Keto Diet vs Paleo: Differences and Similarities

by Eric Gordon on October 24, 2019

When you’re trying to decide which diet to use because you want to either lose some weight or get healthier, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the choices that are available today. The keto and paleo diets are very popular right now, and with good reason. Both of these diets are great for losing weight and involve no counting of fat, calories, or any type of points.
While the two diets may seem a lot alike, there are a few subtle differences between them, and learning about those differences is the only way to decide which one is right for you.

Ketone Levels – Why Are They Important?

To understand either of these diets you have to know a little about the ketones in your body. When your glucose level is lower than normal, such as when you haven’t eaten in a while, your body produces ketones. When your body is fueled mostly by ketones and fats – as opposed to carbs – we call this metabolic state nutritional ketosis, and this is the aim of many of today’s diets.
Nutritional ketosis, or having a high number of ketones, produces a lot of healthy benefits to the body, including:
  • Better focus and concentration
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • More stable blood sugar levels
  • Relief of certain disease symptoms, including epilepsy
  • Weight loss

Studies have also shown many promising benefits that ketones have to relieve certain conditions, including conditions such as neurodegenerative diseases and even cancer. Naturally, more studies are needed to confirm these results, but the results so far have been very encouraging.
Therefore, one of the main differences between the keto diet and the paleo diet is the fact that the keto diet has the goal of raising your ketone levels, which can produce many nutritional benefits.

Is the Paleo Diet a Little Healthier Than the Keto Diet?

As opposed to the keto diet, the paleo diet’s main goal is to provide you with foods that offer the most nutritional value while minimizing the bad ingredients that many foods have, including toxins and chemicals. Because the paleo diet is based on what people ate thousands of years ago, it is often called the “caveman’s diet.
It just so happens that the foods people ate a long time ago included a lot of meats and few carbs and sugar, which is why both the paleo and the keto diets follow this theme. With the paleo diet, some things are very important, including:
  • Eating lots of meats, vegetables, healthy oils, and seafood while limiting the number of fruits, nuts, and seeds that you eat.
  • Avoiding all processed food, including grains, legumes, most oils, and any foods with added sugar in them.
Simply put, while the keto diet emphasizes raising ketone levels, the paleo diet concentrates on less processed foods and more whole, all-natural foods. This is only minor by the way. When you think of the keto diet vs. paleo, these are the two main things to consider, and they are important differences. Nevertheless, the two diets are extremely similar in a lot of ways.

Both Emphasize Lower Carbs

Both the keto and paleo diet plans are low-carb plans; however, the keto diet is much lower in carbs than the paleo diet is. The keto diet emphasizes low carbs because that is what helps get people in nutritional ketosis a lot quicker, but the paleo diet emphasizes nutritional value over other aspects, which is why some of the foods on this diet tend to be a little high in carbs.
If you choose keto over paleo, it is good to learn the foods that are allowable on the paleo diet, but which are not allowed on the keto diet. These include:
  • Fruits that are high in sugar, such as bananas, pineapples, grapes, peaches, etc.
  • Sugars such as honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and dried fruits that include raisins, dried mangos, and dates.
  • Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, and squash.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the paleo diet is required to be high in carbs; indeed, both diets work better when fewer carbs are consumed. However, in general the paleo diet allows people a few more carbs than the keto diet does.
Your low-carb diet actually has "Slow Carbs"
Remember that with both of these diets, carbs are not the enemy. However, eating too many carbs can lead to problems such as fatigue, weight gain, problems with blood sugar, and inflammation, among other conditions. In fact, you’ll likely be surprised by how good you feel after being on a low-carb diet for just a short period of time, and this is the reason why.

Keto Diets Can Be Higher in Fat Than Paleo Diets

This is yet another difference between the two types of diets. As a general rule, the keto diet contains more fat than the paleo diet does, even though the paleo diet tends to stress more healthy fats such as avocado oil, ghee, and duck fat, among others. Despite what most of us have heard through the years, our bodies need fat to survive, and the right amounts of the right types of fat can do your body a whole lot of good.
The problem in the past is that people have been consuming not only too much fat, but also the wrong types of fat. However, now that we know about “healthy” fats and the fact that we shouldn’t go overboard on these fats, it should be a lot easier to make the right choices regarding this aspect of the diet.

