keto vs paleo

Keto vs. Paleo: What’s the Difference, Which Diet is Better?

You need to be wary of fad diets. Did you know that about two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within 5 years? This is discouraging and clearly means that something isn’t right with how we approach dieting.

So, has anything really changed for the better over the years?

Not really. Fad diets still captivate the public’s interest until people finally get wise to the fact that they aren’t sustainable, and then they fade into obscurity.

Speaking of possible fad diets, a couple of low-carb diets have recently taken the country by storm: paleo, and keto. (aka “ketosis diet”)

Paleo had a good run a few years ago as the “it” diet and has maintained its massive popularity.

Recently, keto has taken the diet industry by storm; fueled by online news and reports of fast weight loss.

Both Paleo and Keto seem like similar, lower-carb diets, so people often get confused. Here’s the difference between the keto vs paleo diets.

What is Keto? | What is Paleo? | Keto vs Paleo Ratings | The Difference | Can You Do Paleo & keto?

1. The Keto Diet: A Brief Summary

If you think of your body as a car, then what is your fuel?

Your body naturally turns to carbs as its a go-to fuel source, but what happens when you significantly cut carbs?

When your body runs out of (carb) fuel, it will begin to burn fat as a fuel source. That’s really the keto diet in a nutshell. (Yes, nuts are allowed!)

Being in this fat-burning state of “ketosis” is the primary goal of keto, and it can result in fast weight loss.

So, how do you reach and maintain ketosis? You must cut carbs and sugars and increase your fat and protein consumption. Here’s what the macronutrient ratio of a day on paleo looks like:

On the keto diet you should consume: (Source)

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

As you can see, the keto diet is high in fat. You’re also limited on what kind of fruits and vegetables you can eat, and most grains and legumes are off-limits.

Now, let’s talk about Paleo:

2. The Paleo Diet: A Summary

Are you willing to spend all day tracking your food, chasing it until it wears out, and then killing it? How about foraging for berries, roots, and wild grains all day?

Well, luckily you don’t have to, but the paleo diet is a modern take on our ancestors’ diet during the Paleolithic age.

So, how did all of this Stone Age nostalgia start?

In 2009, Mark Sisson, the founder of Primal Blueprint spurred a movement to get back to our roots. The best diet, he claimed, is what our Paleolithic ancestors ate. Meat, tubers, berries, nuts, and generally anything edible nature gave us 10,000 years ago or more.

Paleo is a bit controversial; while it does cut out processed food and “bad” carbs, paleo also cuts out some good carbs, legumes, dairy, and grains.

While some critics like evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk claim the paleo diet is based on myth, it does kind of make sense. The growing prevalence of issues with gluten and dairy seems to support the idea that our bodies aren’t used to a number of modern foods that we have trouble digesting.

And that’s the real aim of the paleo diet. Eat what’s closer to the earth in hopes you’ll lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle.

You eat whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. You eat lean meats from grass-fed animals or wild game you or someone else hunted or fished.

And you only use oils from fruit and nuts. This means olive oil or nut oils (remember, peanuts are legumes so peanut oil doesn’t count!). Here’s what the macronutrient ratio of a day on paleo looks like:

On the Paleo diet you should consume: (Source)

  • Fat: 65%
  • Protein: 15%
  • Carbs: 20%

Wow, that’s a lot of fat! OK, now let’s see what the experts think of keto and paleo:

3. Keto vs. Paleo Ratings:

The public seems to love these two lower-carb diets, but the experts aren’t sold on either one, and both are rated poorly.

In fact, U.S. News, a well-respected organization, asked a panel of health experts to rate the top 40 diets, and both Keto and Paleo ranked near the bottom of the list, ranking #38, and #33 respectively:

keto vs paleo diet ratings

Yikes! So, while both Keto and Paleo do rate well for “short-term weight loss,” why do they fall short in most other areas?

It seems that both diets have tunnel vision when it comes to weight loss, focusing only on short-term results, and not overall healthiness or sustainability.

Both strict Keto and Paleo drastically cut ALL carbs, and in the process throw out the good with the bad. Any diet that doesn’t include lots of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains isn’t going to rate well with health experts.

So, even though Keto and Paleo are similar in their overall low-carb philosophy, let’s talk about how they differ:

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4. Keto Vs. Paleo: What’s The Difference?

It’s easy to mistake the two diets if you don’t examine them closely. Both increase your meat intake and ask you to cut out most carbs (including healthy ones) and processed foods. However, Paleo and Keto are two entirely different diets.

Tip: The biggest difference between keto and paleo is that keto uses fat as your body’s primary fuel source, while paleo still burns mostly carbs.

Here are more differences:

• Foods:

There are a number of significant differences in what you can eat. Here’s a comparison of what you can eat on keto and paleo:

Meat: (unprocessed)YesYes
Nuts / Seeds:YesYes
Fats: (Healthy)YesYes
Vegetables: (Non-Starchy)YesYes
Vegetables: (Starchy)No!Yes
Fruit: (Most)No!Yes
Sweeteners: (Sugar free) YesNo!
Sweeteners: (Natural)No!Yes
Sugar: (White / Brown)No!No!
Processed Foods:No!No!

*Big difference: Paleo users avoid consuming dairy, while keto users don’t!

