You’ve heard the great Paleo vs Keto debate. There are proponents of both the paleo and keto diet on both sides of the aisle. Eat more fat, eat green, follow the caveman diet, are some of the many things you’ve probably heard as it pertains to each of these diets. But, which one is right for you? And, is either the paleo diet or keto diet the right choice for you? The answer is… it depends!
Let’s take a look at both the paleo diet and keto diet to determine if either of these is a good fit based on your personal goals.
What is the Paleo Diet?
Paleo has been referred to as the “ancestral” diet, and it’s often coined as the “caveman” diet. The reason being is that it focuses on eating like hunter-gatherers, or in a similar way as our ancestors ate. There is an emphasis placed on eating foods which were eaten before processed foods existed. Paleo focuses on core foods including
- Grass-fed beef/poultry/meat
- Organic fruits and veggies
- Wild game and fish
It places a focus on green, processed-free foods. Some of the primary foods which should be omitted from the diet if you’re on paleo include grains, beans and legumes, dairy, and refined sugars.
Why does paleo omit these foods? The premise behind it is that these processed foods, which are manmade, were introduced later in history, and our digestive system isn’t capable of processing them properly. They can cause digestive issues, allergies, inflammation, and food sensitivity.
What is the Keto Diet?
Okay, so what exactly is keto? You might’ve heard the term ketogenic state or ketogenesis tossed around if you are considering this diet. But, what do these terms mean? The keto diet focuses on low carb and high-fat food options.
When consuming these foods, your body goes into ketosis, a metabolic state where you’re burning more fat than you typically would. Since the body doesn’t have to break down glucose, it can focus its energy on breaking down fat. The body and brain get used to breaking down fat the longer you’re on the keto diet, in turn, supplying energy to the brain.
Dieters who are on the keto diet are focused on burning more fat and targeting weight loss. Since the body doesn’t have to break down complex carbs and glucose, it burns fat faster and metabolizes food quickly. Dieters often see a weight loss of 1-2 pounds per day (those who weigh more when they begin will lose more weight quickly), without losing muscle mass. These are a couple of the benefits that keto enthusiasts highlight when discussing the diet.
What are the Similarities and Differences Between Paleo and Keto?
Now that you have a basic understanding of the paleo vs keto battle, you have to understand the similarities and differences, to determine which of the two diets is the right one for you. Some of the primary similarities between the paleo diet and the keto diet include
- Both diets place a primary focus on high-quality, nutrient-rich foods
- Both focus on eliminating processed foods and refined sugars from the diet
- Both diets exclude grains from the list of acceptable foods
- Low or no-carbs is a primary driver in the types of foods/meals you should consume on these diets.
In terms of similarities, these are the primary components that the keto diet and paleo diet share.
There are several differences for dieters who are considering which of the two is the better option in the paleo vs keto battle should understand as well. Some of the primary differences between these diets are
- Keto focuses on high fat and allows for some dairy, paleo doesn’t allow dieters to consume dairy
- Keto focuses on macro tracking and paleo focuses on choosing “clean” foods rather than tracking
- The keto diet focuses on weight loss while paleo focuses on clean eating
- Paleo is best suited for digestive health and athletic performance, keto is better for short-term dieting and aesthetics (weight loss)
- The paleo diet allows for higher carb count/intake than keto
Furthermore, the paleo diet is a greater option for sustainable livability and can be followed long-term. The keto diet should be monitored by a practitioner (for most people), and it should be done for a shorter duration of time.
Are There Side Effects I Should Familiarize Myself with as it Pertains to these Diets?
Yes, as is the case with any diet or weight loss product, there are some side effects that you should understand before you choose whether you’re going to follow the keto diet or the paleo diet. Below are some of the most common side effects that dieters tend to experience when following either of the two diet plans. These are especially common in people who are following the diet for extended periods of time.
The Keto Diet Side Effects
If you’re considering keto for weight loss, there are some common side effects that people who follow this diet do complain of. The keto “flu” is one of the most commonly complained of effects dieters who are new to keto experience. It is the body’s reaction to being placed in a low-carb state, and will typically affect those who are used to consuming a higher carb diet. Many dieters feel flu-like symptoms, which is common when you just start the diet.
Other common side effects include
- Kidney failure/ kidney stones
- Increased urination (due to low electrolytes, magnesium, and potassium)
- Irregular menstrual cycles (women)
- Nutritional deficiencies are also common amongst dieters who follow keto. The primary reason is that you are cutting out major food groups, and you’re placing a primary focus on eating a high-fat diet. This might not be sustainable over time. It can also lead to increases in cholesterol levels, which can cause other health risks for some people.
