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Keto vs Paleo: Uncovering the Key Differences

Author: Victoria 13 min read
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Jun 05, 2024
Keto vs Paleo: Uncovering the Key Differences

Are you puzzled about whether to choose the Paleo or Keto diet for your journey towards a healthier lifestyle? You’re not alone! These popular diets have their own unique approaches, but which one is the right fit for you? In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the similarities and differences between these diets, unraveling their intricacies to help you make an informed decision for a healthier, happier you - in the context of paleo and ketogenic diets.

By comparing the foundations, food choices, health benefits and risks, lifestyle considerations, and expert advice, this comprehensive guide will provide a fresh perspective on the debate between Paleo and Keto diets, setting you on the right path to achieve your health goals in the keto vs paleo discussion.

Key Takeaways

  • Paleo and Keto diets focus on whole foods, macronutrient profiles, and healthy dietary fats. The keto and paleo diets emphasize the consumption of whole foods while eliminating added sugars and heavily processed foods.

  • Both offer weight loss benefits but potential risks such as nutrient deficiencies should be considered.

  • Factors like lifestyle, personality, food preferences must be taken into account when selecting the best diet for you. Expert consultation is recommended.

Understanding Paleo and Keto Diets

The Paleo and Keto diets, often referred to as keto and paleo diets, are both known for their focus on whole foods and specific macronutrient profiles, but their foundations differ significantly. The Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, emphasizes whole foods that are similar to those eaten during the Paleolithic era. The Paleo and Ketogenic diets focus on consuming foods available to early humans and inducing ketosis through a calculated adjustment of dietary macronutrients, respectively. On the other hand, the Keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate approach initially used to treat epilepsy; now, it’s popular for weight loss and blood sugar regulation. Both keto and paleo diets have gained popularity in recent years, offering unique approaches to healthy eating.

Both diets stress the importance of obtaining nutrients from whole foods and discourage the consumption of highly processed items, promoting a healthy lifestyle. They also advocate for a high intake of dietary healthy fats from sources including:

  • olive oil

  • avocado

  • nuts

  • seeds

  • fish

To truly comprehend these diets’ differences, we need to examine their individual foundations.

Paleo Diet Foundations

The Paleo diet is based on the notion that current food systems, production, and processing practices are detrimental to human health. It aims to replicate early human diets by focusing on whole foods that were available during the Paleolithic era, such as lean meats, fish, seafood, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. The diet excludes grains, legumes, processed sugar, and most dairy products.

Although the ancestral roots of the Paleo diet have been largely debunked, it is still praised for its emphasis on whole foods and the exclusion of highly processed foods. Similar to the keto and paleo diets, the Paleo diet permits some “natural” sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup, but it eliminates grains and legumes, largely due to their antinutrient content. The paleo and ketogenic diets both emphasize whole foods, but while the Paleo diet focuses on foods available to early humans, the Ketogenic diet aims to induce ketosis by adjusting dietary macronutrients to shift the body's energy dependence from carbohydrates to fat.

Keto Diet Foundations

The Keto diet, or ketogenic diet, focuses on high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating to achieve a state of ketosis, where the body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Similar to the keto and paleo diets, it emphasizes the consumption of whole foods while excluding heavily processed ones. It was initially used as a medical treatment for pediatric patients with epileptic seizures. A typical Keto diet includes approximately 75% fat, 15-20% protein, and up to 10% carbohydrates. Ketogenic diets have gained popularity in recent years for their potential health benefits and weight loss effects. When comparing paleo and ketogenic diets, the Paleo diet focuses on consuming foods available to early humans, emphasizing whole foods and lifestyle practices, while the Ketogenic diet aims to induce ketosis through a calculated adjustment of dietary macronutrients, shifting the body's dependence from carbohydrates to fat for energy.

Permitted food sources in a Keto diet include:

  • Meats

  • Fish

  • Eggs

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Oils and oily foods

  • Certain vegetables like low-carb leafy greens, onions, or tomatoes

Fruits, grains, beans, legumes, and root vegetables are not included.

The Keto diet requires continuous low carbohydrate intake, unlike the Atkins diet, which allows for the gradual reintroduction of carbohydrates after a certain period.

Comparing Food Choices in Paleo and Keto

Having gained insight into both diets’ foundations, let’s now delve into their food choices. The primary food sources in the keto and paleo diets include nutrient-dense whole foods, with the Paleo diet focusing on fresh vegetables, meat, fish, and nuts, and the Keto diet encompassing meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, oils, and oily foods, as well as select vegetables. Both diets emphasize the consumption of nutritious whole foods while excluding highly processed ones, and they encourage lower carbohydrate intake. The paleo and ketogenic diets share some similarities, such as discouraging highly processed fats, oils, and sweeteners, and promoting potential benefits for weight loss.

We will now examine their protein sources, carbohydrate intake, and fats and dairy consumption to further understand the nuances between Paleo and Keto.

