Keto or Paleo: Which Diet is Right for You?

Keto or Paleo? This question has become more common as both diets have surged in popularity over the past decade. [1][2]

But the fact is neither diet is universally better than the other. To determine the “better option,” you need to identify which plan is best suited to help you hit your goals.
“So, which diet will help me hit my goals?” you ask.

To help you answer that, we’ll need to dive into details. Let’s explore whether keto or Paleo is right for you!

Intro to the Keto Diet

Keto or Paleo: Which Diet is Right for You?
A standard keto diet consists of low-carb, high-fat foods.

What is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a very low-carb, high fat diet designed to put your body into the metabolic state known as ketosis. In ketosis, your liver produces raised levels of “ketones” through the digestion of fat. Typically, glucose is your body and brain’s primary fuel source, but it can be replaced by ketones in the absence of glucose. When in ketosis, your body relies on fat as the primary fuel source.
A typical breakdown of macros for people on the keto diet is 75% fat, 20% protein and less than 5% of calories from carbohydrates. On a 2000-calorie diet, this translates to roughly 166 grams of fat, 100 grams of protein, and less than 25 grams of carbohydrates. This version is referred to as the “standard keto diet“ and is the most researched style of the keto diet. [3]

Avocado Keto or Paleo

What Foods Can I eat on the Keto Diet?

At first, shopping for keto-friendly foods can be challenging. As with any eating style, you want your food to come from healthy sources. To help you get started, here’s a breakdown of foods that align with the keto diet!
Consume large amounts of fat from sources, such as:

  • Avocados
  • Olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil
  • Clarified butter and ghee
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp hearts

Moderate sources of protein:

  • Grass-fed meat
  • Poultry
  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, anchovies and sardines
  • Eggs

Minimal amounts of carbohydrates from sources such as:

  • Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli
  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale and endive
  • Zucchini
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Cucumber
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Berries (sparingly)

What Can I eat Pasta?

What Foods Do I Have to Give Up?

While you can virtually eat any food on the keto diet, sticking to low-carb, keto-friendly meals makes hitting your macronutrient goals easier! Below is a list of foods that you can choose to cut or eat in minimal portions.
Foods to eat sparingly on the keto diet:

  • Assorted fruit
  • Grains and starches like oats, corn, quinoa, flour and rice
  • Root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beets and turnip
  • Grain products like cereals, bread, pasta, granola, muesli and crackers
  • Legumes like beans, peas and lentils
  • Sweeteners like cane sugar, honey, maple syrup and corn syrup
  • Sweetened drinks
  • Sweetened sauces & dips like ketchup, barbeque sauce and some salad dressings

What are the Pros & Cons?

While further research is needed to better understand the possible health benefits and risks of the keto diet, studies have shown that the keto diet may help:

  • Aid in weight loss [4]
  • Reduce acne if irritated by processed and refined carbohydrates [5]
  • Reduce cancer risk [6]
  • Increase HDLs (good cholesterol) while decreasing [7]
  • Provide neuroprotective benefits in conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

While the keto diet may boast several potential health benefits, these should be weighed against the possible risks and complications that can potentially occur, such as:

  • Constipation
  • Kidney stone formation
  • The risk of nutrient deficiencies
  • Social isolation and the potential risk of disordered eating

Intro to the Paleo Diet


What is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet, (aka the Caveman Diet) is based around the idea that the human body’s nutritional needs don’t align with modern diets, food processing and agricultural practices. In essence, Paleo mimics the way early humans ate during the Paleolithic era, which dates back 10,000 to 2.5 million years ago. If you could hunt for it or gather it, it’s Paleo-approved!

Consuming non-Paleo food that uses modern farming techniques is believed to contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Because Paleo focuses on ingredients, not nutrients, it allows you to decide how many carbs, protein and fat you want to consume!



What Foods Can I eat on the Paleo Diet?

The easiest way to decide if a food is Paleo-approved is to ask whether you could find it in nature via hunting or gathering. While the specific guidelines for some Paleo plans can vary, most agree that a sound plan for the Caveman Diet should include the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Oils from fruits and nuts


What Foods Do I Have to Give up?

As a general rule of thumb, if farming is required to produce a particular food, there’s a solid chance it doesn’t meet the parameters of the Paleo diet. Here is a quick list of common foods to avoid:

  • Grains such as wheat, oats and barley
  • Legumes
  • Dairy products
  • Refined sugar
  • Potatoes

What are the Pros & Cons?

Research has compared the Paleo diet to the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and other food patterns. Because of the emphasis on high-fiber fruits and veggies and lean proteins, the Caveman Diet’s health benefits may include:

  • Potential weight loss
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Lower rates of inflammation

Paleo has the potential to be very healthy, but like any eating pattern, it can still carry some risk factors, including:

  • May lead to deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D (critical for bone health)
  • Decreased consumption of the B vitamins, magnesium and selenium, from cutting out grains

How to Decide Between Keto & Paleo


Assess Your Goals

With any change you make in nutrition, assessing your short- and long-term goals is essential before choosing a plan. For example, if you are an athlete training for strength, the Paleo diet would give you more flexibility to increase your protein intake. However, if you need to improve your blood sugar, the keto diet may be your best bet. Just be sure to consult your doctor first.
To get started, jot down your top health and nutrition goals. Compare them to the benefits and restrictions both plans provide to help make an educated decision.

Your social life should also be considered when selecting a diet plan.

Assess Your Lifestyle

While it’s essential to understand your goals, aligning your eating habits with your lifestyle is key to following a sustainable plan.
Are there foods that you do not feel comfortable excluding?
Will it impact your social life?
Does the plan fit your budget?
While these factors may not seem like an essential part of the decision-making process, they can make or break your ability or desire to stick with the plan! So, be sure to think them through!

Other Nutrition Plans to Consider

While Paleo and keto are all the rage right now, countless other diets may work better for you depending on your goals and lifestyle. To help you decide, here are a few plans you may want to consider:


Plant-Based Diet

Whole-food, plant-based diets focus primarily on foods derived from plants with very little processing and minimally refined ingredients. Research shows that following a plant-based diet may further reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.


Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet emerged as a leading heart-healthy diet plan when it was observed that Mediterranean countries had some of the lowest deaths from heart disease. The Mediterranean diet focuses on daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy fats, fatty fish, moderate intake of dairy and limited intake of red meat



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written by

James Gardikas

James Gardikas

Contributing Writer