Paleo vs Keto Diet: Which One Is Right For You?
When it comes to supporting weight loss efforts, and living an all-around better lifestyle, two diets have been on the radar of health enthusiasts: the Paleo diet and the Ketogenic diet. While both diets include many of the same foods and have overlapping similarities and benefits, each has a different purpose. Let’s take a look at how the Paleo vs Keto diets measure up against one another, which one may be right for you, and why.
Paleo vs Keto: Here’s What You Need to Know
Before we compare the similarities and differences of the Paleo vs Keto diets, it’s helpful to know why a person may choose to follow each one.
What is the Paleo Diet?
When it comes to the Paleo diet — which is based on eliminating grains and legumes due to their phytic acid content — it’s more of a lifestyle choice to focus on eating quality foods that support digestive health (1). Most dairy products are off limits on the Paleo diet because they contain lactose, which is hard for some people to digest (although some people do include ghee or grass-fed butter in their diet).
By removing foods that may be difficult to digest, the Paleo diet helps promote gut health, autoimmune conditions, blood sugar balance, and weight loss (2)(3).
What is the Keto Diet?
On the other hand, the Keto diet is targeted primarily towards those who want to experience weight loss. However, the Keto diet can also be used by those looking to manage overall health and cognitive function (4). But today, the Keto diet is best known as a weight loss and fat-burning strategy.
The reason the Keto diet promotes accelerated weight loss more effectively than other diets is because it teaches your body to burn fat more efficiently by entering a metabolic state called ketosis (6).
Ketosis is the state your body enters when glucose — your body’s preferred fuel source — isn’t readily available for energy. So, as a back-up energy source, your body will begin to burn fatty acids instead, which produces ketones (7).
Now, in order for your body to burn fat instead of glucose, you must heavily restrict carbs from your diet (reducing the amount of carbs you eat down to roughly 5% of your diet), while simultaneously increasing your fat intake up to 75% of your diet. The lack of carbs leaves your body with no choice but to burn fatty acids in your fat stores as fuel. This is how fat loss and weight loss occurs.
Now, let’s move on to the similarities and differences of the Paleo vs Keto diets and why they matter.
Paleo vs Keto: How Are They Similar?
The Keto and Paleo diets are often grouped together because they’re similar in these ways:
- No grains
- No legumes
- Emphasis on healthy fats (nuts, seeds, animal fats, coconut oil)
- Encourage eating quality animal protein (grass-fed, organic)
- No refined sugar
- Encourage eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens
But the Paleo and Keto diets have more differences than they do similarities. Let’s take a look at what those are.
Paleo vs Keto: Key Differences
While both the Paleo and Keto diets can be used to achieve a certain outcome, the Keto diet is more rigorous and targeted, while the Paleo diet is more of a long-term lifestyle choice that can produce certain benefits — including weight loss — but isn’t as restrictive. Here are the main differences between the Paleo and the Keto diet.
1. The Paleo Diet Isn’t Necessarily Low-Carb, High-Fat.
The Paleo diet may restrict grains, legumes, and refined sugar, but there’s no real limit to the amount of carbs you can eat when it comes to fruit and starchy vegetables, such as squash, sweet potato, and pumpkin. You can also use natural sweeteners liberally on the Paleo diet, such as raw honey, coconut nectar and pure maple syrup, which contain more carbs.
The fact that the Paleo diet has no emphasis on carb consumption means your body will almost certainly continue burning glucose as energy, unless you intentionally restrict carbs to a low enough percentage (around 5%) to enter ketosis.
The Paleo diet also encourages healthy fats like the keto diet does, but again, a person can easily consume carbs from fruit and starchy vegetables as 60% of their diet and fats as 10% of their diet and still be following a Paleo diet correctly.
2. The Keto Diet Doesn’t Restrict Dairy.
Full-fat dairy products are permitted on the Keto diet (although depending on who you ask, they’re not always encouraged).
As we covered above, the Paleo diet removes dairy products. Dairy is a common food intolerance because some of us stop producing an adequate amount of lactase, the enzyme needed to digest the milk sugar lactose found in dairy.
3. The Keto Diet Measures Fat, Protein, and Carb Percentage.
In order for the Keto diet to work, there’s a specific macronutrient percentage you must follow — otherwise your body can’t enter ketosis. On the Standard Keto Diet (SKD), the percentages usually fall around 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs.
On the other hand, you don’t have to abide by macronutrient percentages when it comes to following a Paleo diet.
4. The Keto Diet Requires Testing for Ketosis.
Since the goal of the keto diet is to enter ketosis, how do you know you’ve achieved it? By testing for it, of course. The keto diet has several testing methods to detect ketone bodies in your blood, which indicate your body has successfully begun to burn fatty acids for energy.
Since the Paleo diet doesn’t have a specific metabolic goal, there’s no testing method for being Paleo — you ‘just know’ you’re Paleo if you cut dairy, grains, legumes and refined sugar from your diet.
5. The Keto Diet Focuses on a Specific Outcome: Burning Fat instead of Carbs.
The biggest difference between the Keto and Paleo diets is the desired outcome: burning fat instead of carbs.
As you now understand, following the keto diet is a way to manipulate your metabolism in an effort to accelerate fat loss. The Paleo diet may still promote weight loss, especially by cutting out refined sugar and grains, which may trigger fat storage and weight gain, while your metabolism remains in the default state which is burning carbs for energy (unless of course, you decide to drastically reduce your carbs down to 5% while eating Paleo — which would essentially be following both diets at the same time.)
Which brings us to our next point…
You Don’t Have to Choose: How to Be Paleo and Keto at the Same Time
If you already follow (or are considering following) a Paleo diet, you can enter ketosis while eating Paleo, and vice versa. All you’d need to do is:
- Eliminate all dairy products (with the exception of grassfed butter or ghee).
- Track your macros to stay within the range that will allow your body to enter ketosis. (You can find out your specific number by using the keto calculator.)
- Choose grass-fed or pasture raised animal products whenever possible.
- Choose no-calorie all natural sweeteners such as green leaf stevia.
When it comes to meal-planning and grocery shopping, here’s a quick glance at the similarities and differences in food groups on the Paleo vs Keto diets:
So, when it comes to Paleo vs Keto — which diet is right for you?
With the keto diet being more restrictive, it may be difficult (but not impossible) to incorporate into busy lifestyles. The Paleo diet is less restrictive. You can try both to see which diet helps you feel your best!