Ketogenic Diet vs. Paleo Diet: How They Differ: They are two of the most popular diets today—and not just for their weight loss benefits. Both the ketogenic and Paleo diet help with reducing inflammation, the culprit for chronic diseases. They have been shown to boost immunity and to aid recovery from autoimmune disorders, and they have been linked to improved mental clarity and higher energy levels.
And yes, there is some overlap in their principles, but the ketogenic and Paleo diets are still distinct in a number of ways. Learning and understanding those differences could be the key to finding the right diet for you.
I have used both diets as part of a healing plan in my Hashimoto’s healing and recovery since 2010 and they have been very helpful. I find that I combine ideas from both diets while keeping my carbs and sugar intake under control to feel my best. These approaches are a great start for gut healing and weight loss and the principles can be used for a lifetime to maintain good health. If you hot roadblocks work with a practitioner to figure out what other changes you need to make.
For starters, the ketogenic diet aims to push the body into ketosis, a state in which your body burns fat. To get to that point, you’ll need to stick with a program that’s generally low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and high in fat. It’s also worth noting that this diet was originally developed for disease management and to this day is being used for conditions such as epilepsy.
The Paleo diet’s premise: eating the way our ancestors did thousands of years ago—when chronic diseases weren’t as prevalent as they are today— is the key to better health. Thus the diet is focused on making food choices that reflect the fact that people back then hunted and gathered what they ate and had little access to grains and no access to processed foods and refined sugar. So your primary options are protein-rich animal products, nuts, seeds, berries and wild plants.
The ketogenic diet is definitely low-carb (as it needs to be in order to burn fat for energy, create ketones and keep insulin levels low). The Paleo diet isn’t necessarily so (carb levels vary from low to medium) but usually way less than the standard American diet.
The ketogenic diet does not allow high-carb tubers and root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots. In contrast, these are fully embraced in the Paleo diet because they are packed with nutrients and are free of toxins or gut irritants. Also, fruits on a Ketogenic diet are limited to berries. In Paleolithic times fruits would have been more seasonal so that would also limit availability and amount consumed.
Protein intake is moderate in the ketogenic diet and high in the Paleo diet. But when it comes to protein sources, they are relatively the same: meat, fish, eggs, nuts and vegetables. Grass-fed, organic and free-range are preferred for higher nutrient value and sustainability factors. I highly recommend US Wellness Meat, they ship!
The Paleo diet, however, is stricter when it comes to plant-based protein. Lentils, peanuts, beans and other legumes are specifically discouraged. Legumes are more of an agricultural era product and earlier generations spent time soaking and spouting beans to make them more digestible, a step often skipped today. You can read my article 8 Reasons Why Beans Are Not a Health Food and Why Peanuts are Not Paleo for more info.
The two diets differ in the source, type and amount of fats they require. The ketogenic diet is high-fat and allows fats in the form of cooking oils (e.g., vegetable oils) and dairy products (e.g., ghee, butter and full-fat sources like cream cheese, hard cheeses and heavy cream). The only caveat: They should not be hydrogenated such as margarine and more information is coming to light that vegetable oils such as corn, soybean and canola oils increase inflammation and should also be avoided for optimal results.
The Paleo diet is more limited in terms of cooking oil options; they must be derived from plants, i.e., avocado, coconuts or olives. I love this olive oil HERE. Butter is used by many followers as long as it’s produced from grass-fed animals. Dairy products are a no-no, especially for hard-core Paleo practitioners. To meet your intake requirement for fats, you can fill up on seafood, seeds and nuts. It is a good idea to take out dairy for 30 days or so then add it back slowly to see how your body reacts. Some people choose to include some sources of grass fed dairy and raw dairy into their Paleo plan which would be an approach coined as: primal.
All types of grains are prohibited in the Paleo diet and on the ketogenic diet. There are some pseudo grains such as buckwheat and quinoa that many followers enjoy on occasion (you can read my thoughts on quinoa HERE). It is best to try these only after several months of following a Paleo diet for best results so that the gut has a chance to heal. On some versions of a low carb diet there is a reintroduction of grains during maintenance but most people choose to avoid them long term to keep weight off.
Like other low-carb diets, the ketogenic diet discourages fruit, as this form of sugar contains fructose and glucose, both said to contribute to insulin resistance and weight gain. The exception would be a handful of berries occasionally because they have a good balance of sugars and high antioxidant value.
The Paleo diet, on the other hand, supports the consumption of fruit that’s low in sugar. It’s supporters believe the fructose and glucose levels in fruit will only result in weight gain if you consume too much fruit. Plus, fruit, in moderation, has tons of nutrients can be a healthy addition to an active lifestyle.
You can get my detailed Paleo Diet Foods List HERE.
Both diets get some getting used to. Those who take on the Paleo diet should brace for the so-called “Paleo flu” or “Keto flu” in the first two or three weeks, the typical period of adaptation with this meal plan. Our bodies often have some withdrawal symptoms from sugar and gluten. Also as the body begins to burn fat rather than glucose for fuel it can be a few days of unpleasant cravings. Usually adding some magnesium and sea salt to the diet will help smooth out the edges.
Newbies to the ketogenic diet may have to endure a longer adjustment period—ranging from several days to months even—as it’s not as easy to tolerate. And if you don’t consume dairy, it might be challenging to get enough fat in every meal without some conscious effort.
The ketogenic and Paleo diets have pros and cons but both are worth a try. One isn’t inherently more effective than the other. It’s a matter of finding a meal plan that works best for your needs, and to find that perfect match you need to know and explore all your options. Everyone has to experiment within this spectrum of Paleo and Keto to find the optimal food plan and macro-nutrient ratio that works for their lifestyle and health goals.
Want to get started?
If you are looking to get started with Keto, this is a great ebook Kick the Weight with Keto by Kim Knoch. It has easy tips and recipes for getting going on dropping the unwanted pounds without hunger or excessive exercise.
If you are looking to start paleo, this is a great step by step guide from my friends Bill & Haley over at Primal Palate, 30 Day Guide to Paleo. It is also a great way to reduce inflammation, lose weight and increase energy.
You may be interested in these articles:
Top 5 Most Common Paleo Weight Loss Mistakes
Beginner’s Guide to a Ketogenic Diet
Quick and Easy Ketogenic Cooking with Maria Emmerich (podcast)
Keto Fat Bomb Roundup (recipes)
Ketogenic Recipe Roundup (recipes)
Starting a Keto Diet: Healthy Recipes & Tips (podcast)
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Great article very insightful! I also strongly believe they go together not just one or the other. I wanted to tell you because I have successfully combine them both. Ive started the Paleo diet in the past for 2 years and fell off because I wasn’t eating enough high fat and to many low carbs. I started again March 13th 2016 at 213lbs combining them both. Today I’m at 184lbs. Ive lost 29lbs so far. I stick with 2 high fat meals a day for breakfast and dinner which includes (eggs, bacon, Dark meats, fish, avocados)
My carbs- I have one carb meal at lunch time once a day (carbs for me are sweet/salty plantains, sweet potatoes, or bananas).
I eat 3 square meals a day some times fruit with every meal. Varies (Oranges, berries, and melon)
I do crossfit 2x week and run 2x week about 5-6 miles
I keep track to make sure I’m loosing 1-2lbs a week. And my goal is 150lbs by December.