to the research from this diet. The paleo diet is supposed to assist our body’s natural biological functions in order to greatly improve our digestion and health, not to mention help you lose weight (1).
According to the paleo diet, you should consume foods such as:
- Meat and fish.
- Nuts and seeds.
- All vegetables barring corn.
- Some oils and fats such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.
- Sweeteners with minimal processing such as raw honey and raw stevia.
The paleo diet restricts you from consuming:
- Processed sugar.
- Most types of dairy.
Individuals who follow the paleo diet, however, aren’t focused on the diet as much as they care about their lifestyle choices. Going on the paleo diet has a lot to do with sustainable living, caring for the environment, and taking responsibility regarding the source of our food and nutrition.
What Is Keto?
The keto diet is centered around a very specific metabolic state known as ketosis (2). This process is triggered when we attempt to switch the primary source of energy in our system from carbs to fat.
When you take on the keto diet, you’re looking to make adjustments to your macronutrient values. Specifically, you’re aiming to control the levels of carbs, proteins, and fats in your system. The idea is to bring the values to these desired proportions (2):
- Consuming only 5–10 percent carbohydrates.
- Consuming 20–30 percent protein.
- Consuming 60–80 percent fat.
While most of us are used to consuming high quantities of carbohydrates and middling levels of proteins and fats, this diet switches these values on their heads entirely.
You may wonder how it could be healthy to sustain oneself on a diet that’s 60–80 percent fat, but this is where it pays to understand the difference between good fats and bad fats. Bad fats are trans fats that we consume when we eat processed foods.
Good fats, on the other hand, can be found in meats such as beef, chicken, and fish, as well as in natural sources such as butter and ghee. Thus, it becomes crucial that you consume high fat amounts from the latter category and not the former in order to ensure weight loss.
When your body starts using these fats instead of carbs as a primary source of fuel to execute on its daily activities, this is when the process of ketosis begins to take effect on your system. You start breaking down your natural fats rapidly during this state, and this process is known to take action in just a few days.
The keto diet has become extremely popular as it allows people to lose weight while also improving their blood sugar control.
Differences Between Keto vs Paleo
There are many similarities between the keto and paleo diets that we’ll eventually get to as well, but these are the factors that set them apart from one another.
Ideology vs Macronutrients
Those who engage in the paleo diet tend to focus on their lifestyle choices in general, with their diet being one significant aspect of this.
Apart from weight loss, the paleo diet encourages us to think about the environment, our history, our collective choices as a species, and our source of nutrition. It’s best accompanied by high intensity interval training sessions as this method of training is supposed to negate any stress created by longer workouts.
You’re permitted to eat all the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates you want in this diet as there’s no focus on macronutrients. You simply have a list of foods that you’re supposed to stick to on this diet, and it doesn’t discriminate based on the properties of the food.
People also often engage in mindfulness activities while taking on this diet, such as yoga and meditation. Thus it’s safe to say that paleo focusses on total wellness of the body and mind as a means to improve the overall health of an individual.
The keto diet, on the other hand, isn’t as detailed or thorough as the paleo diet and its many accompanying principles. It does ask you to choose healthy food sources.
The distinction between processed chicken and farm-fresh chicken, for example, is a crucial one in this diet. But even this comes down to the nutritional content of the food, as farm-fresh meat is always more nutritious compared to those grown in a factory setting.
The bottom line of the ketogenic diet is all about the ideal distribution of macro nutritional value. As long as you consume proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in the right proportions and from the right sources, you’re golden.
While the keto diet is also known as a low-carb diet, you’d notice that the paleo diet doesn’t restrict carbs with quite the same ferocity.
Sure, you shouldn’t eat grains, refined sugar, or legumes when you’re on the paleo diet, but it does permit you to consume whole food carbs such as fruits, unrefined sweeteners, and vegetables. This offers you a lot of options in terms of what you can eat and dramatically opens up your menu options when you dine out.
In the keto diet, though, most legumes and fruits are already banned from the diet, but it also includes numerous starchy vegetables as well. Add grains and sweeteners to this no-fly list, and your options in terms of carbs at least are pretty limited.
Dairy and Soy Foods
When you’re on the keto diet, you’re allowed to eat various types of dairy foods. Fatty products such as butter are, in fact, a crucial part of this diet and are an important means of increasing your daily fat intake.
