Keto VS Paleo Which Diet Is Right For You?

Two of the most popular diet trends today are the Ketogenic diet and the Paleo diet. At first glance, they seem quite similar and if you’re new to the keto/paleo world you might be wondering what the difference is. The main difference between them is the reasoning behind why certain foods are allowed and the motivation people who chose each diet might have. However, there are a lot of similarities as well. The following guide will help you understand the key differences and similarities between the two diets and which one might be best suited for you.

Keto vs Paleo

Why is there a distinction between keto and paleo? They both seem, at first glance, to be based around meats and vegetables with the elimination of grains and carbohydrates. Although this is true, there are some key differences that are worth noting.

What is a keto diet?

The keto diet is focused on changing the ratio of macronutrients that you eat. Micronutrients are comprised of fat, carbohydrates and protein. In the keto diet you focus on consuming a lot of fat, a moderate amount of protein and very little carbohydrates. Carbs should amount to approximately 10-20% of your diet or less than 20g per day. The reasoning behind this is if you stop putting carbs in your body it won’t be able to use the glucose created from the carbs as a source of fuel. Instead, your body will switch over to a state known as ketosis where your liver produces ketones out of your fat cells. There are many health reasons for doing this including weight loss, greater energy levels and fewer sugar crashes.

What is a paleo diet

The paleo diet is based on the principle that the food we eat in our modern diet is unhealthy due to the way it was processed. When you follow the keto diet you try to replicate the diet that the hunter-gatherers used to. They moved from location to location and therefore they didn’t have time to stop and plant a crop or tend to a farm. Their diet consisted mostly of vegetables that they could gather and meat and fish that they were able to bring in. This leads followers of the paleo diet to eat a variety of fish, meats, nuts and vegetables; however, you don’t see a lot of grains or legumes consumed on paleo because our ancestors wouldn’t have had time to farm them.

Differences between keto and paleo

The main difference between keto and paleo is the reasoning behind the diet. People who chose a paleo diet are doing so to eliminate toxins and processed foods from their bodies while mimicking the diets of our ancestors. People who choose the keto diet, on the other hand, are doing in out of a desire to put their body in ketosis. Paleo doesn’t put your body in ketosis because you’re not focused on the number of carbohydrates that you eat. 

When you choose the keto diet you’re often doing it to see the health benefits. Primarily people chose keto for its weight loss results and the way it burns fat. If you chose a Paleo diet you might also be looking to reap health benefits but you’re more likely focused on the elimination of toxins and the benefits a paleo diet could have on our planet and ecosystem.

Similarities between keto and paleo

Despite their different philosophies, both keto and paleo diets tend to have similar rules as to what foods you should and shouldn’t eat. Both diets emphasize whole foods and neither allows for processed foods. So no matter which diet you’re on you’ll find yourself eating foods that have only one ingredient (for example, the only ingredient in an apple is apple). You’ll also avoid added sugars, preservatives and processed foods. Paleo is stricter when it comes to processed foods; however, neither diet really allows them.

Keto reduces the number of carbohydrates in your diet which means that you’re not going to be eating bread and other grains. You don’t eat grains on paleo either, although it’s for a different reason. The same goes for legumes. Keto diets ask that you eat fewer legumes or limit the types that you eat to lower carb options while paleo eliminates them altogether. Both diets also encourage you to eat healthy fats such as olive and avocado oil, nuts and fish. 

Both diets can contribute to weight loss. Paleo helps with weight loss because you’re focusing on whole, healthy foods such as vegetables and meat. Eliminating added sugars and processed foods will help you lose weight. The keto diet also helps with weight loss because you switch your body to burning ketones instead of glucose which uses up the fat you have in your fat reserves. You might also see an increase in energy and a reduction in brain fog in both diets.

Foods on the paleo and keto diets

Although both keto and paleo are similar in the foods that they allow, there are some minor differences that you should take note of. The following is a list of the foods that are allowed and the ones that are discouraged on each diet.

