There’s no shortage of diet trends out there, but two of the most popular among health-conscious eaters these days are paleo and keto. Both purport to have anti-inflammatory benefits, and while there's some overlap between them, these two approaches to eating are actually quite distinct.
Just the Facts: What Are Keto and Paleo?
We can get a lot of information on the key differences between these diets just by examining their names.
The Paleo Diet
The paleo diet gets its name from the Paleolithic Era. Inspired by the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors, paleo puts emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods.
On the paleo diet, people are encouraged to consume grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Dairy products, alcohol, and grains are off the table, as are legumes like beans and peanuts, artificial sweeteners, and processed meats like bacon. The result is a diet heavy in whole foods whose only real downside is an occasional tendency to be overly meat-heavy (unless you opt for Dr. Mark Hyman's pegan diet, a portemanteau of paleo and vegan).
The Keto Diet
The keto or ketogenic diet gets its name from ketosis, a metabolic state where the body uses ketone bodies instead of glucose as a principal energy source. Studies have shown that getting most of our energy from these molecules, which are produced by the liver in times of fasting, can help prevent cognitive decline and risk factors for metabolic disease.
The keto diet essentially forces the body into a state of ketosis by severely reducing carbohydrate intake and upping fat intake: most keto proponents aim to get between 60 and 75 percent of their daily calories from fat, with 15 to 30 percent coming from protein and a mere 5 to 10 of their calories coming from carbs.
Many keto proponents also rely heavily on intermittent fasting, touted by many as the easiest and most efficient way to enter into and maintain a state of ketosis.
The Major Differences Between Keto and Paleo
Keto and paleo have some overlap, but there are quite a few major differences between them.
1. The Dairy Question
Dairy is not allowed on paleo, but many keto proponents do include it in their diet, reaching for fat-rich butter, cream, and cheese to fulfill their daily fat intake requirements.
2. Where’s the Fruit?
Paleo proponents are free to enjoy unlimited quantities of fruits and vegetables, but because of keto's the tight restriction on carbs, it’s pretty tough to enjoy any fruit aside from berries on this diet.
3. Vegetable Oils Are Out
Vegetable oils are welcome on the keto diet, but with the exception of avocado oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil, they’re verboten on paleo.
Paleo and Keto Fusion: The Ultimate Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The differences between keto and paleo are far outweighed by similarities – at least, as long as a healthful approach is taken to these diets.
Many keto dieters follow a far from an ideal version of this eating protocol. Do a quick Google search for keto recipes, and you’ll discover tons of bacon- and cheese-laden fat bombs that follow the letter of the keto diet without actually being terribly healthy at all.
On paleo, meanwhile, the temptation to imitate the stereotype of a meat-eating caveman can lead to people consuming far too much meat than is healthy or necessary.
The healthiest of all approaches may, in fact, be to combine them, reaping the whole food mentality of paleo and the high-fat content of keto for the ultimate anti-inflammatory diet.
1. No Dairy
Inflammatory for most, taking dairy off the table (as required by paleo) is a game-changer. On a fusion diet, people who would be relying on butter or cheese for their fat intake instead look to creamy avocado, nuts, or coconut oil for these calories.
2. Whole Foods Only
The paleo requirement to eat only whole foods eradicates processed fillers from a junkier approach to the keto diet. Instead, a focus on low-carb whole foods – especially low-carb vegetables like leafy greens – forms the bulk of this fusion diet.
3. Small Quantities of Quality Meat
The paleo requirement to eat high-quality, grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish, compounded with the moderate protein threshold of keto, results in a diet where folks are consuming small amounts of high-quality meats.
4. High-Quality Cooking Fats
Paleo permits only three vegetable oils: avocado, coconut, and olive. Instead, many paleo eaters rely on high-quality animal fats, like those produced by FatWorks, for cooking and even for making salad dressings. Using these high-quality fats will help keto dieters up their calories from fat with ease.
5. No Grains
While keto doesn’t actually preclude folks from eating grains, its low carb threshold makes consuming them almost impossible. The fruits and vegetables that you need to get adequate vitamins and minerals quickly use up your entire carb threshold, so cutting these out of your diet, as required by paleo, is the best option.
6. No Potatoes
If grains are out, so are potatoes: white potatoes are not allowed on paleo, and the carb threshold is too high for them to be welcome on a healthy keto diet either.
7. No Artificial Sweeteners
Many junky keto recipes rely heavily on artificial sweeteners, but paleo doesn’t allow them, and neither should a healthy keto diet.
8. No Processed or Cured Meats
Bacon is a no-no on paleo, and it really isn't the best choice on keto either. Dubbed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization, processed meats like bacon, salami, and cured ham just aren't worth the risk.
9. Intermittent Fasting
This technique touted far and wide by keto dieters should be incorporated into a fusion diet as well. Intermittent fasting has been proven to significantly reduce inflammation and eases your body into a state of ketosis far more quickly, allowing you to reap the benefits of both diets as soon as possible.