Some dieters tend to fall into the yo-yo dieting phase if they remain on keto for extended periods of time, although this isn’t something that happens with everyone who goes on the keto diet. Some people also complain of issues with sleep patterns, and decreased bone mass is another common side effect that some people suffer from.
It’s important to note, that these side effects aren’t going to happen to every individual who follows the keto diet. And, in many cases, some are more severe than others. It’s best to speak to your doctor or to partake in this diet under practitioner care if you’re worried about these, or other potential side effects when starting keto.
The Paleo Diet Side Effects
Like the keto diet, there are some common side effects that dieters who partake in the paleo diet also complain of. Similar to the keto diet, the paleo “flu” is a common occurrence or side effect which new dieters will experience. Those who are used to a higher-carb diet, or are consuming processed foods regularly, are going to experience flu-like symptoms once they eliminate these foods from their diet. The duration of these symptoms, and whether or not certain individuals will experience them varies in each case.
In addition to the paleo “flu”, some of the common side effects that dieters experience include
- Low blood sugar
- Bad breath
- Changes in bowel movements/habits
- Lack of energy (early on).
The cravings are common in dieters who are used to consuming a wide range of foods, and those who were eating an extremely unhealthy diet prior to starting the paleo diet. The duration at which dieters will experience these side effects, and whether or not certain individuals will experience them at all, varies on the individual.
Before starting the paleo diet, it is advisable to speak to your doctor or a practitioner to determine if it is right for you. Especially those who suffer from allergies, food intolerances, or other health risks, it’s best to determine if paleo is safe for you to follow and if it is the proper diet for you given your health risks and concerns.
Paleo vs Keto: Which One’s for You?
If you’re trying to figure out which of these two diets is the better approach for you, you first have to determine the goals you have in mind and what you want to accomplish. This will give you a better idea as to which of the two diets is going to provide you the nutrients your body requires, the energy, and drive the results you want to see when following either the paleo diet or the keto diet.
For Vegans and Weight Loss
Keto is a good option if you’re primary goal is to lose weight. When the body is in a state of ketogenesis, it is no longer breaking down glucose. In turn, the body metabolizes fat faster, and burns more calories, even if you’re not engaged in exercise regularly or heavily. So, you’re naturally going to lose weight faster. And, if you are heavier when you’re starting the diet, you’re going to lose even more weight early on when the body goes into a state of ketosis.
Similarly, for vegans, the keto diet is a good option for you to consider. On paleo, you’re going to have a hard time finding viable options with the list of acceptable foods. Although it is tough on keto, you can still utilize tofu and other higher fat options which are vegan-friendly. You’ll have to make certain adjustments and alternative food options, but it is the easier of the two diets if you’re a vegan.
For Clean Eating and Overall Health
If your primary goal is to improve the way you’re eating, improve your digestion, and focus on “clean” eating, then paleo is the superior of the two diet options. Since keto focuses on a higher fat and doesn’t really track what you’re eating, you’re not making the healthiest food choices. Instead, you’re making choices based on high-fat, low-carb foods, which are going to put your body in a state of ketosis. The opposite is true with paleo.
The paleo diet focuses on eating as cleanly as possible, tracking, and choosing foods which our ancestors, or cavemen ate. It places a primary focus on clean, green, lean, and maintaining an arsenal of healthy food choices to consume regularly. You’re going to improve your overall health, you’re going to make better food choices, and you’re going to eliminate processed foods and refined sugars from your diet, from the moment you begin to follow paleo.
Although you aren’t going to lose weight as quickly, the fact that you’re eliminating so many processed foods from your diet on paleo will result in weight loss. And, over time, it is the better option to avoid going on yo-yo diets in the future. You are making a change for the long-term, and are focusing on healthier eating habits for life. With keto, you’re focused on losing weight now, without placing a focus on making healthy, sustainable choices for long-term health and wellness.
Who Should Avoid Keto and Paleo?
Although they are extremely popular choices for dieters who want to lose weight, eat a balanced diet, and focus on improving overall well-being, the keto diet and paleo diet aren’t for everyone. So, which individuals should avoid each of these diets?
There are some people who should not take part in the keto diet for a number of reasons. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not do the keto diet. It can result in developmental issues for their baby. For women who are breastfeeding, the body requires maintenance of carbs, therefore, a diet which eliminates carbs entirely, is not the healthiest or safest option to follow.
Individuals who are on insulin medication, or other hypo-causing medications, are also advised to avoid the keto diet. These medications are designed to increase insulin levels, which in turn lowers blood sugar levels. If you’re on a low-carb diet, this can increase the risk of hypos.
