Do you ever wonder who’d win in a paleo vs keto diet duel — in the name of science, of course? Well, you’re in luck! That’s exactly what we did with these two diet plans, their food lists, pros, and cons, and put them side by side. Plus, we aimed to make your choice that much easier by answering the most crucial questions, such as the following:
Do paleo and keto rank equal on the health benefits scale? What about weight loss? And how do the side effects compare?
Read all about it in this ultimate diet face-off!
Paleo vs Keto: The Philosophy Behind Both Diets
Paleolithic or Paleo Diet
The logic behind the paleolithic diet is — you guessed it — evolutionary. Also known as the “caveman diet,” paleo relies on the hypothesis that our guts’ physiology lags in time. Namely, that our bodies haven’t evolved since the Paleolithic Era (45,000–10,000 BC).
Hence, the logic behind it is quite interesting — eat what cavemen ate for good digestion and health.
Let’s remind you, back then, humans were hunter-gatherers, consuming meat-, and fat-based foods. Likewise, they ate high quantities of fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
So, this is the paleo diet, in a nutshell (no pun intended).
Nevertheless, there are several types of paleo diets:
- Strict paleo diet
- Normal paleo diet
- Primal paleo diet
- Plant-based paleo diet
- Animal-based paleo diet
- Autoimmune paleo diet (Autoimmune Protocol)
Ketogenic or Keto Diet
When it comes to the keto vs paleo philosophies, there are no similarities whatsoever.
The keto diet was invented back in the ’20s as a therapeutic diet for epilepsy. However, today it is mainly used as a low-carb diet for weight loss.
The whole point of the diet is to turn your metabolism around by depriving it of carbs. This way, you’ll make your body use fats instead of carbs as its primary source of energy, which is done via ketones — energy substances derived from fats.
But don’t worry! Your liver will do all the work (transforming fats into ketones) as you enter a new metabolic state called ketosis.
The main difference between the keto and paleo diets starts with the theory behind each diet and the number of variations. Indeed, the keto diet has a lot more variety to offer than the paleo diet, as can be seen from the following:
- Standard keto diet
- Targeted keto diet
- Cyclical keto diet
- A strict keto diet (therapeutic keto diet )
- Lazy keto diet
- High-protein keto diet
- Dirty keto diet
- Clean keto diet
- Mediterranean keto diet
Paleo Diet vs Keto: Diet Goals
With paleo, the objective is to sync our diet with the presumed evolutionary stage of our gut. This way, we take all we need to survive and thrive from our food; all of which is inflammation-, chronic disease-, and grease-free.
The keto diet’s main point is to make the body use its stores of fat as a principal source of energy, which is done by depriving it of carbs. Needless to say, it’s the main reason behind the millions of people eating the keto diet.
Paleo Diet vs Keto: Macro Goals
The total daily calorie intake of the paleo diet is the following breakdown:
- Carbs (30%)
- Proteins (30%)
- Fats (40%)
Following the standard keto diet means having these macro goals:
- Carbs (5%)
- Proteins (25%)
- Fats (70%)
Despite both being primarily fat-based, the keto and paleo diets are fairly different; at least according to their other macro goals.
In addition, weighing and measuring your own food may indeed be painstaking. Yet, don’t forget that you can always fall back to meal plans of delivery services like Factor 75, where the nutritional details are given for each meal.
Paleo vs Keto vs Other Popular Diets
The famous Atkins diet is a type of ketogenic diet. And unlike the paleo diet, the Atkins diet is also low-carb. Yet, there are some noticeable differences between the Atkins and the keto diet:
- Atkins allows more fruits and vegetables than keto and even some grains.
- Atkins incorporates more protein (30%) than the keto diet (25%).
- The keto maintains your body in ketosis, whereas, in Atkins, ketosis is just the initial phase.
Yes, the main Atkins vs keto vs paleo difference is that, unlike the paleo and keto diet, the Atkins diet is a phased diet.
That said, you might be surprised to find out that paleo eaters are inherently gluten-free. Indeed, the paleo diet is entirely free of grains and therefore is gluten-free. The keto diet, on the other hand, contains gluten in very low quantities.
Besides, the paleo diet is also closer to yet another popular diet — the Whole30 diet. As with the Atkins diet, the keto vs paleo vs Whole30 diet difference is in its phased schedule.
The first of the five Whole30 stages lasts for a month. And although this stage is more restrictive than the paleo diet, in later stages, the diet is a lot more permitting (so to speak).
Another major difference is that the Whole30 is a temporary diet and not a nutritive lifestyle that you can adopt forever.
Paleo vs Keto Benefits
The benefits of both nutritional styles are very similar. Here are some of those:
Reducing carb intake inevitably leads to a lower appetite. In the keto diet, it’s the avoidance of carbs that makes you feel full and satisfied while eating less.
