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Keto Diet vs Paleo Diet: The Main Differences Between Them

Keto Diet vs Paleo Diet: The Main Differences Between Them

If you have been thinking about creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself or maybe even losing some weight, chances are you’ve done some research on the internet to see what the most effective diets are. You have probably run across the Paleo diet or maybe even heard that you co-worker has lost twenty pounds in two weeks following the ketogenic diet.

Hearing and reading about the benefits that both the Paleo and the ketogenic diet can provide you with, you may be struggling to make a decision between the two. In today’s discussion, we will be talking about these main topics when comparing the keto diet and the Paleo diet:

  • What’s the difference?
  • Which one should you follow?
  • Is one only created to help you lose weight and the other is to help you have better health?

Keep in mind that there are a lot of different diet plans available out there, so don’t think that you have to choose between the keto diet and the Paleo diet just because you have some friends or family members following the diet.

What is the Paleo diet?

The Paleo diet encourages users to only eat high-quality foods that are high in nutritional value while also working to limit the amount of toxins and chemicals that they’re ingesting. This diet is often referred to as being a ‘caveman’ diet since it goes back to following along with what people in the past used to eat.

Basically, the Paleo diet aims to avoid consuming processed foods that have any added sugars in them, not consuming wheat, barley, oats, peanuts, beans, corn, soy, vegetable oil, and hydrogenated oils. Followers of the Paleo diet will focus on consuming vegetables, fish, seafood, meats, organ mean, healthy fats. Fruits, nuts, and seeds are all supposed to be eaten in moderation while following the Paleo diet.

The Paleo diet can also become a lifestyle diet for some folks and focus isn’t only on diet and food choices, but also about the right kind of exercise (think weight training, yoga), getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and making healthier choices full stop.

What are the pros of following the Paleo diet?

The Paleo diet has the ability to serve you almost an unlimited amount of benefits if you follow it properly, but here are some of the main benefits it can provide you with:

  • Consuming soy can cause shifts in your hormones; by stopping consumption of soy, you can help to regulate your hormonal function more consistently
  • The trans-fats that are found in hydrogenated oils (even sunflower and canola oil) can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease
  • Consuming organ meats such as beef liver, shellfish, and vegetables that are super nutrient dense will help you to provide your body with more vitamins and minerals
  • Wheat, barley, rye, and other grains all contain gluten which can cause inflammation in your gut, even if you aren’t gluten sensitive or celiac

What are the cons of following the Paleo diet?

The Paleo diet is great for many people to follow, especially since it isn’t as limiting in carb intake as the Paleo diet is. However, this diet can still allow you to overeat on carbs, which can lead to several things over a long period of time of overeating, including:

  • Problems regulating blood sugar
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Chronic inflammation

If you are someone who has diabetes or your body doesn’t react to eating carbs very well, drastically cutting back on your carb intake could be a better option for you.

What is the Keto diet?

While both Paleo and the Keto diet are both lower in carbs than the average American diet, the ketogenic diet is much lower in carb intake than Paleo diet. This is because the lower carb intake allows people to get into a state of ketosis easier. The goal of the ketogenic (keto) diet is to have your body raise your ketone levels so that your body goes into nutritional ketosis.

But, what are ketones?

Ketones (also called ketone bodies) are created by your body when your body doesn’t have enough glucose to use for energy.

What are the pros of following the Keto diet?

There are countless benefits to having your body got into nutritional ketosis. Some of these health benefits include:

  • Weight loss
  • Stabilizing blood sugar levels
  • Lowering high blood pressure
  • Improving focus
  • Improving cholesterol levels
  • Alleviating epilepsy symptoms

What are the cons of following the Keto diet?

Some people can view the keto diet can be extremely limiting, especially if you are someone who is used to eating a high carb diet. There are certain foods that you can’t eat on the keto diet that you can eat if you choose to follow along with the Paleo diet, such as:

  • Sweet potatoes, yams, squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Bananas, grapes, pineapples, peaches
  • Honey, coconut sugar
  • Maple syrups
  • Dried fruits

Is the Keto diet the same thing as the Atkins diet?

While the keto diet may sound very similar to the Atkins diet, the two are still very different. Atkins diet focuses on promoting low carb eating, whereas the keto diet focuses on promoting a lower carb intake and consuming more fat from high-quality foods.

Users of the Atkins diet typically only focus on consuming lower carbs, which still allows them to consume over processed foods or foods with artificial sugars. Consuming these foods on a daily basis will still lead you down an unhealthy path, whereas the keto diet focuses on eating healthy, nutritious foods that are low in carbs.

What are the major differences between the two?

The keto diet focuses on ketone levels

One of the main focuses for followers of the ketogenic diet is to increase their bodies natural production of ketone levels. This can be done by cutting out the majority of carbs in your diet so that your body enters a state referred to as nutritional ketosis. This is not a focus of the Paleo diet.

The keto diet also focuses on the amount of fat you consume

Another main focus of the ketogenic diet is to consume a higher fat intake than you do with most other diets, including the Paleo diet. While the Paleo does allow followers to consume some high-quality fats, users will consume much more fat with the ketogenic diet than they will with the Paleo diet.

Followers of the Paleo diet don’t really eat too much fat but are allowed to eat healthy fats such as tallow fat, duck fat, lard, ghee, avocado oil, and coconut oil. While it is okay for users to eat fat on the Paleo diet, most people still make it a point to eat low fat when they have the chance on the diet.

