Keto Diet vs Paleo Diet: Which Low-Carb Diet is Best for You?


The keto and paleo diets are two of the most popular low-carb diets on the market today. Both emphasize eating fewer carbs, more protein, and high amounts of healthy fats.

The keto diet aims to get your body into a state of ketosis, where you burn fat for fuel instead of carbs.

The paleo diet focuses on eating like our Paleolithic ancestors did back in the Stone Age.

But with so many similarities, which low-carb diet is best? This article will compare the keto and paleo diets, weighing out their pros and cons to help you decide which eating plan is right for you.

Keto Diet vs Paleo Diet: Which Low-Carb Diet is Best for You?

Main Differences Between Keto and Paleo

While both diets limit carbs, there are some key differences in their food choices and primary goals:

Foods Allowed

While both diets emphasize meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil, they differ significantly in their carb sources:

Keto allows low carb foods like non-starchy veggies, avocado, berries, plain Greek yogurt. Grains, legumes, root veggies, and most fruits are eliminated.

Paleo allows more carbs from fruits, starchy veggies, and sweet potatoes, but eliminates all grains, beans, dairy, processed foods, and refined sugar.

Ketosis Focus of Keto

The main goal of keto is to reach and maintain ketosis, where your body is burning fat for fuel. This requires keeping net carbs under 50g per day. Ketone levels are monitored.

Paleo Focuses on Ancestral Eating

Paleo dieters aim to eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors did in the Paleolithic era. This means choosing foods that could be hunted or gathered. There is no specific ketosis goal.

Benefits of the Keto Diet

The keto diet provides the following health benefits:

Weight loss

The Keto diet can be an effective way to lose weight, particularly in the short-term. By reducing your carbohydrate intake and increasing your fat intake, your body enters a state of ketosis, which can lead to rapid weight loss.

Improved blood sugar control

The Keto diet may be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. By reducing your carbohydrate intake, you can lower your blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

Reduced inflammation

The Keto diet may help reduce inflammation in the body, which is associated with a variety of chronic diseases.

Reduced risk of heart disease

The Keto diet may help reduce your risk of heart disease by improving your cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Reduced risk of certain cancers

Some studies suggest that the Keto diet may help reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, including brain cancer and breast cancer.

Reduced Hunger

Keto diets lead to reduced hunger due to increased satiety from protein and healthy fats, and the appetite-suppressing effect of ketosis. This leads to less overall calorie intake.

Improved Mental Focus

Ketones produced during ketosis provide a steady supply of energy for the brain. This can improve focus, concentration, and mental clarity in those following keto.

Disease Prevention

Keto may help prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome due to its effects on insulin, blood sugar, and belly fat.

Drawbacks of the Keto Diet

However, the keto diet also comes with some potential downsides to consider:

Difficult to Maintain Long-Term

Carb restriction to under 50g daily can be challenging to stick to long-term. Cycling in and out of ketosis is an option to make keto more sustainable.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Without careful planning, long-term keto may lead to deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and fiber due to food restrictions. Supplements can prevent this.

Keto Flu Side Effects

When starting keto, some experience “keto flu” with headaches, fatigue, cramps, and other flu-like symptoms triggered by the transition from carbs to ketones for energy.

Benefits of the Paleo Diet

Switching to a paleo diet provides these benefits:

Weight Loss

Like keto, paleo can lead to significant weight loss and reduced body fat. Eating protein-rich meals with produce keeps you feeling full.

Blood Sugar Regulation

The natural, low-carb foods eaten on paleo help keep blood sugar stable. This is beneficial for those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.

Increased Satiety

Protein and fiber in paleo meals lead to increased satiety. The diet is high in satisfying foods that fill you up like meat, fish, and veggies.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fats in paleo meals have natural anti-inflammatory effects to improve overall health.

Drawbacks of the Paleo Diet

However, there are some potential paleo diet cons as well:

Very Restrictive

Eliminating all grains, beans, dairy, processed foods, and added sugar makes the paleo diet very restrictive for some people to follow long term.

Low Carb Can Affect Athletic Performance

Very low carb intake on paleo might impact high-intensity endurance exercise capacity for serious athletes. Some carbs help performance.