In paleo, the high fiber and protein intake work in favor of our body’s natural balance in terms of satiety. Moreover, both diets limit processed food, another plus in appetite suppression.
Paleo vs Keto for Inflammation
Eliminating carbs and processed foods is enough to reduce inflammation in the body. This is the case with both paleo and keto diets.
Also, what both these diets add to the equation is healthy fats. Polyunsaturated fats are famous for their anti-inflammatory effect. Two other food groups largely included in these diets — vegetables and fruits also reduce inflammation.
That said, when comparing keto vs paleo, the latter is better at reducing inflammation.
- Namely, there’s a special type of paleo diet called the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). This is a diet that is used to reduce inflammation in various autoimmune diseases.
- Plus, what goes in favor of the paleo diet is the avoidance of all dairy products; dairy products are a known inflammatory food group.
- Processed foods are yet another food type that causes inflammation. As you can see in the food list below, processed foods are strictly forbidden in the paleo diet. This is another point for the paleo vs keto diet in terms of anti-inflammatory action.
Promoting Cardiovascular Health
One comparative study suggests that a paleo diet is beneficial for cardiovascular health. The paleo diet is shown to:
- lowers the risk of diabetes
- lowers blood pressure
- increases the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in the bloodstream
- lowers the total white blood cells count, and CRP (indicators of inflammation)
- lowers triglyceride count (TGs), and bad cholesterol levels (LDL) both linked to the development of atherosclerosis
- One study even shows that the paleo diet is more effective than the heart-healthy diet proposed by the American Heart Association
The keto vs paleo effectiveness in CVD prevention and treatment differs in action. One study shows that the keto diet also preserves cardiovascular health by:
- reducing inflammation
- lowering oxidative stress
- protects blood vessels
- lowers leptin and insulin in your bloodstream — both factors in cardiac growth
- Inhibits, in part, the synthesis of bad cholesterol
That said, there are very few long-term studies that will allow for a more definitive conclusion.
Avoiding highly processed foods means less oxidative stress for the body. Plus, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables means a high intake of antioxidants. Both these factors slow down the aging process.
Paleo vs Keto Results in the Treatment of Certain Diseases
The paleo diet is said to help in the treatment of several conditions.
- Both types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Psoriasis and Eczema
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Celiac Disease (CD)
- Autoimmune diseases (like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis)
The keto diet can be helpful in the treatment of:
- Diabetes type 1 and 2
- Metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance)
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
- Migraine Headaches
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
Paleo vs Keto for Weight Loss
According to a study discussed by the New Scientist, both paleo and keto diets lead to a significant decrease in weight.
Both diets focus on healthy, high-quality, and low-carb food sources. Plus, both keto and paleo diets lessen your appetite — a winning combination for weight loss.
However, if the diet is not maintained strictly. In one year’s time, the effects tend to diminish. For some, even cardiovascular parameters such as blood pressure and cholesterol can get back on the same levels as they were before starting the diet.
Regarding weight loss, the paleo vs keto vs Atkins diet results were the same at first — all three diets were effectively shedding off extra pounds, at least initially.
Those following the paleo and keto diets maintained their lower body weight for about a year. Meanwhile, Atkins diet followers gained some of their weight back in just six months.
Some find it hard to stick to these diets, temptation-wise, but what is more complicated is planning each meal. This is where delivery services can give a helping hand, especially those that have a wide offer, like Freshly with its 31 meal menu.
Keto vs Paleo Diet Side Effects
We are what we eat, so you need to choose your diet wisely. This means discussing your dieting intentions with health professionals trained to advise you on it.
Everybody responds differently according to their health condition. That said, you need to be aware of the initial side effects when you start both the keto and paleo diet:
- lack of energy and lethargy
- irritability and sadness
- change in bowel movements
- sugar cravings and low blood sugar
- weaker physical performance
- higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- vitamin and mineral deficiencies
So, there is not much difference between paleo and keto initial side effects. However, some differences exist.
Possible Long-Term Keto Side Effects
- lengthy keto flu (up to a month)
- skin rash
- changes in the menstrual cycle
- forming of kidney stones
- bone fractures
- developing a fatty liver
- low levels of protein in the blood
Beginning your keto transition leads inevitably to the so-called “keto flu” or symptoms that you get when your body switches gear and goes into a fat-burning mode. Although some experience the low-carb flu when starting on paleo, the keto flu is more intensive.
It can last up to a month, which is the main difference between the keto and paleo initial side effects.
Keto Flu Symptoms
- brain fog
- low-carb flu
- calcium deficiency.
- low blood sugar
- increased risk of kidney disease
- possible interference with thyroid hormone function
Before You Start: Common Diet Mistakes
Choosing the Wrong Diet
Match the diet with your lifestyle. For example, choosing between keto vs paleo when bodybuilding might affect your muscle growth.
