We’ve all been in line behind that one person who orders a burger — lettuce wrapped, with extra cheese, bacon, and avocado ... or have seen that girl who ordered a cranberry-apple-walnut salad send it back to the chef because she specifically asked for it with no feta cheese or croutons. No matter where you are, you’re sure to have seen these two diets — Keto and Paleo — taking over restaurants and your social media feed. So what in the grain-less world is the difference?
Both diets seem to preach amazing results: They are said to lower blood sugar levels and enhance weight loss by eliminating sugar, grains, peas or beans, and processed foods (AKA candy, white rice, dough, cereal, etc.). So when it comes time to try a new lifestyle change, how do you know which one is best for you?
First, you should think of your body as a hybrid car that can run on two sources of energy: carbs and fats. Carbs — potatoes, bread, sugar, and grains — are your body’s primary fuel source or your body’s “gasoline.” When consumed, these carbs break down into glucose, spike your insulin levels, and provide your body with energy. However, when consumed in large amounts, they can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and various other health-related issues.
The Keto Diet, also known as the Ketogenic Diet, focuses on making your hybrid engine run only on its secondary fuel source — fats, which can be considered the “electric” part of your hybrid vehicle. To make this transition, the majority of your diet must contain a minimal amount of carbs and a large number of healthy fats such as avocados, oil, whole eggs, cheese, and meats — so a big bowl of ravioli won’t be on your dinner menu. By restricting carbohydrates to a bare minimum — and we mean bare minimum — and increasing fats, your body is forced to turn to its secondary fuel source and burn its stored fat for energy.
If you are a first-time dieter, the Keto Diet may be a bit challenging to grasp. In order to make sure your body is burning fat for energy, or in a state called “ketosis,” your diet must consist of around 75% fats, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. This means you have to be strict on your carb and protein consumption and track every gram you eat — even one piece of broccoli. If too many grams of carbs or protein are eaten, you can spike your insulin levels and knock your body out of ketosis. For that reason, it is important to test your ketone levels to make sure you haven’t knocked your body out of ketosis. All in all, if you have already been eating a pretty low-carb diet, don’t care too much for high-carb foods, and are used to monitoring your meals, Keto will be pretty easy for you.
The Paleo Diet — or what your grandparents would call the “caveman diet” — consists of all the foods that a hunter and gatherer would’ve eaten. So say goodbye to your Cheerios and Frappuccinos, and say hello to seeds and nuts, grass-fed meats, fish and poultry, eggs, fruit, vegetables, and natural healthy fats!
Instead of limiting carbs to 5% like in the Keto Diet, Paleo is much more relaxed and allows 22 to 40% of your diet to consist of carbs, with unlimited amounts of non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits. If you are not used to tracking macros, Paleo would be a great place to start because it does not have a strict limit on the percentage of macronutrients you can consume, but focuses rather on the typesof foods in your diet.
Below is a list to demonstrate the foods allowed for each diet:
If you love cheese omelets or Greek yogurt, you will have to find non-dairy alternatives to live a Paleo lifestyle. While Keto allows dairy as a protein and fat source, Paleo dieters won’t have milk, cheese, or yogurt as part of their diets. They can, however, include butter since it is loaded with saturated fat and has a minimal amount of lactose. By eliminating dairy, most Paleo dieters will experience many benefits such as improved digestion and clearer skin. So why is it approved for the Keto Diet?
Although it is approved, not all dairy is created equal on the Keto Diet. Some dairy, such as milk and yogurts, are loaded with carbs and should obviously be avoided to remain in ketosis. Consuming large amounts of dairy — especially cheese — may result in an upset stomach and uncomfortable bloating, so if your stomach is sensitive to dairy, it may be best to get your fats and protein from other sources such as meats and oils.
In a nutshell, macronutrients play a different role in both the Keto and Paleo diets. While Paleo does not require intense macro tracking, it does focus on eliminating grains, sugars, and dairy, which can result in weight loss and improved overall health. Keto, on the other hand, is dependent on a very low-carb, very high-fat diet, which can also lead to rapid weight loss, improved brain and body function, and lowered risks for various diseases, including heart disease, depression, and inflammatory disease. Both diets offer many benefits; however, many first-time dieters who are used to eating pasta every night and are leaving this article thinking, “What in the world is a macronutrient?,” may want to test the waters with Paleo before transitioning to a stricter diet such as Keto.
Just prepare yourself for the awkward stares next time you’re at a restaurant ordering a lettuce-wrapped Angus burger with bacon and avocado or spending half of your lunch break picking the croutons off your cranberry-apple-walnut salad.