Milk and ice cream isn’t allowed on either diet, so dreamers keep dreaming!
Most dairy foods, however, are entirely banned from the paleo diet (4). The principle behind this is simple—our ancestors didn’t start farming or sourcing milk from cows until a few millennia ago, and dairy products were certainly not available to our paleolithic forefathers.
One of the few exceptions to this rule is grass-fed butter, but even this is hotly contested within the paleo community.
Additionally, soy foods such as soybeans and tofu are also treated in a similar way within the keto and paleo communities. While keto folk permit the use of such ingredients, the paleo peeps ban this entirely for weight loss.
Similarities Between Paleo and Keto
Now that we’ve looked into the differences between ketosis vs paleo, it’s worth examining a few key similarities as well.
The Whole-Food Mantra
Both the paleo and keto diets are absolutely behind the principle of consuming whole foods to attain your daily nutrition. The only difference here is in terms of which whole foods qualify under each diet.
You can consume fresh vegetables, meats, fish and nuts under both diets, but keto doesn’t allow you to eat high-starch vegetables for weight loss.
The main thought here is that you should keep away from processed foods as these are the alternatives to whole foods. Processed foods are foods that are different from their original state as they’ve been processed in one form or another.
In both the diet handbooks, the most dangerous types of foods are processed fats, oils, and sweeteners.
Grains and Legumes
The consumption of grains and legumes are also highly controlled in both diets for the sake of weight loss, although both restrict these categories for different reasons altogether.
In the paleo diet, for example, grains and legumes are excluded because they only entered our collective diets after we began with agriculture, and that wasn’t too long ago. Thus, our bodies are simply not used to consuming and digesting these foods in comparison to whole foods that our forefathers have been eating for several thousand years.
According to the keto diet, however, grains and legumes contain high levels of carbohydrates. Any type of carbohydrate being consumed on a daily basis for this diet should ideally come from vegetables.
Treatment of Sugar
These diets wouldn’t be very effective if they didn’t have strict rules against sugar, right?
Processed sugars are known criminals of the dieting world at this point, and no respectable regime would allow you to consume these.
Unrefined sugars such as maple syrup and honey are allowed in the paleo diet, which enables you to get some level of sweetening agent in your diet every day.
The keto diet, on the other hand, doesn’t allow you to take on any sugar sources whatsoever. This is because sugar, refined or otherwise, is a high source of carbohydrates, and just a couple of spoonfuls of it will eat up your entire daily carb allowance.
Instead, you’re much better off consuming healthy vegetables or some legumes to meet this quota.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Is Better Paleo or Keto?
The paleo diet can be considered better in the long term as it allows access to a larger number of ingredients, including various fruits and vegetables. Thus, paleo is superior for improved athletic performance and greater digestive health. The keto is better for short term weight loss.
Do You Lose More Weight on Keto or Paleo?
You may lose more weight immediately when you’re on the keto diet, but the paleo diet is more sustainable in the long term.
Is Keto a Paleo Diet?
No, these diets are quite different from one another.
Can You Lose Weight on Paleo?
Yes, you can lose weight and even sustain the weight loss on paleo if you make it a part of your lifestyle.
Subtle Differences, Substantial Changes
It’s safe to say that the keto vs paleo debate has taken the world by storm. Thanks to the age we currently live in, there’s no shortage of research to highlight the differences, benefits and shortcomings of each of these methods.
Both diets are similar and different from each other in various subtle ways. While paleo asks you to focus on a particular type of lifestyle, keto asks you to be aware of the nutritional value of what you’re consuming.
In terms of effectiveness, though, you can see great results with either choice if you follow through on the principles correctly. It comes down to which one of these calls out to you and which one you’re certain you’ll be able to follow through on.
After all, when it comes to dieting, the only way to get results is to stick to a lane. You have two great highways to pick here, so start your engines and get going!
- Lindberh, S., Jonsson, T., Granfeldt, Y., Borgstrand, E., Soffman, J., Sjöström, K., & Ahrén, B. “A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease”. Diabetologia, vol. 50, 2007, pp. 1795–1807, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-007-0716-y#citeas.
- Kiranjit K. Dhillon; Sonu Gupta, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493179/.
- Masood, W., Annamaraju, P., and Uppaluri, K. “Ketogenic Diet”. 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/.