When to Choose the Paleo Diet Over the Keto Diet

Both the paleo and keto diets are healthy and produce great results, but there are certain instances where the paleo diet might do a dieter more good than the keto diet. For instance, it may be better for someone who is lactose intolerant. There are certain things the paleo diet gets right as opposed to the keto diet, and these include:
  • It eliminates dairy products, which can result in health benefits such as fewer digestive problems, less acne, fewer sinus and congestion problems, and less inflammation in the knees and joints.
  • It avoids low-carb foods that are processed, especially if they contain any type of artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners have been proven to be worse than real sugar because they trick the body and can lead to overeating, which is the opposite of what those on a diet want.
You should think of the keto diet as a version of paleo that is much lower in carbs and a tool you should only use occasionally – such as when you need to lose a small amount of weight or wish to lose weight quickly. When done correctly, both diets can be healthy and even fun to participate in, and knowing the differences between the two types of diets can be beneficial in deciding which one will best meet your needs.

How to Choose the Right Diet

When it comes to the paleo diet vs. keto, it can get a little confusing, but keeping some tips in mind can help you determine which diet is right for you. Some of these tips include:
  • If you only want to lose weight, choose the keto diet.
  • If you want a diet that has a lot of flexibility, you should choose the paleo diet.
  • If mental focus and concentration are your goal, choose the keto diet.
  • If you love sweets and can’t stay away from them, you should choose the keto diet.
  • If you’re trying to be healthier overall, choose the paleo diet.
  • If you need help improving certain medical conditions, choose the paleo diet.
  • If you’re interested in decreasing your blood sugar level and increasing your energy, the keto diet will work best.
Of course, some people actually combine the two diets and alter each of them a little to fit their lifestyle while still accomplishing their goals. This is all right, too, because both the keto and paleo diets are very effective, not to mention adaptable to all sorts of lifestyles.

Each Diet Has Pros and Cons

For both the keto and paleo diets, some precautions should be taken. With the paleo diet, for instance, shrimp and pork are emphasized, but both of these foods can be unhealthy. Paleo dieters, in fact, sometimes eat too much meat, or they don’t eat meats that are grass-fed and grown correctly. Yes, both of these diets allow you to eat meat of all types, but it is still best if you choose the healthier meats and not eat too much of them in the long run.
On the other hand, the keto diet also has its drawbacks. As with the paleo diet, it is recommended that you stick with healthier meats, such as the antibiotic-free or organic meats. If you currently have a medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you should not start the keto diet without an approval from your physician. In addition, you should also watch for things such as fatigue or a brain fog that lasts more than a week, because this can spell trouble for your overall health and fitness level.
If you place a child on any type of low-carb diet, particularly the keto diet, that child should be monitored closely. When you first look at the list of allowable foods for both the keto and paleo diets, it can seem that it is an unhealthy or even dangerous diet, but if followed with a little common sense, it will be anything but.
Make sure your meats are as healthy as possible and that you never include too much sodium or fat. Regardless of which diet you end up choosing, it is important that you include the following items in the diet:
  • Protein, in particular free-range poultry, antibiotic-free beef, and grass-fed dairy products.
  • Healthy fats that include sprouted nuts and seeds, avocado, coconut oil, and flax seeds.
  • Fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy vegetables, some fruits, and natural seasonings such as oregano, basil, and thyme.
In other words, you can make any of the low-carb diets a lot healthier with very little effort, and it all starts in the grocery store when you’re shopping for your weekly meal plans.

Breaking it Down Simply

Now that we’ve gone into detail about the keto and paleo diets, here are some easy ways to remember the differences between the two:
  • Artificial sweeteners: keto = allowed; paleo = not allowed
  • Carbs: keto = lower carbs; paleo = higher carbs allowed
  • Dairy foods: keto = dairy allowed; paleo = dairy prohibited
  • Fat: keto = higher fat; paleo = lower fat
  • Fruits: keto = only low-sugar fruits such as berries; paleo = all fruits allowed
  • Focus: keto = achieving ketosis; paleo = consuming nutrient-dense foods
  • Legumes and nuts: keto = limited use; paleo = all are allowed
You’ll also notice that on certain diets – for example, the Atkins plan, which is a type of keto diet – it is suggested that you go at least two weeks or so limiting yourself to 20 carbs per day. This is not a lot of carbs, but that plan will help jump-start your dieting and enable you to lose a lot of weight during those two weeks.
In the end, both the keto and paleo diets are effective and will help you lose weight, but if you have a particular food that you can’t live without, it is good to check out the details of both of these plans because this may help you decide which one is best for you in the end.