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Paleo vs. Keto: Which Is Right For You?

Paleo vs. Keto: Which Is Right For You?

Making healthier choices? That can mean cleaning your eating habits up a bit.

Change is hard, we get it. But the good news is there are options that fit nearly everyone’s health goals and lifestyles.

You’ve probably heard about the Keto and Paleo diets. What’s the difference between these two, and how do you know which one is right for you?

In this article we’re covering how each diet works, the pros and cons of both, similarities, and differences, and how to decide which one is best for you.

Let’s dive in!

Paleo Diet

With all the different diets out there, where did the paleo diet come from? In 2002, Dr. Loren Cordain published the book that started it all – The Paleo Diet (1). This best-seller went on to explain how eating like our ancestors did could be the key to ultimate health.

The term Paleo is short for “Paleolithic” – referencing back to a time in history people hunted and gathered their food. Also called the “caveman diet” or “Stone Age diet”, this diet recommends that a person eat a variety of:

  • Fish/seafood
  • Lean meats (the wilder the better)
  • Vegetables (including both tubers and leaves)
  • Seeds + Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Water or herbal teas to drink
  • Eating locally and in season is highly encouraged, as this can often guarantee the highest nutrition value with these foods.
  • Foods that are discouraged in the Paleo diet include:
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugars
  • Cereals
  • Highly – Processed foods

A true Paleo diet means you would need to scavenge for food, so modern adjustments have been made in order to make it easier for the everyday American to adopt.

Pros

Some of the pros behind eating a Paleo diet are that people tend to experience less inflammation through-out the body. And diets that are both anti-inflammatory and nutrient dense can help:

  • Encourage healthy blood glucose levels (3)
  • Support healthy heart function (11)
  • Lower blood pressure (4)
  • Help reduce waist circumference in those actively trying to lose weight (5).

Cons

It’s a popular belief that the Paleo diet means you can eat all the meat you want (hello bacon!). The truth is that this diet encourages plenty of fresh vegetables as well, which many people miss out on.

Studies are finding that eating too much meat over long periods of time isn’t healthy and can even harm your health by increasing your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (6).

Another con to this diet is that it makes it difficult for vegetarians and vegans to incorporate, as legumes are an important source of protein in their diet.

Who It’s For: This diet seems to be best for those  wanting to reduce inflammation in the body and lose weight. 

Keto Diet

Epilepsy is believed to be a brain and nerve disorder that brings on episodes of seizures plagued many children for decades. In the 1920s, the ketogenic (keto for short) diet was used as a therapy to help reduce the frequency and severity of these episodes (7). Today, anti-seizure medications are used.

Since then, the keto diet fizzled out until just recently.  Over the past 15 years, those in the scientific community are noticing its positive health benefits once again.

The keto diet primarily focuses on foods that encourage the body to go into a state of ketosis. This is when your body burns fat as its fuel source instead of carbohydrates.

Foods that are low-carb, high fat diet are recommended and can include:

  • Full fat dairy
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Healthy oils (olive, coconut, and avocado)
  • Some varieties of nuts

Foods to avoid in this diet include:

  • Grains
  • Fruit
  • Yogurt
  • Some vegetables
  • Legumes

Speaking of oils, MCT oil is a huge part of the keto diet. Derived from distilled coconut oil, it’s believed to give you a boost of energy quickly after being consumed (8).

Pros

One of the biggest pros associated with the keto diet are its ability to supercharge your metabolism. This can lead to health benefits (9) like:

  • Improving PCOS symptoms
  • Potentially protect your brain and heart tissues
  • Improve skin
  • Aid in weight loss

Cons

Because the keto diet can be on the extreme side, it’s not one that’s recommended for extended periods of time. The elimination of carbohydrates causes most people to experience what’s known as “keto flu” — a typically unpleasant experience. Other potential risks (10) include:

  • Increased risk for developing kidney stones
  • Constipation due to lack of adequate fiber
  • Nutrient deficiency

Related: What are Ketones? (12)

Who It’s For: This type of diet seems to work best for those who struggle with metabolic disorders, eating disorders, obesity, some nervous disorders, and possible thyroid or other hormone disorders.

Biggest Similarities Between Paleo and Keto Diet

Perhaps the key similarities between the Paleo and Keto diets are the fact that they both place an emphasis on healthy fats. They also both eliminate grains and refined sugars and can help with weight loss (2).

Biggest Differences Between Paleo and Keto Diet

If both diets share similarities, what are the main differences (11)? For one, the Paleo diet encourages a total lifestyle change, whereas the Keto diet should only be incorporated for short periods of time, such as days or weeks.

Those who embrace the Paleo diet are also encouraged to participate in regular HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercises and mindfulness, whereas those on the Keto diet are suggested to stick with low-moderate exercises, such as walking or stretching.

The Keto diet also allows full fat foods like dairy, while the Paleo prohibits it.  

The Right Diet Depends on Your Health Goals

Is keto better than paleo? That answer entirely depends on your goals, your current health condition, your lifestyle, and other factors. Talk with your doctor or functional medicine nutritionist to formulate a plan that will best suit your individual needs.

Conclusion

If your goal is to get healthier this year, you’re already taking the right steps. Diet and nutrition are cornerstones to good health and can help reverse many of the chronic diseases you see today.

But with all the diet choices out there, it can be challenging to know what will work best for you. The Paleo diet adopts an ancient philosophy of eating how our ancestors did, with lean meats, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. There weren’t any breads or refined sugars back then, so these aren’t recommended. It’s a great way to reduce inflammation in your body and help with weight loss.

Similarly, the Keto diet has been shown to help with weight loss, restore balance to blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol levels, and more. This diet completely eliminates carbohydrates and focuses on healthy, high-fat foods.

Both diets have benefits, but both also have potential risks. It’s up to you to do the research and decide what’s best for you.

References & Disclaimer

1. https://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/Fulltext/2021/05000/Part_1__The_Origin_and_Evolution_of_the_Paleo_Diet.4.aspx

2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/paleo-vs-keto#similarities

3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19604407/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628854/

5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/paleo-diet/

6. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/risk-red-meat

7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19049574/

8. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/mct-oil-benefits/

9. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319196#risks-and-complications

10. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/blog/weight-management-1/newsfeed-post/pros-and-cons-of-a-keto-diet/

11. https://www.livescience.com/paleo-diet-vs-keto-the-difference-explained

12. https://karamd.com/what-are-ketones/

✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author

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