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A variety of protein-rich foods including ribeye steak, salmon fillet, avocados, nuts, green beans, tomatoes, garlic, and cheese.

What's the Difference Between the Keto and Paleo Diets?

Sometimes it can feel that no matter where you look, there’s a new diet promising to bring you better health or to help you shed those stubborn last few pounds. In recent years, keto and paleo have been two of these diets, earning themselves a loyal following. But what does it mean to be keto or paleo, and what are the key differences between these two diets? Let’s take a look. 

Historical Context and Origins

The keto diet, short for ketogenic, was originally developed in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy. Researchers discovered that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet could help reduce seizures in patients. Over time, the diet gained popularity for its weight loss benefits and potential therapeutic effects for various conditions.

The paleo diet, also known as the Paleolithic diet, was popularized in the 1970s by gastroenterologist Dr. Walter L. Voegtlin. It’s based on the idea of eating like our prehistoric ancestors, focusing on whole foods that would have been available to early humans.

What is a Keto Diet?

A keto diet is a very low carbohydrate diet that is designed to put the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. In ketosis, the body begins to burn fat as its primary energy source, which can help participants to shed weight while still enjoying high-fat foods such as butter, cheese, eggs, and oil. To enter ketosis, dieters aim to eat as few carbohydrates as possible, typically obtaining just 5% of their daily calories from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, and 75% from fats. Unlike the Atkins diet, which allows participants to slowly increase their carb intake over time, on the keto diet, dieters must keep their carbs as low as possible; otherwise, they risk throwing themselves out of ketosis. 

Besides eating minimal carbohydrates and consuming most of their calories from fat sources, there are no other rules about what you can and can’t eat on the keto diet. 

A wooden board with various keto-friendly foods including avocado, nuts, berries, salmon, egg, shrimp, and cheese, with text showing the macronutrient focus of the keto diet.

Benefits and Drawbacks

The keto diet has several benefits, including rapid weight loss, improved mental clarity, and enhanced energy levels. Some studies also suggest it may help manage conditions like type 2 diabetes and epilepsy. However, the diet can be challenging to maintain due to its restrictive nature. Potential side effects include the "keto flu," a collection of symptoms that occur as the body adjusts to ketosis, and nutrient deficiencies if not properly managed

What is a Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet, nicknamed the caveman diet, doesn’t restrict certain macronutrients but instead requires participants to stick to food groups that would have been available to early humans. By mimicking the eating style of paleolithic hunter-gatherers, the paleo diet aims to help participants lose weight by reducing their consumption of processed foods and improving gut health. 

On the paleo diet, grains, legumes, processed sugar, and most dairy sources are prohibited, while unprocessed meat and fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, selected fats, and minimally processed sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup are encouraged. If you're thinking of trying the paleo diet, check out our Beginners Paleo Meal Plan! This beginner-friendly guide provides a week-long meal plan filled with delicious recipes that make adopting the paleo lifestyle easy and enjoyable.

A variety of Paleo-friendly foods including fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and meats, with a chalkboard sign labeled "Paleo".

Benefits and Drawbacks

The paleo diet promotes the consumption of nutrient-dense whole foods, which can lead to improved health and weight loss. It also encourages a balanced lifestyle that includes physical activity and mindfulness. However, it can be difficult to follow due to the exclusion of common food groups like grains and legumes. Additionally, the emphasis on meat can be expensive and environmentally unsustainable for some people.

Are There Similarities Between Paleo and Keto?

While paleo and keto may seem to have little in common at first glance, there are several similarities between the two diets. Both diets encourage a focus on whole foods, eliminate grains and legumes, restrict sugar intake, and emphasize the importance of healthy fats. The main difference between paleo and keto is that paleo focuses more on ideology while keto focuses on macronutrients. While the paleo diet encourages a way of eating and activities outside of the diet, such as exercise and mindfulness, keto is more about sticking within very specific macronutrient ranges. Dieters on the paleo diet can still consume unlimited quantities of carbohydrates so long as they’re not from prohibited sources. 

Which Is Better - The Paleo Diet or the Keto Diet?

Both the paleo and keto diets are healthy diet options and have proven themselves to be effective at helping participants lose or maintain a healthy weight. When it comes to choosing the diet that is right for you, the paleo diet is often easier to follow as it requires less food restriction. Greater freedom of choice helps to make the paleo diet more sustainable in the long term, but that’s not to say that a longer-term keto diet isn’t achievable with planning and education.

Scientific Evidence and Expert Opinions

Numerous studies have explored the benefits of both diets. Research shows that the keto diet can be effective for rapid weight loss and managing conditions like type 2 diabetes. A study published in the Nutrients found that ketogenic diets can help reduce insulin resistance and improve metabolic health.

Similarly, the paleo diet has been associated with improved metabolic markers and weight loss. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that participants on the paleo diet had significant reductions in waist circumference and improved cholesterol levels.


In conclusion, both the keto and paleo diets offer unique approaches to healthy eating and weight management. Your choice should depend on your lifestyle, dietary preferences, and health goals. Whether you prioritize the macronutrient precision of keto or the holistic approach of paleo, both diets can be adapted to fit your needs. Consider consulting with a healthcare professional to find the best fit for you.

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