Similarities and Differences Between Paleo and Keto Diets

similarities and differences between paleo and keto diets

There are quite a lot of people, who follow paleo and ketogenic diets with a sole goal of losing weight and improving their health. Both of these diets are pretty popular among health watchers, so you may wonder how they are different from each other. This article outlines a comparison of paleo and keto diets and suggests which is best.

Paleo Diet

Also known as “the caveman diet,” this diet is based on the fact that consuming foods as were available to early humans promote better health. It basically implies that modern food systems, processing and production techniques are harmful for the health.

So, if you start consuming diet like Paleolithic hunter gatherers, you will support the body’s natural biological functions, enhancing health and digestion.


In Paleo, there is no room for grains, processed sugar, legumes and dairy sources. The main foods of paleo diet are:

Paleo is more than a diet. It’s a way of living. There is focus on lifestyle practices, wellness of the whole body, environmental impact of food choices.

Keto Diet

The tissues in the human body use glucose from carbs for energy. Ketosis is a condition in which body uses calories from fat instead of carbohydrates to produce energy required by the body to perform its regular functions.

The ketogenic diet induces ketosis by adjusting for fat, carbs and proteins. The composition of ketogenic diet is 60-80% fat, 20-30% protein and 5-10% carbohydrates. As against standard diet, the focus of keto is on fat with moderate amounts of proteins with very lesser carbohydrates. The intent is to induce metabolic breakdown of fat in the body. The reason why keto diet has become popular is because it helps in weight management and also reduces blood sugar levels. [1]

Commonality Between Keto and Paleo Diet

There are many common characteristics of keto and paleo diets. Some of the ways in which they are similar are discussed below:

Both Stress on Whole Foods:

Both of these depend on food sources that are whole. Whole foods are the ones that have gone through minimal amount of processing before they reach your plate.

In both the diets, there is elimination of highly processed foods that are replaced with fresh veggies, nuts, fish and meat. Processed fats, sweeteners and oils are removed from these diets.

Both Cut Out on Legumes and Grains:

Both the diets recommend not to eat grains and legumes, although for different reasons. In case of paleo diet, these are eliminated because grains and legumes were not the part of early human diets, and they have antinutrients – compounds like phylates and lectins that are present in some phyto-foods.

They hinder with the ability of the body to absorb nutrients and minerals and may distress the digestive system when consumed in large quantities [2]. The keto diet cuts out on legumes and grains because of their carb content.

Both Eliminate Added Sugar:

These diets completely discourage the consumption of added sugar. This is again to avoid processed foods. Paleo diets are a little liberal and they allow unrefined sugar sources like maple syrup and honey. Keto diet does not allow any type of added sugar – refined or unrefined – due to high-carb content.

Both Stress on Healthy Fats:

Both the diets encourage the consumption of healthy, unrefined fats. You can have some amounts of olive oil and avocado oils, seeds, nuts and fish in moderation.


They are good for the heart too [3]. Heavily processed fats are a strict no in both the diets as they are harmful for the health when consumed regularly.

Both May Promote Weight Loss:

Promotion of weight loss in a shorter duration can be achieved through these diets. Studies are still going for its long-term weight loss benefits. A review on low-carb, high-fat diet like keto diet can induce short-term weight loss. This could be due to the fact that increased intake of fats results in lowering the appetite, which causes consumption of lesser calories.

Differences Between Paleo and Keto Diets

Paleo has more to do with ideology, while keto is about macronutrients:

Paleo diet focuses on adopting healthy lifestyle choices besides just changing the diet. It suggests that you must do specific exercises and practice mindfulness.

You must incorporate exercise in your routine. The paleo diet doesn’t emphasize on macronutrients. You can eat as much fat, protein and carbs as you want, considering the fact that you have chosen it from the list of foods that are allowed. Keto, on the other hand, has got nothing to do with lifestyle. Its main focus is indeed distribution of macronutrients.

Paleo Allows Whole Food Carbs:

Paleo limits some sources of carb, but it is not apparently a low-carb diet like keto. Paleo does not stress on macronutrients, so your diet could technically be high on carbs.

As refined sugars, grains and legumes are not allowed, the carb sources in paleo diet are limited, but not completely cut off. Paleo allows carbs from foods like vegetables, fruits and unrefined sweeteners. Conversely, the keto diet limits all carb sources, including sweeteners, legumes, vegetables and fruits.

Keto Allows Some Soy Foods and Dairy:

Keto encourages the consumption of dairy foods. High-fat dairy like butter, heavy cream, unsweetened full fat yogurts are important component of keto diet plans.

Other dairy products like milk and ice cream are limited in keto because of their low fat-to-carb ratio. Soy foods like tempeh, tofu and soybeans are allowed in the keto diet, provided they fall in the prescribed macronutrient group. On the other hand, paleo does not allow soy and limits dairy. You can have grass-fed butter in paleo diet.

Which One Is Better?

Both of these diets are healthy depending on their usage and implementation. However, comparing the two, we can say that paleo is a healthier option. The choices of foods in paleo is more flexible and offers more options for the nutrients required by the body. It also focuses on healthy lifestyle.

The freedom with respect to food choices can help maintain this diet in the long run. Whereas, Keto diet may not be suitable for everyone and is a treatment modality for some conditions. Also, many people are sensitive to dietary fat [4] and so, should avoid high-fat diet. Keto is more difficult as you have to adhere to specific food choices to achieve ketosis. Also, lack of flexibility in keto diet makes it difficult to get nutrients because of limited options.


The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet. It could be useful for losing weight and maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Paleo diet is about eating foods that were actually available to early humans in the Paleolithic times. It also encourages exercise.

Both these diets are good for your health. However, research regarding efficacy and safety still lack in both the cases, so the plan may be difficult to follow and maintain.

Generally, paleo diet is a better choice as it offers more flexibility with food choices and can be maintained over long term. So, it can be concluded that the diet, which can work in the long term is the best for you.

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