5 Key Differences Between Keto and Paleo Diets

Before getting to the differences, let first take a quick look at what paleo and keto diets are. Understanding the similarities and differences between will help you identify which one is better for you. This will also give you an idea how to combine both and customize your diet plan which may be far more effective than following just one of them.

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet can be called a lifestyle choice with a focus on eating quality foods that support digestive health. Afterall it is said that health begins in the gut. Grains and legumes are eliminated in this diet due to their phytic acid content. Dairy and dairy products are also not recommended on a Paleo diet as most people find it difficult to digest its lactose content.

Some paleo enthusiasts still include ghee, grass-fed butter, and yogurt. A Paleo diet can be quite therapeutic for gut health, autoimmune conditions, blood sugar balance and weight loss since it eliminates the foods that are difficult to digest.

The Keto Diet

The Keto diet is one of the best diets of fat burning and rapid weight loss. Accelerated weight loss is promoted in a ketogenic diet when the body enters a metabolic state called ketosis which enables it to burn fat more efficiently. The keto diet has been found to help treat seizures, cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease as well as medical conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Carbs are heavily restricted in a keto diet so that the body can burn fat instead of its preferred fuel source, glucose. The switches the body into a fat burning mode to produce ketones and it eventually turns to the stored body fat for more fuel.

The Common Factors in Keto and Paleo Diets


The similarities between the two are what helps a person customize a keto plan to make it more paleo friendly. So let’s look at what these similarities are:

  • No refined sugar
  • No grains
  • No legumes
  • Emphasis on healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, animal fats, coconut oil
  • Emphasis on grass-fed, organic, quality animal protein
  • Emphasis on having lots of non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens

The Key Differences between Paleo and Keto Diet

Despite these similarities, keto and paleo are very different diets. Paleo is not restrictive or intense as the Keto diet. A Keto diet is not easy to sustain over the years as it is more rigorous and targeted. The Paleo diet, on the other hand, is a long-term lifestyle choice aimed at producing many health benefits, including weight loss

1. The Paleo Diet Isn’t Necessarily Low-Carb or High-Fat

Though Paleo does restrict the type of carbohydrates consumed [grain, legumes, sugars], it does not restrict the amounts consumed.  There is no limit to the amount of starchy vegetables you can eat, such as sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Fruits are plentiful in the diet. You can also have natural sweeteners like raw honey, coconut nectar, and pure maple syrup. The problem is that these are all quite high in carbs.

So even if you are on a Paleo diet, 60 to 80% of your dietary intake can be from fruits and starchy vegetables and your intake of fats may be as low as 10%. This means you will continue to burn glucose for energy, rather than ketones. If you can intentionally lower your carbs low enough to enter ketosis, then a paleo diet offers some great suggestions to make the keto diet even healthier.

2. No Dairy Restrictions in Keto

Our bodies produce lactase, an enzyme needed for digesting lactose. But as we grow older, lactase production ceases and it completely ceases in some people, making them lactose-intolerant.

While a Paleo diet restricts milk and its products due to their lactose content, full-fat dairy products are usually encouraged in a keto diet. The carb content in the milky ranges from about 11.3 to 11.9 grams per cup. Heavy cream or full-fat milk has a higher percentage of fat when compared to its carb content. But this does not apply to skimmed milk. So those following a ketogenic should include milk and milk products with maximum fat content.

3. The Keto Diet Measures Fat, Protein, and Carb Percentage

A paleo diet has no rules regarding food combinations or the amounts of each type. But Keto diets have very specific rules if you wish to enter ketosis. On the Standard Keto Diet (SKD), the recommended macronutrient percentages are 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carb.

So as longs you stick to these percentages and choose foods that are keto friendly, you can still follow a paleo diet and still lose weight while enjoying the benefits offered by both types of diets.

4. The Keto Diet Requires Testing for Ketosis.

As long as you have cut out refined sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy, you are on track with a Paleo diet. No tests are required to confirm this as there is no specific metabolic goal. But if you are on a ketogenic diet, you need to undergo regular tests to confirm you are in ketosis and is maintaining that metabolic state.

There are several methods to detect ketone bodies which result from the fatty acid metabolism. Urine tests are the most popular among these. Ketone urine testing strips are the easiest way to test for ketones in urine. But the amount of water intake and the time period spent in ketosis may affect the urine test strip results. A dark purple color indicates ketosis if you are new to the ketogenic diet. But, if you’ve been on keto for several months, the color might be much lighter.

5. The Keto Diet Focuses on a Specific Outcome: Burning Fat instead of Carbs.

The primary difference between the Keto and Paleo diets is that the desired outcome of the Keto diet is to burn fat instead of carbs. The Paleo diet does not aim to lose weight by burning fat, instead, the weight loss, if any, occurs due to carb burning.

In a keto diet you may lose weight as the carb intake is low, but as long as the primary fuel source remains carb, you will not enter ketosis. Ensuring your carb intake is low enough to trigger ketosis will manipulate your metabolism and accelerate fat loss.


A keto diet, though restrictive and difficult to incorporate into busy lifestyles, can produce the most dramatic results for weight loss. The Paleo diet is less restrictive compared to the keto diet. It leads to gradual, but steady weight loss results with added benefits for gut and digestive health. Combining both takes immense discipline and willpower, but the result, as can be expected, will be worth every ounce of that effort.

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