Paleo vs. Keto

Last Update: February 16, 2023

Finding a diet plan that makes sense for your needs takes time, especially when there are so many new eating trends to consider. However, two particular diets that have gained considerable followings seem to be more than just passing fads—the Paleo and ketogenic plans. As time goes on, they’re only growing in popularity. If you’re wondering about the difference between Paleo and keto, we’re here to set the record straight. The former looks to what our ancestors ate to gain insight into our nutritional needs, and the latter relies on bodily chemistry to torch calories. Here’s what you should know about Paleo versus keto.

What Is the Paleo Diet?

Paleo Breakfast Pizza

Sometimes referred to as the neolithic diet, a Paleo diet revolves around the same foods that were available thousands of years ago. That’s why it’s sometimes described as “eating like a caveman.” Paleo eaters stick to foods like meat, fish, berries, tubers, and vegetables in an effort to get back to our ancestral roots. The idea is that our bodies are not evolved enough to properly digest processed food like dairy, grains, and refined sugar, which Paleo followers feel can negatively impact health.

What Are the Benefits of a Paleo Diet?

There are quite a few benefits that come with eating a diet free of processed foods and rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods. For starters, you’re likely to curb hunger since you won’t be worried about calorie counting, and will likely be eating foods that keep you feeling energized and full. Your digestion will also likely benefit—eating a good amount of fruits and vegetables means you get more fiber, which tends to keep things running smoothly.

Paleo Diet Rules

The primary rule of eating a Paleo diet is avoiding any and all foods that aren’t directly sourced from the earth or weren’t consumed by our cavemen ancestors. Here are a few more key Paleo principles:

  • Pile on the protein: You don’t have to only eat meat (a common Paleo misconception), but protein should comprise about 19 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake.
  • Pass on the gluten: Because grains and legumes are processed, they’re no-no’s on the Paleo diet.
  • Say “no” to dairy: Stick to non-dairy alternatives made from nut milks (like coconut, cashew, or almond milk).
  • Focus on non-starchy veggies: Incorporate low-carb, low-glycemic greens that are low in sugar.
  • Fuel up with fiber: Up your fiber intake with fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Enjoy healthy fats: Non-legume nuts, avocados, fatty fish, and grass-fed animals all deliver nutritious omega-3 fats.
  • Stock up on unprocessed foods: Eating real, unprocessed foods will help you monitor ingredients and avoid excess sodium and sugar.
  • Balance acid with alkaline: Counterbalance your intake of high-acid foods like meat and fish with alkaline foods like fruits and veggies.

Paleo Q&A

We’ve got the answers to your most pressing paleo questions.

Are Paleo and keto similar?

Both Paleo and ketogenic diets are growing in popularity and they do have some overlap, so it’s easy to see why some people assume they’re similar. But there are key differences to consider. A Paleo diet allows for more carbs than a keto diet, which is aimed at increasing your ketone levels by upping your daily fat intake and drastically reducing your carbs. Also, most Paleo diets don’t include dairy, while a ketogenic diet may allow certain dairy foods that are low in carbs and high in fat. Finally, it’s important to note that, though it encourages healthy eating, a keto diet doesn’t focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods like a Paleo diet.

Can I lose weight on Paleo?

Yes. Since most of the foods on a Paleo diet are naturally low-calorie and high in fiber and protein, you’re less likely to snack between meals and more likely to stay energized. Keeping your blood sugar stable boosts metabolism and helps you burn calories throughout the day. But as with any diet plan, weight loss depends on several factors, including eating healthy foods in healthy portions and exercising regularly.

Can I eat carbs on Paleo?

One of the most common misconceptions about eating Paleo is that it’s a low-carb diet. Unlike keto, with Paleo, carbs are not highly restricted. But it’s important to stick to nutrient-rich, low-sugar carbs that follow Paleo guidelines. These include:

  • Leafy greens like kale and broccoli
  • Berries
  • Plantains
  • Sweet potatoes (but stay away from all other potatoes)
  • Cassava root (including baked goods made with cassava flour)
  • Taro root
  • Beets
  • Squash
  • Pumpkin

Best Paleo Products

Give your pantry a paleo upgrade with these diet-approved essentials (and find more here).

Thrive Paleo Starter Kit

Kickstart your diet and stock up on nine Paleo must-haves in one kit, including coconut oil, grass-fed beef bone broth, almond butter, coconut wraps, and more.

Thrive Market Savory Paleo Snacks

This zesty blend of nibbles includes green banana chips (which are cooked in coconut oil), cashews, and pecans, all seasoned with turmeric, garlic powder, and sea salt.

Nutpods Hazelnut Dairy-Free Creamer

Yep, you can enjoy creamer on a Paleo diet! The secret is snagging a non-dairy alternative like this one made with coconut cream, almonds, and natural flavors.

Primal Kitchen Garlic Aioli Mayo

This garlic-infused spread includes avocado oil, cage-free eggs, and rosemary for a Paleo-friendly boost of flavor.

Paleo Recipes

Fuel your inner caveman with these wholesome, unprocessed recipes.

Paleo Pancakes

You’ll flip for these! They’re made with coconut flour, coconut oil, raw honey, eggs, and almond milk for the perfect syrup companion.

Sweet Potato Spanish Omelette

Enjoyed as a Paleo breakfast or satisfying lunch, this versatile recipe layers in sweet potatoes, onion, fresh herbs, and freshly grated nutmeg.

