Keto vs. Paleo Diet: What Are the Key Similarities and Differences?

It would be a miracle if you hadn’t heard of Keto and Paleo diets already, as they’re among the most popular diets now and for the past decade!

Picking which is right for you can be difficult when there’s so much information available. That’s why we’re here to guide you through Keto vs. Paleo diets and the key similarities and differences.

The biggest similarities of Keto and Paleo diets are that they’re both restrictive low carb and low sugar diets, which promote fast weight loss. The key differences between Keto and Paleo diets are the foods included and excluded as part of the dietary plan.

Read on to find out more in-depth information about the similarities and differences between the two diets.

Keto vs. Paleo Diets: An Overview

The easiest way to compare the two is by understanding what each of the diets involves. We’ll have a brief overview of both before comparing them.

What Is the Keto Diet?

A Keto diet focuses on cutting out most carbohydrates and eating lots of healthy fats and protein instead. The overall goal of the diet is to reach a state of Ketosis.

Ketosis is a metabolic state. It occurs when the body has low glucose availability, which can happen in low-carb diets or when fasting. When the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to use for energy, the body will start using other sources.

During Ketosis, the liver takes stored fat and turns it into Ketones to supply energy to the body. Ketosis can induce rapid weight loss, helping to lose excess fat.

For a restrictive diet, Keto is actually quite flexible. There are minimal carbs allowed, but you can get carbs from certain Keto-friendly sources like vegetables or leafy greens. Keto-friendly foods include:

  • Red meat, poultry, and fish
  • Plant-based meat replacements like tofu or tempeh
  • Dairy and eggs
  • Leafy greens and other non-starch filled vegetables
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds

The diet originates from the late 1920s. It was created as a means of treating epilepsy in children and is still used for this purpose today by some. This is because the diet alters genes involved in energy metabolism in the brain, which can help stabilize the function of neurons in epileptic people.

The original diet was 90% fat, 6% protein, and 4% carbs. For those not following the diet for this purpose, the diet has moved on slightly to be a little less extreme. In general, a Keto diet now looks like:

  • 70 – 80% fat
  • 20 – 25% protein
  • 5 – 10% carbs

For those following Keto strictly, you can get regular blood tests done to track the level of Ketones in the body. This ensures your body is in a true state of Ketosis for fat burning.

What Is the Paleo Diet? 

The idea of a Paleo diet is fairly straight-forward—we eat specific foods that fit our biological ancestry. This idea has been around since the 1970s, although the Paleo diet didn’t hit its peak until the mid-2000s when CrossFit exploded in popularity.

Paleo is short for Paleolithic, an era also known as the old stone age area where the human diet would have been far more restricted than we are used to now. The whole idea of the diet is if our Paleolithic ancestors didn’t eat it, it’s excluded.

Therefore, the diet eliminates products made from modern methods, relying instead on natural resources. This is based on the idea that the human body is not adapted to consume modern-day foods, and cutting these foods out will promote health and weight loss.

Again, although Paleo is a restrictive diet, it actually includes an acceptable variety of food groups, with minimal restrictions on portion sizes or snacking. Paleo-friendly foods include:

  • Grass-fed meat and poultry
  • Fish and seafood
  • Eggs
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oils like coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil

As you can see from the friendly food list, Paleo excludes processed foods like dairy, grains, and legumes. Alcohol, as its grain-based, is also excluded from the diet.

Not all fruits and vegetables are allowed either. The Paleo diet means you should look for non-starchy vegetables and fruits that are in season. This means no white potatoes, but sweet potatoes would be okay.

Keto vs. Paleo: Similarities

As you can see from the above overview of each diet, the two diets have several similarities.

They’re both a no-carb diet or a low-carb diet. Similarly, both exclude legumes and grains because of their higher carbohydrate content. Both the diets focus on a higher intake of protein through meat and exclude certain starchy vegetables and fruits from their plans.

This is because both diets are focused on nutritious whole foods. Neither diet excludes fat and instead actively encourages the consumption of healthy fats instead of highly processed foods.

To simplify, here’s a list of foods both diets allow:

  • Unprocessed meats, fish, and seafood
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Eggs
  • Healthy fats from natural oils like avocados or olives
  • Non-starchy vegetables

Both diets actually exclude certain foods generally thought to be healthy such as rice, quinoa, oats, and lentils. Many other diets will have an active inclusion of these foods in plans, so Keto and Paleo are both unusual in this sense.

Paleo vs. Keto: Differences

While the diets have their similarities, there are quite a few differences between the two as well.

For instance, though both diets allow meat, they have different rules. A Paleo diet excludes all processed meats — so ham and bacon are off the cards! A strict Paleo diet also insists on grass-fed, organic, or natural meat.