Protein Sources

Protein sources in both keto and paleo diets emphasize quality meats, but there are some differences when it comes to processed meats. The Paleo diet generally excludes processed meats, while the Keto diet allows some minimally processed options, such as bacon without nitrates or preservatives.

High-quality meats recommended for the keto and paleo diets include grass-fed beef, lamb, goat, wild-caught salmon, trout, mackerel, haddock, free-range chicken, turkey, and duck. For the Keto diet, the highest quality meats include chicken, beef, pork, fish, and seafood, with a preference for grass-fed and ethically raised meats whenever possible.

Carbohydrate Intake

Carbohydrate intake in keto and paleo diets differs considerably. The Paleo diet permits starchy vegetables in moderation, whereas the Keto diet does not permit them at all. This distinction is crucial for individuals aiming to achieve ketosis, as the Keto diet’s stringent carbohydrate limits facilitate this metabolic state.

The Paleo diet suggests filling half of the plate with nonstarchy vegetables, one-quarter with lean protein, and one-quarter with starchy carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes. In contrast, the Keto diet sets a recommended net carbohydrate limit (total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber) of 25g for a single food item, which restricts carbohydrate-rich foods such as grains, legumes, fruit, starchy vegetables, and sugar.

Fats and Dairy

Fats and dairy are emphasized in both keto and paleo diets, but there are some distinctions in their approach. The paleo diet excludes most dairy products but encourages the consumption of certain types of fats. In contrast, the keto diet places a particular emphasis on fat as the primary dietary component and permits certain high-fat and high-protein dairy products.

Both keto and paleo diets suggest consuming mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids from sources such as:

  • olive oil

  • avocado

  • nuts

  • seeds

  • fish

The paleo diet offers dairy alternatives such as unsweetened nut milk, coconut milk, and other similar options without artificial sweeteners or thickeners, while the keto diet does not permit flavored yogurt.

Health Benefits and Risks of Paleo and Keto

Having compared both diets’ food choices, we will now investigate the health benefits and potential risks associated with the keto and paleo diets. The paleo and ketogenic diets both offer unique health benefits and risks. Studies have shown that both diets can lead to weight loss, a decreased risk of chronic diseases, and improved gut health. However, potential health risks may include nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, and organ problems, depending on the diet and individual factors.

For a better understanding of the health benefits and risks, we’ll explore each diet’s positive health outcomes and potential health risks.

Positive Health Outcomes

Both keto and paleo diets have shown positive health outcomes. Research has indicated that the Paleo diet can result in:

  • Weight loss

  • Decrease in BMI

  • Reduction in waist circumference

  • Potentially reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

In addition to weight loss, the Keto diet has been found to reduce blood sugar levels, improve insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes, and even treat epilepsy. Research on low-carb, high-fat diets such as the ketogenic diet shows that short-term weight loss is possible. Transitioning to this type of eating can help individuals achieve their weight loss goals.

Potential Health Risks

Potential health risks associated with the keto and paleo diets include the possibility of nutrient deficiencies, particularly calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for maintaining bone health. The Keto diet can lead to a range of unwanted side effects such as keto breath, a keto skin rash, and the “keto flu”. Symptoms include headaches, lethargy, nausea, mental slowness, insomnia, decreased exercise performance, constipation, and low libido. It is important to include electrolyte replacement when following a ketogenic diet to maintain electrolyte balance and avoid possible symptoms.

In both diets, long-term adherence may lead to nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, and organ problems, depending on the diet and individual factors. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before making any dietary changes, especially for those with existing health conditions.

Lifestyle Considerations: Paleo vs. Keto

Lifestyle considerations are a critical factor when choosing between the keto and paleo diets. The paleo and ketogenic diets each offer unique lifestyle considerations, with the Paleo diet focusing on whole foods and ancestral practices, and the Ketogenic diet aiming to induce ketosis by adjusting dietary macronutrients. Factors such as personal preferences, sustainability, and health goals are essential to ensure that the chosen diet aligns with one’s lifestyle.

To aid your decision, we’ll discuss the flexibility, social aspects, and holistic health aspects of both diets.

Flexibility and Social Aspects

The Paleo diet offers more food choices and flexibility, while the Keto diet is more restrictive and may be challenging to adhere to in social settings. Both keto and paleo diets involve dietary restrictions, with the Paleo diet abstaining from grains, legumes, dairy, processed oils, refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and trans fats, while the Keto diet excludes starchy vegetables, grains, beans, fruits, and other starchy vegetables.

Adhering to a Paleo diet as opposed to a Keto diet may involve:

  • Dietary restrictions

  • Social pressure

  • Community support

  • The requirement for education and awareness of the two

Exercise and Holistic Health

Both keto and paleo diets emphasize exercise and holistic health, but they differ in their approaches. The Paleo diet focuses on natural and unprocessed foods, which can positively impact digestion, gut microbiota, the immune system, and overall well-being. It is recommended to include a variety of exercises such as:

  • burpees

  • push-ups

  • squats

  • triceps dips

  • bear crawls

  • frog jumps

  • donkey kicks

when following a Paleo diet. Natural movement exercises like walking, running, climbing, and crawling are also suggested.

