What do Keto and Paleo Have in Common?
The Paleo and keto diets share many characteristics even while being unique in their own ways.
Paleo and keto diet plans are both based around high-quality whole food sources.
A whole food is one that hasn’t been processed and generally does not have added ingredients. Processed foods are eliminated from both diets and replaced with fresh items such as vegetables, meats, and nuts.
Grains and Legumes
Paleo and keto do not include grains and legumes as part of their diets, but for different reasons. Paleo eliminates grains and legumes because they were unavailable during Paleolithic times and contain anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients are found in some plant-based foods and may cause digestive issues when consumed.9 They are considered the antithesis of the paleo diet.
These anti-nutrients are produced by plants as defense mechanisms, but can have a damaging effect on the human gut.
One such anti-nutrient is phytic acid, and it’s one of the main reasons Paleo excludes grains as legumes in the diet. Phytic acid can make proteins, fat, and starches less digestible.10
The keto diet eliminates grains and legumes due to their carbohydrate content. Grains and legumes can take the body out of ketosis preventing the breakdown of fat stores into ketones.
Both Paleo and keto discourage the intake of added sugar—but for different reasons.
The keto diet has no sugar due to the insulin-spiking effects and carbohydrate content. The Paleo diet, on the other hand, allows natural sugar sources (such as maple syrup and honey), but completely eliminates processed sugar. Keep an eye out for processed sugar, as it’s rampant in American diets.
Keto and Paleo diets both promote healthy fats as a key component of their diets.
Foods such as avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil are popular healthy fat options for both groups.
The keto diet uses healthy fats as a fuel source, while the Paleo diet encourages healthy fats due to their Paleolithic origin. The common theme of both diets is to not be afraid of consuming a high-fat diet. This can be a valuable fuel source after some adaptation from a body dependent on carbohydrate.
One of the main drivers for any diet is weight loss. Although there is limited research available for the long-term success of these diets, studies have shown weight loss benefits in the short term.
Low-carb, high-fat diets, such as the ketogenic diet, have been successful for weight loss.
One study on obese women showed 9% weight loss after six months on the diet and 10.6% weight loss after a year.
On the other hand, the Paleo diet has a limited number of scientific studies with which it’s associated. Some studies have suggested the diet may help with weight loss and the correction of metabolic dysfunction, but further research may be needed to test these findings.
How are Keto and Paleo Different?
As you can see, many of the food choices and goals overlap with both diets; but there are key differences unique to each one.
Different Belief Systems
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. It’s all about consuming a lot of fat in comparison to very few carbohydrates. Paleo employs a holistic ideology and lifestyle. Keto and Paleo have similar dietary requirements, but for different reasons.
The keto diet involves an extremely low carb intake. The Paleo diet allows certain carbohydrates as long as they’re from whole foods. Since processed carbs are eliminated, you often end up with a low carb diet no matter which plan you choose to follow.
Some wholesome carbs include sweet potatoes, taro root, carrots, and winter squash. As we mentioned, Paleo also allows natural sugar sources such as maple syrup and honey—but these wouldn’t be allowed on keto based on their high carb content.
A true keto diet eliminates almost all carb sources, even certain vegetables (such as potatoes). Any amount of carbs can raise blood sugar, trigger insulin release, stop ketogenesis and take the body out of ketosis.
A strict Paleo diet discourages dairy, as it wasn’t consumed in the Paleolithic Era. The keto diet allows for certain types of dairy to be consumed; in fact, they’re even encouraged.
The most popular keto dairy options include grass fed butter, heavy whipping cream, Greek yogurt, and many cheese varieties (Swiss, provolone, mozzarella, brie, and Jack are all considered keto-friendly). Since these dairy options are low in carbohydrate content and high in fat, they fit within the keto framework.
Which Diet Should You Choose?
A diet plan is like building a house. For keto and Paleo, the floors, walls, and roof beams may be similar. But their foundations are completely different. To recap, the keto diet is based on creating metabolic adaptations using a science-based approach. The Paleo uses a holistic ideology based on food choice rather than a macronutrient focus.
Different groups can benefit from both diets, but you should focus on the one suited to your individual goals.
If you’re a diabetic, keto may be beneficial to you, due to carb-restriction and reduced insulin sensitivity. Endurance athletes benefit from the fat-adaptation that is characteristic of keto, as prolonged endurance exercise requires less energy from glucose stores, enabling the body can tap into the unlimited fat stores for energy over the course of a long race.
Resistance training athletes such as bodybuilders and CrossFit-ers may prefer Paleo, as the carbs may be better utilized during high-intensity training sessions.
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 being short sighted.