Sweet potato tortilla

Cedar Plank Salmon With Grilled Veggie Kabobs

Load up on omegas with this succulent wild-caught salmon, which is marinated in mirin, coconut vinegar, raw honey, and coconut aminos and cooked on a cedar plank for a touch of smokiness.

Salmon kebab

Beef and Broccolini Stir-Fry

Stir-fry recipes are a Paleo staple since they’re loaded with meat and veggies. We like this quick and easy dish made with grass-fed skirt steak, protein-rich bone broth, and hearty broccolini.

Beef and broccolini

Paleo Bacon Cheesecake

Craving a sweet and salty treat that’s also Paleo? Top a pecan, dates, and almond flour crust with a creamy filling of cashews, maple syrup, and bacon bits and a cashew butter caramel sauce.

What Is the Ketogenic Diet?

A ketogenic diet aims to put your body into a fat-burning metabolic state known as ketosis, which involves reducing your daily carb intake to 50 grams or less. As your body burns fat instead of glucose, your liver releases compounds called ketones. The presence of ketones signifies that you’ve entered ketosis.

There are four general types of keto diet plans that are based on categories known as macronutrients or “macros”—fat, protein, and carbohydrates. These include:

  • Standard ketogenic diet (SKG): Breaks down into 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs per day.
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): May include a couple of higher-carb days, while you stick to strict macro ratios the rest of the time.
  • Targeted ketogenic diet (TKG): May redistribute macro ratios depending on your workouts.
  • High-protein ketogenic diet: Adjusts the SKG ratio to 35 percent protein (with 60 percent fat and 5 percent carbs).

Learn more about the history and science behind the the ketogenic diet here.

What Are the Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet?

Whether or not the diet is healthy overall is sometimes debated. Yet keto devotees point to weight loss as the diet’s primary benefit, along with the following perks:

  • May support low blood pressure: A 2013 study on rodents found that a low-carb/high-fat diet was linked to lower blood pressure.
  • May support stable blood sugar levels: Low-carb/high-protein diets have been shown to support more stable blood sugar levels.
  • May improve focus: Studies indicate that the ketogenic diet may be linked to improved mental cognition and memory.

Keto Diet Rules

Ready to go keto? You’ll want to start by selecting the keto plan that works best for your needs. Be sure to speak with a doctor first before choosing a keto nutrition plan. Once you’ve locked in your macro breakdown, here are a few rules to keep in mind:

  • Watch your carbs. Whatever type of keto diet you choose to follow, excess carbs, sugar, and starches will be heavily restricted. This includes grains, processed foods, beans, legumes, vegetable oils, juice, milk, and high-carb nuts (like pistachios and cashews).
  • Not all fruit and veggies make the cut. Try to limit nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers), citrus, and root vegetables.
  • Know your macros. If you’re ever unsure if a food is keto-friendly, opt for nutrient-dense fats, protein, dairy, and most leafy greens.

Keto Q&A

Let’s answer some common keto questions.

What is “keto flu”?

The term “keto flu” refers to a dip in energy level, dizziness, nausea, digestion issues, or muscle soreness that you might experience as your body adapts to ketosis. Symptoms typically subside in a couple days, but it’s important to keep hydrated and increase your intake of electrolytes in the first few days. If symptoms don’t subside or become severe, call your doctor immediately.

What is a keto calculator?

In order to reach a state of ketosis, you’ll need to keep close track of your macros and plan your meals accordingly. That’s where using a nutritional calculator comes in handy. It allows you to measure your macros accurately and ensure you don’t exceed your daily limit for each category.

What is keto coffee?

Also known as “bulletproof coffee,” keto coffee combines freshly brewed coffee, MCT oil, and grass-fed, unsalted butter. It’s low in carbs, high in fat, and made with MCTs that the body can easily into ketones, and also said to help promote sustained energy, improve focus, and ward off hunger cravings. However, research backing these claims is still mixed.

Best Keto Products

Stock up on these keto staples (and find even more here).

Thrive Market Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A perfect player in pretty much any dish, our premium oil is made from 100 percent certified organic Koroneiki olives that are harvested and bottled on a single estate in western Crete.

Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

This pure pantry essential comes from Southeast Asia where fresh coconuts are cold-pressed immediately after harvesting and never bleached, refined, or deodorized.

Wild Planet Albacore Tuna

Every can is of this sustainably caught fresh albacore is packed without added oil, water, or salt for a fresh, clean flavor.

Kettle & Fire Grass-Fed Beef Bone Broth

This warming, protein-packed broth also provides a dose of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

Keto Recipes

Kickstart ketosis with these low-carb, high fat recipes.

Keto Loco Moco

The classic Hawaiian egg dish gets a keto makeover by topping cauliflower rice with hamburger, coconut oil and bone broth gravy, and a rich fried egg.

Keto Carnitas

This killer carnitas recipes seasons pork with a flavorful rub of paprika, cumin, cayenne, and garlic powder and serves it up in a butter lettuce shell.

Keto Pork Chops With Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Tender, juicy, and oh-so-flavorful, these meaty chops are topped with mushrooms cooked in cream, butter, organic spices, savory chicken bone broth, and dry white wine.

Coconut Creamed Spinach With Eggs

Craving a comforting dish? Try this dairy-free spin on an old favorite, which combines spinach, coconut milk, and eggs to bake together in an ovenproof skillet.

Keto Buckeyes

These chocolate-peanut butter bites also include a handful of keto must-haves like MCT oil, erythritol sweetener, and raw coconut butter.

For more, check out our ultimate guide to the keto diet!

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