Not Planning Your Transition
Your body will need time to adjust to the new diet, which can take up to a month. You can be less energetic and your performance can drop during this period. So, start your diet before an anticipated quiet period in your working and other obligations schedule.
Forgetting the Minimal Daily Requirements
Admittingly, it is harder to keep track of all the nutrients on the keto diet vs the paleo diet. But when this becomes a burden, you can order from rich menu delivery services like Blue Apron. This way, you will make sure to get all the nutrients you need on a daily basis.
Falling for Cravings
Transition to a new eating lifestyle does take a toll, and you’d be better off occupied with some activity during your transitioning. This will take your mind off sugar cravings while they begin to subside.
Not Knowing the Keto vs Paleo Difference in Supplements
Important vitamins and minerals could be lacking from your diet when you start both diets but these are not the same. People on paleo frequently lack vitamin D and calcium, while those on the ketogenic diet lack magnesium and iron.
Going Hard on the Bad Fats
This goes for both diets: it’s not any kind of fats, but the right kind that needs to replace carbs in these two diets. Saturated and trans fats should be avoided.
It is easier to forget about veggies while on a keto diet vs a paleo, for example, but this is an equally serious issue. Ditching grains — the main fiber-containing foods — can lead to a fiber deficit. So unless you want to constipate, you’ll need to incorporate more leafy veggies to compensate.
You Aren’t Prepared for Some Budget-Stretching
Following the keto and paleo diet costs more than the regular diet. So, you need to take this into account before starting the diet.
Focusing on Just One Food Group
You shouldn’t just focus on protein intake for better effectiveness of keto vs paleo for weight loss. All food types should be consumed in the macros specific to the diet. These should be followed strictly in order to get to the promised weight loss and other health benefits.
Forgetting About Meal Delivery Services
Going keto or paleo can be complicated in terms of meal planning. But what most forget is that meal delivery menus have also evolved to fit these popular diets. So, you don’t have to cook and plan your meal every day.
That said, researching the keto vs paleo diet precautions, we found that the keto diet is more likely to cause adverse effects on specific groups of people.
People That Shouldn’t Do Keto or Paleo
- people with hypoglycemia
- the pregnant and breastfeeding
- IBS, and chronic constipation sufferers
- those at risk of developing osteoporosis
- insulin-dependent diabetics
- those prone to kidney stones
Paleo vs Keto Food Lists
Choosing between these two diets is easier when you compare diets’ food lists. So, here you go, take a look and decide which you’d like best.
Paleo Diet Foods — What to Eat
In short, “the caveman diet” can be characterized as:
The number of food groups allowed on the paleo diet vs keto is smaller, but they are entirely paleo-friendly. These are:
More precisely, you can eat:
- Seafood and fish
- All fruits and vegetables
- Seeds and nuts
- Fats and lard (derived from pig fat)
- Oils: avocado oil, coconut oil, palm oil, and olive oil
- Dark chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs
- Most spices
Drinks Allowed on Paleo
Drink restrictions are also worse on the paleo diet vs the keto diet.
While on paleo, you can drink:
- water and natural sparkling water
- Herbal teas
- Coconut water
- Black coffee
- Low-sugar hard cider
- Gluten-free alcohols (spirits)
Foods to Avoid on Paleo
- Sugars, starches, corn syrup
- Grains, and grain-derived products
- Vegetable oils
- Sweeteners, additives of any kind, colors
- Any highly processed food
- Trans fats of any origin
Another major difference between keto and paleo is that ingredients are not the only thing you need to worry about when on paleo. Since cavemen didn’t have the cooking options, we have today. Cooking methods are an essential part of the paleo diet.
Paleo-approved cooking methods:
- Roasting (any type, including slow-, pot-, pan-roasting)
- Frying or stir-frying
This cooking inconvenience of paleo diet vs the keto diet cooking freedom might seem too much. But you should keep in mind that fresh ingredient-based meal deliveries can help you concentrate on paleo cooking.
There are plenty of choices out there, like the Meat and Veggies plan of Hello Fresh, for example.
Standard Keto Food List: What to Eat
The list below will bring you closer to finally answering: paleo vs keto, which is the better choice for you?
These foods are considered keto-safe:
- Seafood and fish
- Low-carb fruits and non-starchy vegetables
- All dairy products with no added sugars
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetable oils
- Some sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, xylitol, monk fruit, yacon syrup
- Dark chocolate and cocoa powder
- Low-carb spices
Allowed Keto Diet Drinks
- Sparkling Water
- Coffee and Tea
- Diet Sodas
- Sugar-free juice alternatives
- Low-Carb Dairy Products and Alternatives
- Zero-carb energy drinks
- Keto Smoothies
- Non-flavored alcohols in small amounts
As you can see from this keto vs paleo food list clash, some alcoholic drinks are allowed in both diets.
