Paleo and keto diets are currently among the most popular diet choices around the world. When you first hear about the principles of each – they sound quite similar: eating whole foods, focusing on healthy fats, etc. However, when you start comparing paleo vs keto – you notice quite a few differences.
In general, there are quite a few angles from which you could compare the diets. In this article, we’ll go over main similarities and differences. This way you will know what are the principles and what are the main differences between paleo and keto diets.
Before that, though, I’ll introduce you to both of the diets. This way you will have a clearer understanding about both diets when the actual keto vs paleo comparison starts.
Intro to Ketogenic Diet
Ketogenic diet principles are similar to any low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet principles. You have to reduce your carbohydrate to minimum – up to 50g per day, or if you go on a very strict keto – up to 20g per day. Most people who follow keto don’t see it as a diet and consider it to be a lifestyle.
Normally, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your body. Most carbohydrates people consume come from glucose (sugar) and starchy foods (pasta, bread, potatoes, etc.). Once you stop feasting on carbs and your body runs out of them, it needs to find another energy source. Your body then starts burning accumulated fat for energy. This is a normal metabolic process called ketosis.
Once your body is in the state of ketosis it starts producing ketones – small molecules that help break down the fat cells. Usually, a person can reach ketosis within a couple of days from starting the diet. However, some people struggle to reach ketosis and try natural supplements that help achieve ketosis faster.
Once you enter ketosis and fatty cells become your main source of energy, your body becomes a fat burning machine that works 24/7, even when you’re resting. Keto became very famous as for most people following it doesn’t require to lead a very active lifestyle or count calories. Simply stick to the foods that are on the keto friendly list.
If you want to learn more about keto – read out beginner’s guide here.
Intro to Paleo Diet
As the title suggests, paleo diet tends to mimic eating habits of our ancestors. This means focusing on whole foods instead of processed ones. Paleo, similar to keto is considered rather a lifestyle choice by most people that follow the principles of paleo.
Since paleo reflects the eating habits that date back to Paleolithic era (up until 10,000 years ago), people who follow this diet believe that our bodies were designed to eat in the same manner as cavemen did. This means that if you choose to go on paleo, you should stop eating any processed foods and choose only foods that come from an organic environment – farms where animals are free, wild fish, etc.
The main goal of the Paleo diet: eat like a caveman. Paleo followers believe our bodies do not have the adaptation necessary to process modern foods, leading to increased risks of heart diseases, diabetes, obesity and other modern-day diseases. There are studies that can back up such claims (1).
Going on Paleo means choosing whole, organic and unprocessed foods. This means free-range, grass-fed animal meat, no GMOs, whole grain – basically as pure and as close to nature as possible foods.
Since mimicking the habits of out ancestors is not as easy as it could seem and comes with quite a price tag, paleo has evolved into some more modern versions of it which allow drinking tea, coffee and eating gluten-free grains, such as rice.
Paleo Diet vs Keto: What Makes Them Similar?
As you can see from the introduction of both diets, paleo and keto have different philosophies. However, there quite a few elements that are mutual for these diets food wise and health wise.
Paleo and Keto Similarities Food Wise
Eating whole foods – both keto and paleo diets encourages people to always choose the healthier option. In this case, both diets suggest you to eliminate any processed foods and choose whole, healthy ingredients, including meat, vegetables and various condiments.
Healthy fats – both diets encourage to focus on healthy, monounsaturated fats that benefit the heart instead of increasing cardiovascular diseases risks. However, there are some differences. Keto focuses on eating a lot of fats, while paleo does not focus on eating fats, rather than just recommends you to choose the healthy ones.
No processed sugar – both paleo and keto are against processed sugars. What’s the difference in keto vs paleo, is that keto is a lot stricter when it comes to sugar.
Keto allows you to consume the amount of sugar / glucose that doesn’t exceed the amount of your chosen daily carbohydrate limit. Since Paleo doesn’t limit the carbs and only the source where they come from. You can eat natural sugars such as honey or get your sugars from fruit.
No grains and legumes – both keto and paleo don’t recommend you to eat neither of these products. However, just like with sugar, the reasons are very different. Keto advises you to eliminate as much as possible of grains and legumes from your diet, as they’re very rich in carbohydrates and therefore could compromise your ketosis.
