People choose diets for different reasons. Some want to lose weight; others strive for better overall health; many seek improved metabolism. Which diet works best is always a topic of debate. With so many diets to choose from, it can be difficult to determine 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 both popular and extremely effective with 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.
Before comparing the Paleo and Keto diets, it’s helpful to know why a person may choose to follow each one.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet is a lifestyle choice focused in eating the foods humans evolved to eat. The diet emphasizes quality foods that support digestive health.
By removing foods that may be difficult to digest (including grains, legumes, sugars, processed foods, vegetable oils and dairy), the Paleo diet helps promote gut health, autoimmune conditions, blood sugar balance, and weight loss.
Of course, the original human diet differed by geography and season and also changed over hundreds of thousands of years. Hence, there is neither the one paleo diet nor is it possible to mimic such a diet in today’s world accurately. As a compromise, the modern approach to the Paleo diet tries to eliminate any modern foods with significant evidence of harm to the human physiology that did not exist for the majority of human evolution.
The Keto Diet
The Keto diet is also used to manage overall health and cognitive function, however, it is best known as a weight loss and fat-burning strategy.
The ketogenic state is achieved by a specific distribution of protein, fats and carbohydrates. Most importantly, carbohydrate intake has to be kept to a minimum, around < 5-10% of caloric intake whilst fat and protein proportions are traditionally, 70-80% of calories come and 20-30% respectively.
In theory, it does not matter how to get and stay into ketosis. People following a ketogenic diet may choose any ketogenic friendly foods as long as the ration of macronutrient is maintained.
The Paleo and Keto diets share many characteristics even while being unique in their own ways.
The Keto and Paleo diets also both encourage avoiding typical processed foods. These foods always contain a large amount of refined grains and seed oils, are generally are high in carbohydrate (the Keto approach) and not an ancient food (the Paleo approach).
However, the Keto diet is less focussed on avoiding food processing. There are numerous processed ‘agricultural’ foods in the form of protein bars and treats that are sweetened with sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners. As long as they do not excessively raise blood sugar and insulin levels, they are not a threat to ketosis.
- Eliminate grains
- Eliminate legumes
- Eliminate refined sugar
- Emphasize healthy fats (nuts, seeds, animal fats, coconut oil)
- Encourage eating quality animal protein (grass-fed, organic)
- Encourage eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens
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Although many of the food choices in both Keto and Paleo overlap, the philosophies behind each is different.
The Keto diet creates metabolic adaptations with a science-based approach. The emphasis is on consuming more fat in comparison to very few carbohydrates. Paleo employs a holistic ideology and lifestyle.
Some other key differences include:
- The fundamental rationale behind the Keto diet is that it must be a low carb, moderate-to-low protein approach. The Paleo diet, on the other hand, encourages you to eat unlimited amounts of fruit and vegetables.
- The Paleo diet allows for natural sweeteners such as raw honey, where the Keto diet eliminates all caloric sweeteners and sugars.
- The Keto diet includeshigh-fat dairy products, where the Paleo diet restricts dairy in the interest of promoting better gut health.
- The Keto dietrevolves around the percentage of food groups you eat in relation to each other. For example, carbs should be kept to between 5 – 10%, fats to between 65 – 75%, and proteins to around 20 – 30%. The Paleo diet does not require specific ratios.
Which Approach Is Best For YOU?
Because the Paleo and Keto diets agree on many things they can be easily fused to a keto paleo diet – you get the best from both worlds. A Paleo-Keto diet would exclude milk products, fruits, and sweeteners (stevia is optional) and includes vegetables (non-starchy, leafy-greens preferred), all kinds of meat, fish, eggs, and nuts.
Although, both diets are far superior over the traditional western diet, what you eat requires a little more nuance than simply the impact on your ketone levels or what your ancient ancestors ate. What is best for you to eat is dependent on many aspects including your preferences, personal goals, and medical history as well as where you live and the lifestyle you lead.
