Maybe you see them gracing magazine covers at your local bookstore or popping up on social media. Perhaps you have buddies raving about them.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that both of these dietary plans can result in weight loss, but which one is better? In this post, we size up these two most popular diets: Keto vs. Paleo.
What Is The Keto Diet?
The keto diet (which is short for the ‘ketogenic diet’) is an eating plan that focuses on foods that offer moderate protein, higher fat, and low-carb. The goal is to reduce carb intake and then replace it with fat. And the reduction in carbs puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis(2).
While in ketosis, the body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy. The body also turns fat into ketones\ketone bodies – molecules produced in the liver when there isn’t enough glucose for energy – as an alternative fuel source (1).
Because keto diets reduce appetite, increase fat burning, and decrease insulin levels, it is not surprising that they have been said to outperform several other diet plans intended for weight loss.
Potential Health Benefits Of Ketosis
Other than weight loss, the keto diet has a number of scientifically proven benefits.
Eating healthful fats (like avocados rather than unhealthy fats like pork rinds) can better your heart health by lowering cholesterol (4).
High cholesterol levels can increase the risk of cardiovascular illness. A ketogenic diet’s lowering effect on cholesterol may, therefore, reduce your risk of heart complications, if you focus on heart healthy fats (2).
Balancing Blood Sugar Levels
The lower intake of carbs in the keto diet may improve blood sugar (glucose). And this decreases the need for insulin.
Improved Pain Management
Some studies suggest that ketone bodies that generate during the ketogenic diet offer neuroprotective benefits. And this means they can protect and strengthen the nerve cells and brain. For this reason, a ketogenic diet may help a person manage or prevent conditions like Alzheimer’s illness (6).
When a person follows the keto diet, it’s vital that they go for healthy fats since they are suitable for the skin. Healthy fats (like omega-3 and omega-6) can increase blood flow in the skin, leading to a pumper, clearer glow (3).
You will also consume less refined sugar, commonly present in carbohydrate-heavy foods, which may cause inflammation.
Potentially Reduce Seizures\Epilepsy
The ratio of carbs, protein, and fat in the ketogenic diet usually alters how the human body uses energy, leading to ketosis. Researchers claim that ketosis can reduce seizures in individuals with epilepsy (5).
Doctors sometimes prescribe this dietary plan to treat epilepsy in kids of all ages. Most adults don’t prefer ketogenic since the limited food choices make the diet plan hard to maintain in the long run (5).
When following a keto diet, snacks and meals should center around the foods below:
- Poultry: Turkey and chicken
- Meat: Bison, organ meats, pork, venison, and grass-fed beef
- Eggs: Organic pastured whole eggs make the best choice
- Fatty fish: Mackerel, herring, and wild-caught salmon
- Condiments: Pepper, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, fresh spices, and herbs
- Non-starchy vegetables: Peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, and greens
- Healthy fats: Coconut butter, sesame oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and coconut oil
- Nut butter: Cashew butter, almond, and natural peanut
- Nuts and seeds: Flaxseeds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, and more
- Full-fat cheese: Cream cheese, goat cheese, brie, mozzarella, and cheddar
- Full-fat dairy: Cream, butter, and yogurt
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What To Avoid
Avoid foods high in carbohydrates while following the ketogenic diet. They include:
- Sugary foods and sweets: Coconut sugar, agave syrup, maple syrup, candy, ice cream, and sugar
- Baked goods and bread: Rolls, doughnuts, cookies, crackers, whole-wheat bread, and white bread
- Sweetened beverages: Sports drinks, sweetened teas, juice, and soda
- Grains and grains products: Tortillas, breakfast cereals, oats, rice, and wheat
- Beans and legumes: Kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, and black beans
- Starchy vegetables: Pumpkin, peas, corn, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and potatoes.
- Pasta: Noodles and spaghetti.
- Fruits: Pineapples, bananas, grapes, and citrus
- Certain alcoholic beverages: Sugary mixed drinks and beer
- High-carb sauces: Dipping sauces, sugary salad dressings, and barbecue sauce
- Processed foods: Processed meats (lunch meats and hot dogs), packaged foods, and fast food
- Unhealthy fats: Margarine made with hydrogenated vegetable oils, excessive animal (saturated) fat
- You should also avoid foods that contain artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and colors.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet (also known as the Paleolithic, Stone Age, Caveman, or steak and bacon diet) is designed to mimic what early humans ate a thousand years ago. A paleo diet includes lean meats, vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, and seeds – foods that could be obtained by fishing, gathering, and hunting in prehistoric times (7).
The underlying theory is that the rise in chronic conditions today stems from the agricultural revolution, which added dairy, legumes, grains to meals, resulting in a host of chronic diseases and illnesses – from allergies to obesity (7).
Potential Benefits Of The Paleo Diet
The paleo diet has several benefits, including:
Could Prevent Illnesses
By following a Paleo diet, you’re eating more anti-inflammatory foods and reducing foods well-known to cause inflammation. You’re also avoiding junk and fast foods, which may lead to an increased risk of obesity and illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (7).
A paleo dieter also eats more foods rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, which help to battle cancer and prevent heart illnesses.
Balances Blood Sugar Levels
Since you are avoiding refined sugar, it is easier to prevent spikes in your blood sugar levels. Avoiding refined sugar will also give you more energy.