Foods allowed on keto

  • non-starchy vegetables
  • full-fat dairy
  • fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon or sardines
  • meat
  • nuts
  • low carb fruits such as berries
  • eggs
  • healthy oils (avocado, olive, nut)
  • seeds nuts
  • 70% dark chocolate
  • unsweetened tea and black coffee
  • sugar-free sweeteners

Foods allowed on paleo

  • meat
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • fish and other forms of seafood
  • fruit, especially low sugar fruit
  • vegetables, especially low starch vegetables
  • 70% dark chocolate
  • unsweetened tea
  • honey and maple sugar
  • black coffee
  • healthy oils

Foods not allowed on keto 

  • natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup
  • grains, pasta and bread
  • sugary fruits
  • starchy vegetables
  • white or brown sugar
  • processed foods
  • legumes

Foods not allowed on paleo

  • dairy
  • sugar-free sweeteners
  • processed foods
  • grains, pasta and bread
  • legumes

white or brown sugar

Keto and paleo benefits compared

When you’re choosing between these two diet plans it helps to look at what you’re looking to get out of the diet. Are you looking to lose weight or are you looking for a diet that’s easy to stick to?

Which is better for weight loss?

When it comes to weight loss, both diets can help you trim your waistline; however, keto is better than paleo when it comes to weight loss. When you’re eating a keto diet your body creates ketones from your fat cells so that you’re burning fat more efficiently to fuel your body. This leads to faster weight loss. In addition, people that eat a keto diet tend to get fewer cravings because their body is burning fat stores as fuel so it doesn’t send the hunger signals to the brain as often. This lack of cravings can lead to some serious weight loss all on its own.

Paleo on the other hand still uses glucose as the main form of energy. Eliminating processed foods and sugar will still lead to weight loss. If you have a low tolerance to dairy then you might see weight loss benefits from paleo as well because paleo doesn’t allow you to eat dairy products. If you’re looking to lose weight using a paleo diet you’re going to have to lower your calories as this diet doesn’t do this naturally. You should also exercise to see the best possible results.

Are there any disadvantages to keto?

When you first begin a keto diet you might feel symptoms similar to the flu. You might be groggy and tired with a headache, constipation and stomach pains or nausea. This tends to go away after a few weeks but it takes your body a bit of time to adjust to using ketones as fuel as opposed to glucose. 

If you were eating a lot of processed foods prior to keto or a diet high in sugar you might feel a sugar withdrawal as your body detoxes from the sugar and the chemicals that were in the processed foods. It’s likely that you’ll experience headaches; however, staying hydrated and paying attention to the nutrients you’re getting can help get rid of these side effects relatively quickly. 

Anyone that is taking medications, breastfeeding, pregnant or diabetic should consult a doctor before starting the keto diet. This is a good thing to do no matter what diet you’re beginning but it’s especially important with a keto diet because not everyone is suited for such a low carbohydrate diet.

Are there any disadvantages to paleo?

Paleo doesn’t restrict an entire food group the way that keto does so there are a lot fewer side effects. You might find that your body is lacking in calcium and vitamin D because dairy isn’t allowed on the paleo diet. Make sure that you’re taking a calcium supplement and keep an eye on the amounts of other nutrients that you’re consuming and you should have few negative side effects from switching to paleo.

Which diet is right for you?

If you’re looking to lose weight quickly then keto is a great option for you. When the body goes into a state of ketosis it becomes a fat-burning machine. However, the keto diet can be difficult to stick to and if your body comes out of ketosis then you will gain the weight back. If you’re the type of person that finds their willpower winning a few weeks into a diet then paleo might be more sustainable for you.

The paleo diet is less strict. You have greater flexibility as to what you’re allowed to eat because an entire macronutrient isn’t being eliminated. You can still eat potatoes and sugary fruits on paleo, even though you should eat them in moderation. Paleo is also easier if you’re a person who has difficulty tracking. Going above 20g of net carbs a day will kick your body out of ketosis which means you have to track very carefully on the keto diet. 

If you’re a person that loves cheese, yogurt or milk then the keto diet is the better option for you. You can’t have any dairy on the paleo diet. This can be a deal-breaker for some people. 


If you’re looking for a low carb diet plan then either one of these plans might work for you. Stick to paleo if you don’t mind giving up dairy, you need a more flexible diet and you’re more focused on health than on weight loss. If weight loss is your main goal, you can’t imagine giving up cheese and you don’t mind putting in a bit more work then keto is the diet for you.

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