The Keto diet meanwhile allows for any meat, as long as that meat doesn’t contain sugar or carbohydrates. While some processed meats like bacon may contain sugar, others won’t and would be fine to include in a Keto diet. You’ll need to read the labels to avoid accidentally including excluded processed meats as you’d be surprised how many include sugar!

On the topic of sugar, the two diets differ here as well. The Paleo diet allows natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup but excludes artificial sweeteners as they’re processed.

The Keto diet is the opposite. This diet allows artificial sweeteners provided they don’t actually contain any sugar. It excludes natural sweeteners as they still contain some sugar.

Though both limit the intake of starchy vegetables and fruit, the Paleo diet is more flexible in its inclusion and allows for root vegetables like sweet potatoes and beets in moderation. Keto entirely excludes these as they would interrupt Ketosis.

For fruits, Keto excludes vegetables with high sugar content. Only berries or small amounts of peaches, apples, and plums are allowed. Paleo, on the other hand, allows for all fruits in moderation, though advocates for lower sugar fruits in general.

The major contrast between the two in terms of food groups is dairy. A Paleo diet excludes dairy as our Paleolithic ancestors would not have consumed dairy. You can instead drink unsweetened alternative milk like nut milk or coconut milk.

Keto allows high-fat dairy products that don’t include sugar. Cheese, in particular, is a great addition to a Keto diet as it’s high in fat and very low in sugar.

Keto vs. Paleo: Health Benefits and Risks

As with all diets, both Paleo and Keto diets have their own unique health benefits. However, they also come with some potential risks.

Paleo Benefits and Risks

More than a third of US adults are obese — this may partially be because Western diets, in general, tend to be packed with processed food and sugar. As a Paleo diet excludes these, it can be great for fast weight loss. This can also help with avoiding type 2 diabetes.

As Paleo focuses on unprocessed meat, it can help lower risks of colorectal cancer inadvertently. This is because processed meats like bacon or salami have been linked to an elevated risk for colorectal cancer.

This said, even fatty meats can increase your risk of heart disease. So it may be wise to focus on leaner unprocessed meats in a Paleo diet.

Additionally, because a Paleo diet excludes grains, it can lead to a deprivation of fiber in your diet. This can cause problems for your digestive system.

Keto Benefits and Risks

Similarly, a Keto diet can help with rapid weight loss, unlike Paleo, because the Keto diet features a focus on healthy fat consumption. You’ll also generally feel less hungry while following a Keto diet.

There’s also some research that suggests a Keto diet may help improve hormone balance for some people. In particular, women with polycystic ovary syndrome may find some symptoms reduced while following a Keto diet.

Though research is still on-going, there is also some indication that a Keto diet may be able to help with long-term diabetes management. This is likely due to the low sugar inclusion within the diet plan.

However, the Keto diet is not currently recommended for those with diabetes unless advised by a doctor or dietician. It is also not recommended for pregnant women, people with kidney disease, or those who have previously had eating disorders due to the restrictive nature of the diet.

When initially switching to the Keto diet, some people have suffered from what is known as “Keto flu.” The symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain

This can sound scary, but it passes quickly. These symptoms are a sign your body is beginning to burn fat. You can alleviate symptoms by keeping well hydrated and ensuring you sleep enough.

Keto or Paleo: Which Is Better?

As you can see from the health benefits and risks, both diets have their pros and cons.

The one that is better for you will depend on your individual health circumstances, as well as what food groups you find easier to remove from your diet. They’re both low carb, so you’ll not be eating bread and pasta either way, but if you love cheese and other fatty foods, Keto may be easier for you to stick to than Paleo.

It’s also bearing in mind with Paleo that you may not necessarily lose weight on it. Because it allows snacking and larger portion sizes, you may end up overeating on the foods you are allowed. Especially while your body gets used to the change!

Keto is more restrictive in this sense, but you’re likely to see quicker results because of it. These fast results are why Keto remains popular year after year, while Paleo has decreased slightly in popularity since the mid-2000s.

Related Questions

Which Diet Is Easier to Stick To?

Both are restrictive diets, so how easy they are to stick to depends on your determination to lose weight overall. However, you need to be more diligent for Keto. Accidentally consuming excluded foods can knock your body out of Ketosis, making you miss your weight loss goals.

Which Diet Has Worse Side Effects?

Both may make you feel lethargic initially. This is because Paleo lacks in calcium and vitamin D, while Keto lacks in carbohydrates. All side effects will be short-lived as your body will adjust to the new diet quickly.

Which Diet Will Help You Lose More Weight? 

Generally speaking, Keto. Eating like Paleolithic humans doesn’t guarantee weight loss, though cutting out carbs and sugars usually leads to it. Keto, on the other hand, tends to restrict portions more; therefore, weight loss is generally more successful.

Try It and Let Us Know!

Now you know everything there is to know about Keto vs. Paleo diets. You can try them out for yourself and see which works for you.

Make sure to keep up with our other Keto diet blog posts, and leave us a comment with your own diet stories!

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