Difference Between Paleo and Keto Diets

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on February 20, 2024
4 min read

If you’re looking to change your lifestyle, you may be searching for healthy diets. Paleo and keto diets are popular right now. They both focus on limiting what you eat and being more mindful of your food choices. ‌

The paleo diet is based on what humans ate during the Paleolithic era – about 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. 

If you’re going to try the paleo diet, you’ll eat a lot of meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. This diet is believed to be beneficial for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular health. It has also been shown to regulate your blood sugar

The keto diet focuses on high-fat foods, enough protein, and limiting your carbohydrate intake. If you’re trying the keto plan you’ll want to follow the 60% fat, 30% protein, and 10% carbohydrates plan, based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. 

The keto diet was first used to treat seizures. It was designed to be a therapeutic diet, but it has since grown in popularity for its quick weight loss effects. For this diet you’ll eat foods like fatty fish, eggs, dairy, meat, butter, oils, nuts and seeds, and low-carb vegetables. 

If you’re looking for a diet to help you eat less processed foods, the paleo diet might work. Benefits of trying the paleo diet include: 

Eating less processed foods. The biggest selling point of the paleo diet is its insistence on cutting out processed foods. There are negative health effects linked to eating these foods. 

Weight loss. One of the main benefits of the paleo diet is fast weight loss. Studies have shown that by following this plan you’re likely to see a body mass index (BMI) decrease and a waist size reduction. 

Cardiovascular health. Some studies have shown that the paleo diet lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. Since the paleo diet helps you lose weight and decrease BMI, your blood pressure and total cholesterol levels are reduced. 

Blood sugar regulation. Restricting dairy, refined sugar, and carbohydrates from your diet can help regulate your blood sugar and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Like most diets, there are some things you should watch out for when trying the paleo diet. 

High cost. Buying whole foods can be much costlier than their processed counterparts that have been frozen or canned. 

Nutrient deficiencies. Cutting out all grains and legumes leaves you without enough B vitamins like thiamine, folate, niacin, and riboflavin. You might be most at risk for not getting enough calcium or vitamin D. 

High meat intake. The paleo diet requires you to eat more meat. Studies have linked eating more red meat to health risks. These risks include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and an increased risk of death. 

Benefits of the keto diet include: 

Weight loss. On the keto diet, you’ll be eating foods high in fat. These types of food make you feel full for longer. There are weight loss effects when you are in ketosis – a state in which your body uses stored fat for energy instead of blood sugar. 

Effects on certain conditions. If you have epilepsy or another neurological disorder, your doctor might prescribe the keto diet. Studies have shown that the keto diet can reduce seizures. There are also emerging studies that show benefits for people with Parkinson’s disease

Some of the potential cons of the keto diet include: 

Not enough nutrients. Like the paleo diet, you’re cutting out specific foods. By eliminating grains and most fruits, you may not get enough selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C. 

Liver and kidney problems. Metabolizing the fat in this diet can be hard on your liver. The level of protein can be difficult for your kidneys to metabolize. If you already have liver or kidney problems, this diet can make them worse. 

Fuzziness and unclear thoughts. Your brain uses healthy carbohydrates to function. If it doesn’t get the amount it needs to function well, you may feel confused or irritable. 

The keto diet is not recommended for people with: 

  • Pancreatic disease
  • Thyroid problems
  • Eating disorders or a previous eating disorder
  • Gallbladder disease, or who have had their gallbladder removed

When deciding on the best diet for you, think about what’s sustainable. You should talk to your doctor or nutritionist about the right diet plan for you.  

The paleo diet can be healthy by getting you to focus on the current processed foods you’re eating. However, it’s a starting point. Eating a lot of fatty meats can have the opposite effect. 

If the keto diet interests you more, make sure you’re keeping your doctor in the loop. You should focus on a healthy balance of the foods available to you.