The Keto diet’s impact on exercise performance may depend on the individual and the type of exercise. Some research indicates that it may be beneficial for aerobic endurance exercise by promoting fat usage as fuel. However, it may reduce exercise economy at higher intensities, which could impact performance in certain settings. Furthermore, the ketogenic diet may aid with post-workout muscle recovery.

Choosing the Right Diet for You

How should you select the right diet for you? Reflecting on your lifestyle, personality, and food preferences is vital when choosing between the keto and paleo diets. When considering paleo and ketogenic diets, it's important to understand that the Paleo diet focuses on consuming foods available to early humans, emphasizing whole foods and lifestyle practices, while the Ketogenic diet aims to induce ketosis through a calculated adjustment of dietary macronutrients, shifting the body's dependence from carbohydrates to fat for energy. Both diets emphasize the consumption of whole foods while excluding highly processed ones and encourage lower carbohydrate intake. Keep in mind that the keto diet is a demanding diet, requiring high fat intake and strict adherence to protein intake. Additionally, those with a history of eating disorders should be aware that keto is not recommended.

On the other hand, the paleo diet offers greater flexibility and a wider variety of food options. For an informed decision, we’ll examine the factors to consider when choosing between paleo and keto and the significance of expert consultation.

Factors to Consider

When making the decision between the keto and paleo diets, it is important to factor in your lifestyle, personality, and food preferences. Both diets emphasize the consumption of whole foods while excluding highly processed ones, and encourage lower carbohydrate intake. Consider the desired macronutrient ratio, tolerance for certain food groups, and long-term sustainability of each diet. Ultimately, selecting a diet that aligns with personal preferences and is sustainable in the long run is key to achieving optimal results.

Health conditions such as:

  • obesity

  • high blood pressure

  • cardiovascular disease

  • autoimmune diseases characterized by inflammation

should also be considered when deciding between the keto or paleo diet. It is imperative to consult with a healthcare professional before making any dietary changes.

Expert Consultation

Before starting a new diet, always consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your individual needs. A qualified registered dietitian should have:

  • at least a bachelor’s degree in nutritional science or a related field

  • completed coursework accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics

  • experience and knowledge in low-carb diets as well as expertise in keto and paleo diets.

Consulting with a professional ensures that you receive tailored advice catering to your individual needs and health conditions, paving a safe and effective path towards improved health.

Summary

In conclusion, both keto and paleo diets offer unique approaches to achieving a healthier lifestyle. While the Paleo diet emphasizes whole foods and a holistic approach, the Keto diet focuses on high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating to achieve ketosis. Each diet has its benefits and potential risks, and the right choice ultimately depends on personal preferences, lifestyle, and health goals.

By understanding the key differences between these diets and consulting with a healthcare professional, you can make an informed decision and embark on a journey towards better health, improved well-being, and a happier, more vibrant life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is better keto or paleo?

For those looking to lose weight, keto may be better, but for those looking to make lasting lifestyle changes, paleo is more feasible. Both diets have their own benefits and drawbacks, so it depends on individual goals and circumstances.

How many carbs a day on paleo?

Following Mark Sisson's advice, the daily carb intake for someone on the paleo diet should range from 50 to 150 grams per day, depending on their desired weight loss rate.

Is keto or paleo better for inflammation?

Both paleo and keto diets are effective for reducing inflammation, however, keto is more beneficial for weight loss than paleo.

Does paleo make you lose weight?

The Paleo diet is an effective way to lose weight due to its focus on whole, unprocessed foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories. It may also offer other health benefits, however long-term clinical studies have yet to explore the potential risks of this diet.

What is the primary difference between the Paleo and Keto diets?

The primary difference between the Paleo and Keto diets is that the former emphasizes whole foods while the latter is a high-fat, low-carb approach initially used for epilepsy treatment.

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References:

  1. Cordain, L. (2011). The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. Wiley.

  2. Volek, J. S., & Phinney, S. D. (2011). The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. Beyond Obesity LLC.

  3. Feinman, R. D., et al. (2015). Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: Critical review and evidence base. Nutrition, 31(1), 1-13.

  4. Frassetto, L. A., et al. (2009). Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63(8), 947-955.

  5. Kossoff, E. H., et al. (2009). Optimal clinical management of children receiving the ketogenic diet: Recommendations of the International Ketogenic Diet Study Group. Epilepsia, 50(2), 304-317.

  6. Manheimer, E., et al. (2015). Paleolithic nutrition for metabolic syndrome: Systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(4), 922-932.

  7. Paoli, A., et al. (2013). Beyond weight loss: A review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(8), 789-796.

  8. Sisson, M. (2017). The Keto Reset Diet: Reboot Your Metabolism in 21 Days and Burn Fat Forever. Harmony.

  9. Westman, E. C., et al. (2007). The New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great. Atria Books.

  10. Zinn, C., et al. (2017). Ketogenic diet benefits body composition and well-being but not performance in a pilot case study of New Zealand endurance athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 22.

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