Certain health conditions can be impacted by either dietary choice:
Both Paleo and Keto approaches work very well for fat loss. The lower the inflammatory load and carbohydrate content (both achieved by removing grains and sugar), the easier the fat loss. Paleo can be seen as a low carbohydrate diet and carbohydrate consumption can be modified to achieve Ketogenic goals.
Low carbohydrate diets keep blood sugar and insulin levels relatively stable, and support appetite regulation. Ketones are known to suppress appetite and thus contribute the diet’s success for fat loss.
Refined carbs and sugar cause chronically high insulin levels, which in turn leads to insulin resistance, resulting in type 2 diabetes. Low carbohydrate diets are an effective approach in in diabetes management. The lower the carbohydrate content, the better the blood sugar control and the sooner pathological insulin resistance disappears.
Chronic inflammation is associated with an increased risk for many modern diseases, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and allergies.
High sugar intake is known to cause inflammation, and low carbohydrate diets support reducing inflammation. In this case, the ketogenic diet has an additional advantage as ketones themselves have anti-inflammatory effects.
Optimizing the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio also supports reducing inflammation. Too much omega-6 can be a driver of inflammation. Seed oils contain vast amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, and are best avoided. Both the Paleo and Keto diets encourage eliminating these oils. Ensuring an adequate omega-3 intake, you can further shift the omega-6/omega-3 ratio to your advantage. Omega three rich fatty fish and meat from ruminant animals are centerpiece foods for both diets.
In an autoimmune disease, the immune cells begin to attack the body’s own tissues. Autoimmune diseases are characterized by an overactive immune system and high levels of chronic inflammation. Ultimately, a diet that reduces inflammation is likely beneficial for people suffering from an autoimmune disease.
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a rigorous elimination diet. It’s based on the idea that certain compounds which are found in high concentrations in modern versions of a Paleo diet and have the potential to cause and exacerbate health issues. AIP may be better suited to lowering the overall burden of chronic inflammation and immune reactivity by removing the foods highest in these compounds.
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A carnivore diet takes the elimination a step further and is arguably much simpler to implement.
Despite minimal scientific evidence, there is much anecdotal confirmation that the AIP diet might be beneficial for managing autoimmune conditions.
A ketogenic diet does reduce inflammation, and, because autoimmune diseases are characterized by high levels of inflammation, a reduction can definitely be beneficial. There is growing evidence that the ketogenic diet can improve certain conditions like MS.
Paleo Keto Diet
The Paleo Keto approach provides the best of both worlds. A Paleo Keto diet is made up of strictly whole foods, is dairy-free, low in carbohydrates and full of healthy, naturally occurring fats.
You might want to try a Paleo Keto approach for:
- Dairy Sensitivity – You might not realize you’re sensitive to dairy until you eliminate it. Some people report weight loss, better skin, and improved digestion after going dairy-free.
- Improve Gut Health – By cutting out sugar alcohols, dairy, and other processed keto snacks, you might experience improved gut health. Many of the processed keto compliant foods are filled with added fiber and sugar alcohols that can leave you feeling bloated.
- Emphasis on Whole Foods – Some people on a keto diet only count carbs and fail to address the quality of their food. This “Lazy Keto” approach has its drawbacks since it allows for suboptimal, processed ingredients.
If you are following a Paleo diet, but also want to tap into the benefits of being in ketosis, there are a few tweaks you will need to make.
- Keep carbs around or below 20-30g per day.
- Avoid starchy vegetables (yams, beets).
- Avoid high carb fruit (banana, pineapple, mango).
- Enjoy fatty cuts of meat and naturally occurring fats. Don’t fear saturated fat!
In the world of Paleo vs Keto, there is no clear-cut winner. The best diet is the one you can stick to—so base your dietary choices around your specific needs. The results should be sustainable over a lifetime instead of short-term goals..