• The Focus:

The keto diet’s focus is in its name. You’re really just trying to put your body in ketosis for weight loss. The list of foods you will avoid and foods you eat stem from this goal.

Because of this focus, it’s difficult to maintain. No matter whether you call it “maintenance mode” or not, cheating on your keto diet will always result in some weight gain.

The Paleo diet’s focus is food-lifestyle-based. You’re attempting to change how you eat, not just what you eat. The goal is still weight loss for some, but that doesn’t have to be the primary goal for all paleo dieters.

• The Fat You Consume:

With the paleo diet, you’re primarily eating lean meats, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy oils like Omega 3 fatty acids, while cutting out dairy entirely.

This all means you’re eating less fat. It would be difficult to achieve ketosis with the paleo diet.

The ketosis diet relies on fat for fuel. You can also eat dairy products, and you don’t have to exclusively eat lean meats. (bacon is allowed!?)

• The Processed Foods You Eat

Again, Paleo is as much about lifestyle change as it is about diet. You’re cutting out anything we cultivated or manufactured after 10,000 B.C. This means nothing is processed in a factory.

Sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin, and aspartame are definitely out. While whole sweeteners like raw honey are OK.

Keto, on the other hand, avoids sugar of all kinds. This means no honey, maple syrup, or cane sugar.

• How Long You Should Diet

Because both Paleo and Keto are relatively new diets, we don’t have much data about long-term results or potential health concerns. However, we’re already seeing some troubling signs from keto dieters who try to continue the diet in the long term.

In fact, those who continue the keto diet longer than the recommended 90 days may be in danger of cardiovascular disease.

The problem with both diets, especially Keto, seems to be that people eat a restrictive, low-carb diet with too much fat. While this approach does often produce fast weight loss, it’s not healthy long-term and may cause serious health issues.

I can’t recommend either of these diets long-term, as they restrict some components of a healthy, balanced diet. However, if you follow paleo correctly, I believe paleo is a better, more sustainable diet than keto.

Can You Do Paleo and Keto?

So, can you do paleo and keto? The answer is yes, you can.

In fact, paleo is so close to keto, all you have to do is eliminate the carbs from the equation and you’ve got a really clean form of keto: ketosis without the dairy, ketosis without the artificial sweeteners, ketosis without the processed meats.

You keep keto in a good, sustainable way where you’re still getting the healthy stats from the coconut oil, you’re still getting the healthy fats from the other kinds of seeds and nuts, and you’re still getting the right kind of proteins in a sustainable way.

You’re not eating low-quality junk. So, all I encourage you to do in this case is think keto, but think keto a thousand years ago, so there it is that’s the difference

5. Keto vs. Paleo: How Much Weight Loss?

Both Keto and Paleo require that you switch to a low-carb diet. This abrupt switch should condition your body to burn fat instead of carbs as a fuel source.

This means that with both diets, you should experience fast weight loss. In fact, results infer that you can lose 10 pounds or more (mostly water weight) in the first month as you decrease carbs and calories.

Keto seems to promote faster initial weight loss than Paleo, as users report expected weight loss of up to 12 pounds or more in the first month. Keto’s impressive expert score for “short-term weight loss” (see above) seems to support these claims.

Longer-term these two diets produce similar weight loss results. It seems that with both diets you can lose about 1-2 pounds a week as your body adjusts to the new menu and continues to use fat as fuel.

Keto or Paleo? Who Should Follow Each Diet:

In comparing keto vs paleo, there is no hands-down winner. It’s really about which diet fits your lifestyle better, with the caveat that neither one is recommended as a long-term healthy diet.

If your only goal is to lose weight, then keto should produce better short-term results.

The keto diet has surged in popularity because so many people are reporting fast weight loss results online and on social media. It’s not a sustainable lifestyle, but having diet discipline and structure while following the keto diet could be a positive benefit.

The paleo diet is for those who want to eat better and change their diet entirely, and it has fewer menu restrictions. This diet is also popular with fans of CrossFit and people with active lifestyles. But you don’t need to already lead an active lifestyle to start using the paleo diet.

Keto & Paleo: What Are Better Diet Options?

As mentioned, I can’t recommend either of these diets long-term. Now, if you are trying to lose a few quick pounds before moving on to a more sustainable diet, keto and paleo might serve a purpose.

However, the seductive idea of fast weight loss shouldn’t cloud your understanding of what a healthy lifestyle is. Any diet that eliminates many fruits and vegetables and whole grains to promote weight loss is suspect.

Add in the high-fat content of a diet like keto, and you might be in for some long-term problems.

So, what are better dieting options?

If you are a self-starter who can stay on track, I’d recommend the highly-rated WW and Noom diets. No foods are restricted, but you’ll learn which ones are unhealthy and be nudged towards better choices.

If you don’t like the idea of “do-it-yourself,” and the weight loss apps and DIY diets have already failed you, then maybe consider a meal-delivery diet. Nutrisystem (coupons here) and South Beach Diet are leaders in the industry, and portion out all of your meals. However, you’ll have to get used to a lot of packaged foods, so these diets are only best for busy people who don’t like to cook.

Also, before starting any diet, it’s important to recognize the important psychological component of weight gain or loss. Why are you overweight in the first place? Is it stress or an emotional relationship with food? No diet will succeed long-term unless issues like these are addressed.

In any event, good luck with your weight loss goals, and thanks for stopping by!