However, with the keto diet, considerable increase the amount of fat that they’re eating. While this doesn’t mean that they consume excess amounts of ghee with every meal, the keto diet does allow them to choose fattier meats, cook with fats, and add healthy fats into their dishes. The biggest thing to remember here is that keto diets allow users to choose from healthy fats, not overly processed or unhealthy fats.

keto food pyramid

The keto diet requires that you test your ketones

The main goal of the keto diet is to make sure that your body is in a state of ketosis. The only way that you will know if your body has entered a state of ketosis is by testing for ketones. There are several different ways that you can test for nutritional ketosis, which will let you know whether you are or are not in a state of ketosis. If you are in a state of ketosis, this means that your body has started to burn fat for energy.

Since there isn’t a specific end goal for the Paleo diet, there isn’t a testing method that you need to use to see if you are following along with Paleo closely enough to see if your body is benefiting from the diet.

The keto diet focuses on the amount of carbs you consume

The ketogenic diet also focuses on following a very limited carb intake. While it is true that the Paleo diet is considered to be a lower carb diet, it does not allow as low of a carb intake as the keto diet does.

The Paleo diet focuses on food quality

The main focus of the Paleo diet is to promote whole food choices. In other words, followers of the paleo diet will want to choose to consume foods that are free from toxins and are dense with nutrients. While it is important to choose wholesome foods on the keto diet, it really isn’t one of the main focuses on the ketogenic diet.

How are the Paleo diet and the Keto diet similar?

It can be confusing to see the differences between the two diets, especially since both of them are lower carb diets. Besides consuming lower carbs and no sugar, here are a few other similar features between the two diets:

  • No grains
  • No refined sugar
  • No artificial sugar
  • No legumes
  • Consume healthy fats (animal fats, coconut oil, nuts)
  • Consume high-quality proteins (organic and/or grass-fed)
  • Consume non-starch veggies and plenty of leafy greens
  • Consume high-quality, nutrient dense foods

Which diet is best for you?

In case you’re still confused about which diet you should follow along with, here are some recommendations you may want to consider when making your choice:

You should follow Keto if:

  • Your main goal is to lose weight
  • You are addicted to eating sugar/sweets and are looking for a way to stop your cravings
  • You are looking to increase your energy
  • You want to balance your blood sugar levels
  • You are interested in increasing your mental clarity

You should follow Paleo if:

  • You are looking to follow a healthier lifestyle and need some guidelines to follow along with
  • You are looking to fight against any existing health problems that you have
  • You are looking to follow along with a diet that provides you the ability to follow along with a relatively ‘normal’ and flexible lifestyle

Follow keto if… Follow Paleo if…
Your main goal is to lose weight

  • You are looking to follow along with a generally healthier diet
  • You want to find a way to stop your sugar cravings
  • You want to fight against any health problems you have
  • You want to increase your energy levels You want to find a diet that allows you to have some flexibility without too much sacrifice
  • You want to balance your sugar levels You want to consider going keto in a few months but have never followed a low carb diet
  • You want to increase your mental clarity You want to normalize your hormones

Can you follow both Keto and Paleo?

Yes, it is completely possible to follow both Keto and Paleo! You can eat low carb, moderate protein, high fat (keto) while still focusing on whole foods that are high in nutritional value (Paleo).

Your biggest goal should be to find a diet that works for you and is actually one that you can stick along with for a long period of time. Making healthier changes that are sustainable for your lifestyle will be what makes the biggest difference in your weight and health, rather than just trying to follow along with a strict diet that you won’t be able to stick with for very long!


When picking a diet, make sure that you consider what type of lifestyle you have and do your best to decide upon a diet that fits along the best with the type of lifestyle that you have. Make sure that you think about your long-term goals and make your decision based upon the goals that you have in mind.

At the end of the day, you should choose a diet that works best for you in terms of health benefits and longevity. If you are someone who has never followed along with a low carb diet, try going low carb for a few months or following the Paleo diet before you try following along with the full-blown keto diet.

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Medical Review Comments from Dr. Robin Walsh, BASc, ND

I like the way this article is written and gives you a balanced approach to each diet. I tend to use both of these plans often in my practice.

The ketogenic diet is often recommended for those that are looking to lose weight, and are also suffering from insulin-related issues. This could be diabetes, PCOS, or simply weight gain around the middle, sluggishness after carbohydrates or that hangry feeling that people get when they don’t eat frequently. These are all symptoms that your body is not great at using stored body fat as fuel, and depends on consistent carbohydrate or energy intake. This can be challenging for people that want to lose weight which is often why the ketogenic diet is recommended.

The paleo diet removes inflammatory foods like legumes, dairy, and grains but allows for other complex carbohydrates. I often use this diet when people switch to weight maintenance or are dealing with an autoimmune condition. I also tend to use a hybrid of these for many of my female clients as it seems to create a better hormonal balance to have some carbohydrates.

It is important to look at whatever plan you choose as a lifestyle, and not a diet. While certain plans are used temporarily to gain hormonal balance, the plan that you are long long term needs to be one that you love and can sustain. It also needs to be one that is promoting your overall health and longevity. We can be eating chicken wings and sweet potato fries and be considered paleo, but we know this is not going to be promoting our overall health and wellness. It is important that you find a plan (or hybrid of plans) that suits your personal likes and dislikes, promotes your health and one that you can do for a lifetime.

Note: Dr. Robin Walsh is not associated with any products, will never recommend a specific product, nor give specific medical advice here in her contributions. She comes as a representative of herself alone and always recommends consulting with your primary care physician before making any health-related decisions.



Last updated: December 6, 2019

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