When it comes to paleo diet, back in the Paleolithic era there were no grains nor legumes and our ancestors perfectly survived without them. To put it in more scientific terms, grains and legumes contain specific, so called anti-nutrients. These anti-nutrients slow down the human’s digestive and metabolic system. As, contrary to many herbivores, the human body does not have special enzymes needed to digest those anti-nutrients.
Paleo and Keto Similarities Health Wise
Weight loss – Both diets have many advocates all over the world that claim significant weight loss due to following keto or paleo diet. Over the time both diets have been modified and adjusted to special dietary needs and there are some scientific proof that they can indeed help you to lose weight (3). Many people sharing their successful weight loss stories all over the world leads increasing growth of both keto and paleo popularity.
Lowered various diseases risks – not only have both diets helped people around the world lose weight, they could have positive impact on your health. Both diets are known as measures that could reduce diabetes and cardiovascular diseases risks.
What is The Difference between Paleo and Keto?
As you can see, both keto and paleo do have their similarities. Due to them people sometimes confuse them. Especially since both diets encourage eating whole foods and both are perceived more like a lifestyle. Now that you know what unites them, let’s look into paleo vs keto main differences.
The Philosophy Behind It
Overall, Paleo is more like an ideology and a way life, rather than a diet. Paleo lifestyle encourages you to not only eat healthier and greener, but also to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle. Remember that a healthy body possess a healthy spirit. Paleo believes in the work life balance, where you have to give yourself time to meditate and relax.
Keto is quite contrary to paleo and is based more on numbers. In order to follow keto, all you need is to count your macro-nutrients and stay between the lines. So, paleo is more like a philosophy and keto is more like a science.
Approach to carbs
While a real and strict keto requires to reduce your carbohydrates to a minimum, which means eliminating nearly all products that have carbs in it. Such includes nearly all fruit, most vegetables that grow below ground, such as potatoes and grain products.
Paleo, on the other hand does not limit your carbohydrate intake. It only limits the sources of carbohydrates. As mentioned before, you shouldn’t eat processed sugars however there are no limits to natural glucose sources, such as fruit and berries. Based on the foods you choose, paleo can be low in carbs and similar to keto and it can be the complete opposite.
Dairy and Soy
In terms of soy and dairy, keto and paleo have the complete opposite approaches.
Keto encourages you to eat various soy products and use fatty dairy products, such as heavy cream, whip cream and butter, while paleo is completely against these products. Based on several paleo modifications, some allow grass-fed butter, while others don’t. All soy products are not allowed based on the paleo principles as they fall under the legumes category, which were not available back in the cavemen times.
Keto and Paleo Macros
When it comes to macros – only the ketogenic diet encourages the counting. Based on keto principles, you should get 70-80% of your calories from fat, 15-20% from protein and 5-10% from carbs.
When it comes to paleo macros – there’s no such thing. Paleo doesn’t focus on macros and putting numbers on daily food calorie percentage.
If you decide that keto is the right choice for you and you’re planing to track your macros – try our keto calculator.
So, Keto or Paleo Diet?
If you’re wondering which is the better choice – it depends on your needs. If your goal is weight loss, in most cases the better choice for faster results would be keto. However, after reaching your weight results, it is a good idea to move to paleo. It encourages eating healthy but doesn’t limit you as much.
If your goal is lower blood sugar, then your best choices could be keto. Following keto means limiting your carbohydrates therefore, lowering blood sugar. Or, you could try keto paleo diet – the combination of both. This way you will get the best of both worlds. You will eat whole foods like our ancestors did and you will keep carbohydrate intake low.
So, as you can see the right diet choice depends on your goals and you should keep in mind that what works for others, might not necessarily work for you.
Keto vs Paleo – TL;DR
To sum up, both diets are balanced and don’t require you to starve. What’s great about them is that they encourage people to choose healthier food options.
Keto is more of a number based diet that requires you to count your daily carbohydrate intake.
Paleo is more of an ideology and philosophy that takes a holistic approach to your body and focuses not only on food but on exercising and active lifestyle as well.
Overall, if your goal is weight loss, keto could be more effective. However, paleo is easier to follow on the long term as it is more flexible and has less restrictions.
In terms of paleo and keto, you should pick the diet based on your goals and based on which diet has the specifics that best aligns with your lifestyle. Maybe it will be a paleo-keto diet – the combination of both?