If you have diabetes, you’ll want to check with your healthcare provider to see if they approve of the Paleo diet. And if you are trying to avoid diabetes, want to lose weight, or feel better, paleo might be a good choice diet (4).
Paleo Diet Foods
- Eggs: Choose pastured, omega-3 enriched, or free-range eggs
- Lean meats, especially grass-fed animals\wild game
- Nuts and seeds of all kinds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, and more)
- Fresh vegetables: Tomatoes, carrots, onions, peppers, kale, broccoli, etc.
- Fresh fruits: (blueberries, strawberries, avocados, pears, oranges, bananas, apples, etc.)
- Healthy fats and oils (avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin oil, etc.)
- Seafood and fish: shellfish, shrimps, haddock, trout, salmon
- Salt and spices (rosemary, turmeric, garlic, sea salt, etc.)
- Naturally extracted sweets like coconut sugar, maple syrup, and honey. But if you are trying to lose weight, use them sparingly or avoid them.
If possible, try to go for pastured raised, organic, and grass-fed. If not, always choose the least processed option.
What To Avoid
- Legumes, including peas, peanuts, lentils, and beans, are off-limits.
- Processed meats, such as deli meats and bacon, shouldn’t be eaten on this dietary plan.
- All dairy and processed foods should be avoided.
- Skip cereal grains (rye, rice, barley, wheat, etc.)
- Starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes and potatoes) should be avoided.
The core aspect of the Paleolithic diet is consuming unprocessed food. And this means that it tends to be low in carb since it excludes foods like grains that need processing. Avoiding foods rich in carbs and processed foods that impact blood sugar levels can help lower body fat, resulting in weight loss.
Keto vs. Paleo: Similarities
Now that you already know what paleo vs. keto is and how they work, let’s look at the similarities. They include:
Avoiding Processed Foods
Both paleo and keto diets encourage eliminating ultra-processed foods and then replacing them with whole foods, such as nuts, fish, meat, and fresh vegetables. And this is especially evident with the elimination of processed oils and sweeteners in both keto and paleo “rule book.”
Eliminating Legumes And Grains
Although for different reasons, both keto and paleo discourage the consumption of legumes and grains.
For the paleolithic, the elimination is mainly based on the fact that legumes and grains were not part of our ancestor diets, and they contain antinutrients (7).
On the other hand, the ketogenic diet eliminates most legumes and grains due to their carb content.
Eliminating Added Sugar
Paleo and keto diets discourage the consumption of added sugars. However, a paleo dieter is more flexible with this particular rule since unrefined sugar, such as maple syrup and honey, is still permitted (7).
On the other hand, keto doesn’t permit any added sugar source because of the high carbohydrate content.
May Be Effective For Weight Loss
The main reason for the popularity of the paleo and keto diet is that they may promote weight loss. However, more research is needed to determine how effective keto and paleo diets are for long-term, sustained weight loss.
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Keto vs. Paleo: Differences
Keto vs. Paleo: What is difference between the two diets? Here is a breakdown of how they differ.
Keto Focuses On Macros, Paleo Focuses On Food Quality
Keto diets focus on the macronutrient ratio, which is the amount of carbs, proteins, and fats consumed daily. And this is essential to attain ketosis since the key macro for ketogenic is fat, with restricted carbs and less protein.
On the other hand, a paleo dieter eats high-quality foods like free-range poultry, organic produce, wild-caught and grass-fed meat, and fish products. While these are not important for the diet plan to be successful, they are a primary aspect of the paleo’s framework.
Paleo Does Not Measure Ketones
The goal of the keto diet is to switch your body’s fuel source from glucose to ketone bodies. So paying close attention to the levels is crucial for keto success. The paleo diet doesn’t focus on measuring ketone bodies.
How Many Carbs Allowed On Keto vs. Paleo?
Without a doubt, the success of keto rests on sticking to a strict number of carbohydrates each day.
Keto dieters take 100g or less carbohydrate each day. The macro ratios required to attain ketosis are different for every individual based on weight, genetics, fitness, activity level, hormones, and other health conditions.
Keto vs. Paleo: Which is Better?
Paleo vs. keto for weight loss research indicates that both diet plans can be effective. However, the keto diet is highly successful when it comes to losing weight fast. But since the keto diet promotes diuresis, some dropped pounds may be because of water elimination.
On the other hand, the paleo helps with pound-shedding. But researchers concluded that it is mainly because of the program lowering overall calorie intake (4).
So if combined with a very active lifestyle, both diet plans could prove effective.
The fact is, there is a lot to love about both plans: Keto vs. Paleo. Both prohibit added sugar, ultra-processed foods, and unhealthy fats while favoring whole, natural foods.
And so, if you enjoy fruits and vegetables, like getting back to nature, and demand a range of food choices, paleo could be a sensible choice.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Neuroprotective and Disease-Modifying Effects of the Ketogenic Diet (2006, nih.gov/pm)
- Effects of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Risk Factor in Overweight Adolescents (2000, sciencedirect)
- Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health (2012, oregonstate.edu)
- Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence From Animal and Human Studies (2017,nih.gov/pmc)
- Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy: What We Know So Far (2019, nih.gov/pmc)
- Ketogenic Diet in Alzheimer’s Disease (2019, pubmed.gov)
- Ethnic and Paleolithic
- Diet: Where Do They Stand in Inflammation Alleviation? A Discussion (2017, ScienceDirect)