But even though most spirits and pure alcohols are low-carb, they interfere with the process of reaching ketosis, slowing it down. So, even though spirits are allowed on the keto diet, it is probably best to avoid them for better results.
Foods to Avoid on a Standard Keto Diet
From the food list below, you’ll probably notice that low-carb dairy is allowed on the keto diet vs paleo diet list of foods. This is the major difference between these two:
- Grains like wheat, rye, and barley
- Whole wheat flour
- Oat, rice, brown rice, quinoa
- Low-fat dairy products
- Dairy products with added sugars like yogurts
- Grapes, raisins
- Dates, mangoes, bananas
- Most beans (black, baked, green, lima, lentils, lobia, and kidney beans)
- Green Peas, Chickpeas
- Many artificial sweeteners like stevia, xylitol, and others
Drinks to Avoid on Keto
- Vitaminized water
- Fruit juices
- Protein Shakes
- Iced tea
- Flavored beers
What’s the Difference Between Keto and Paleo?
Although both are low-carb diets, their purpose and therefore their food lists diverge.
Here are the major differences:
- The paleo diet is also gluten-free, whereas the keto diet contains some gluten.
- Paleo doesn’t include dairy products, but they are greatly consumed in the keto diet.
- All artificial sweeteners are avoided in the paleo diet, while low-carb sweeteners are allowed on the keto diet.
- The keto vs paleo carb macros are 5% and 30%, respectively.
- You can add any natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup on your paleo plate, but this is not something you can do while on a keto diet.
- Starchy vegetables are not compatible with the keto diet, but they can be eaten on paleo.
- In paleo, all fruits are allowed, whereas on keto, only those that are low-carb.
Looking at the paleo diet vs keto diet food lists, you’ll notice that the paleo diet is a bit more permitting.
Yet, contrary to what you may think, it is not that hard to combine both these plans. In fact, delivery services like Green Chef already concocted the Keto + Paleo meal plan.
Is paleo or keto better?
Both diets are equally effective in:
- weight loss
- boosting energy
- preserving cardiovascular health
- slowing down the aging processes
That said, the paleo eliminates dairy and thus is better at inflammation control. Autoimmune diseases can benefit from the paleo diet.
The ketogenic diet is more effective in the treatment of metabolic diseases such as:
- Diabetes (1 and 2)
- Metabolic syndrome
Does paleo put you in ketosis?
No, you won’t experience ketosis while on paleo. The carb macro of the paleo diet is 30% — enough for you to maintain the metabolic state of your body as it is.
That said, the paleo is still a low-carb diet that will help you burn down fat deposits. Yet, there’s no ketones production because you won’t be sufficiently carb-deprived.
Can you lose weight on paleo?
Yes, paleo-eaters experience weight loss. For most, the mere elimination of processed and fried foods is enough to kick off a few pounds. But the main factor to losing the extra fat is the reduction of carb intake.
Low-carb diets like paleo boost energy levels, which can be an exercise motivator. Plus, the paleo diet has anti-inflammatory action. Given that inflammation makes you eat more, this is another plus for the paleo diet.
What’s the difference between paleo and keto?
These are the major differences between the paleo and the keto diet:
- Unlike in paleo, the keto diet switches your metabolic state to ketosis.
- The paleo diet is completely gluten-free. Keto is not.
- You’ll have to deal with the initial stage of keto known as “keto flu.”
- Keto allows the use of artificial sweeteners, not natural. Paleo does the inverse.
- Keto is more carb-limiting (5% macro) than paleo (30% macro).
- Low-carb dairy products are keto-friendly, but paleo is strictly a non-dairy diet.
- All fruits are allowed on paleo but on keto, only the low-carb fruits are permitted.
- You can eat starchy vegetables while on a paleo diet but they are not keto-approved.
Keto vs paleo for weight loss — which one is more effective?
Both paleo and keto diets lead to initial weight loss. However, whether you’ll stick to your thinner self in the long run, depends on your motivation.
The paleo diet is more carb-permitting and therefore, easier to follow than keto for most. That said, if you can stick to a carb macro of 5%, there’s no other paleo vs keto weight loss difference. Both are equally good weight-control choices.
Both keto and paleo are processed food-avoiding and low-carb food lifestyles. Still, they are far from being one and the same. Beginning with their philosophy to the inclusion of grain and dairy, they differ quite a bit.
Therefore, you should base your choice depending on your goal. If you want to combat inflammation and autoimmune diseases you’ll be better off trying paleo. However, if you’re trying to manage diabetes, PCOS, or metabolic syndrome, you should go with keto.
That said, if ditching extra fat is your purpose, the effectiveness of paleo vs keto is almost the same.