It is important to speak to your doctor before starting keto if you fall into any one of these categories. Additionally, if you suffer from food sensitivities, allergies, or if you’ve done other diets in the past and had issues, you might want to speak to your doctor prior to starting the keto diet. This is to ensure its safe to follow, and won’t cause adverse health risks or complications in the future.
Some individuals who are considering the paleo diet should also think twice before they undertake this restrictive eating plan. Not all diets are designed for, or are safe for, everyone out there. Paleo does suggest it can help lower type II diabetes; however, if you are a type II diabetic, it is important to speak to your doctor prior to starting the diet to ensure it is safe and won’t interfere with any medication that you are taking to treat your diabetes symptoms. Those who are on insulin or other medications to help control blood sugar levels (whether or not you’re diabetic) should also talk to their doctor prior to starting the paleo diet.
Those who suffer from MS, inflammatory diseases or ailments, celiac disease, IBD (irritable bowel), or other autoimmune deficiencies, should also discuss the paleo diet prior to starting it with their doctor. Certain claims have been made that paleo can help minimize the effects associated with these, and other autoimmune conditions; however, there is no direct medical evidence or proof, so it is important to discuss with your doctor whether or not it is safe for you to jump on the paleo bandwagon if you are considering this diet.
If you are at risk of osteoporosis or suffer from low bone density levels, paleo might not be the best option for you. Since there are concerns with Vitamin D levels, and low calcium (no dairy), this diet might further infuriate these conditions and cause them to worsen over time.
Individuals who suffer from chronic health conditions, heart disease, kidney disease, or other ailments, should also discuss with their doctor whether or not paleo is a safe eating pattern for them to follow. For example, with some kidney disorders, ingesting too much protein is dangerous and could further strain the kidneys. Therefore, following a diet which is primarily protein, and high in protein such as paleo, isn’t the best option to consider when you’re deciding which diet to follow.
As is the case with keto, and any other diet you might be considering, you should discuss with your doctor if the paleo diet is healthy and sustainable for yourself over time. Even those who are healthy, workout regularly, and eat cleanly, might not be a good fit for the paleo lifestyle. Your doctor might suggest alternatives, modifications, or might indicate the diet isn’t one you should follow at all. To ensure its safety, your doctor is the best person to help you determine if paleo is a lifestyle you should and can follow safely.
Paleo vs Keto… What’s the Verdict?
The million dollar question(s): Is paleo right for me? Is keto right for me? There are obviously proponents of each of these diets and lifestyles on either side of the aisle. And, with just reasoning. But, for those who want to follow a healthier eating pattern, want sustainability, and want something that they can do for the rest of their lives (rather than a “fad” diet), the paleo vs keto winner is the paleo diet.
Keto is a good option for those who want to burn fat, lose weight quickly, and want to bring their body into a state of fat-burning. Since the body doesn’t have to burn glucose, its primary focus is to target and get rid of fat. This is great for those who have 50 pounds, or more, to lose. However, it is not sustainable. You can’t live off two food groups, and eat such high-fat levels for the rest of your life. It can lead to other health risks and concerns down the road, especially if you suffer from high cholesterol levels or other ailments. If you’re looking for a short-term fix to get rid of weight quickly, then keto might be a good solution and a good starting point.
The paleo diet is a more sustainable approach to eating a well-balanced diet. It has more foods which are nurturing, and it gives the body the nutrients it requires. It focuses on healthy eating and eliminating processed foods and refined sugars. Any doctor or health professional you speak to will say this is something that we should aim to do in our diets, regardless of the diet we follow or foods we choose to consume regularly.
Any dietician or doctor would say that the best diets are those which focus on well-rounded, balanced, and introducing food options in every food group. Although paleo does cut out some food groups altogether, of the two diets, it is the one which offers dieters more food options and groups to choose from, when setting up their meal plan. Furthermore, those who follow this diet will indicate that our ancestors survived to eat this way, and were much healthier, leaner, and had fewer health issues that we suffer from today because of poor food choices we make.
Regardless of which side of the aisle you fall on, there are benefits and drawbacks to both the paleo diet and the keto diet. For those who are considering either of these diets, speaking with your doctor or healthcare practitioner, is the first step to ensure they are right for you. Not only will a doctor help you determine if your body is capable of handling the food choices you’ll make on paleo or keto, but they’ll also help you determine if it’s safe to follow given other health concerns you might have.
Paleo’s the winner of the two diets. But this doesn’t mean keto goes down without putting up a good fight, and that keto doesn’t provide value to some individuals who choose to follow it.