High Protein Intake Concerns

Paleo diets can provide excess protein for those with kidney or liver conditions. Most people are fine but it’s a consideration.

Which Diet is More Sustainable?

When it comes to sustainability and sticking to the diet long-term, paleo may have an advantage:

  • Flexibility of Paleo Makes it Easier to Stick To
    • Paleo allows starchy veggies, fruit and natural sweeteners that provide more flexibility while keto has very strict carb limits to stay in ketosis.
  • Keto Requires Strict Carb Counting and Ketone Monitoring
    • Keto dieters must count net carbs daily, monitor blood ketones, and make sure to stick to under 50g total carbs to maintain ketosis. This can be challenging long-term.

For some people, having some wiggle room on carbs and not worrying about maintaining ketosis makes paleo more sustainable and realistic for the long haul.

Which Diet is Healthier Overall?

While both diets have health benefits, the paleo diet edges out keto slightly when it comes to overall nutrition:

Paleo Includes More Nutrient-Dense Foods

Paleo emphasizes antioxidant and nutrient-rich fruits, starchy veggies and plant foods. Keto limits these foods in order to maintain very low-carb ketosis.

Keto May be Better for Some Health Conditions

Keto seems to have extra benefits for those with obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and epilepsy. But for general health, paleo provides top nutrition.

So while keto can be very beneficial for some conditions, paleo includes more superfoods and antioxidants from plants and fruit that may give it a slight health advantage for most people.

Best Candidates for Each Diet

Here are the types of people who may do best with each diet:

  • Keto Best for Those With Obesity, Diabetes, Epilepsy
    • Keto can work especially well for those who need to lose significant weight, have diabetes, or have epilepsy seizures responsive to ketosis.
  • Paleo Good for Those Wanting Ancestral Nutrition Focus
    • If you want to follow an ancestral way of eating that minimizes modern processed foods, paleo might be the best fit. It provides balanced nutrition.
  • People who need to get into nutritional ketosis for medical reasons may benefit most from keto. Otherwise, paleo offers great nutrition without the strict ketosis requirements.

Sample Meal Plans for Keto and Paleo

To give you an idea of what you might eat on each diet, here are sample one-day meal plans:


  • Breakfast: Eggs fried in olive oil with sauteed spinach and avocado
  • Lunch: Bunless grass-fed beef burger with lettuce, tomato, onion and salsa
  • Dinner: Roasted chicken thighs with broccoli and side salad with olive oil dressing
  • Snacks: Tomato slices with goat cheese, keto muffin, almonds


  • Breakfast: Paleo granola with berries and coconut milk
  • Lunch: Big salad with salmon, avocado, carrots, cabbage, nuts and oil-based dressing
  • Dinner: Slow-cooker pork tenderloin with butternut squash noodles and Brussel sprouts
  • Snacks: Smoothie with banana, berries, spinach and almond butter

Both diets are low-carb, but paleo includes higher-carb options like sweet potatoes, fruit, and properly-prepared grains for athletic needs or variety.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Keto and paleo are two of the hottest low-carb diets, and both can be effective for weight loss, blood sugar control, and overall health.

However, paleo is less restrictive with more flexibility on fruits, starchy veggies and carbs to fuel athletic performance. This may make it easier to stick to long term.

Keto requires strict carb and ketone monitoring to maintain ketosis, which can be challenging for some people. But keto may provide additional benefits for those with obesity, diabetes, or other health conditions responsive to very low carb intake.

Overall, paleo provides great ancestral nutrition and weight loss benefits without the restrictions of keto. But some individuals may choose keto to take advantage of benefits from ketosis. Assessing your health goals and needs can help determine which diet plan is the right match.


1. Which diet causes faster weight loss, keto or paleo?

Typically keto causes faster initial weight loss than paleo in the first few weeks due to its diuretic effects and fast water weight loss in ketosis. However, over the long term both can lead to significant and sustained weight loss.

2. Can you do a combination of keto and paleo diets?

Yes, many people successfully combine aspects of keto and paleo diets. For example, you could go low-carb keto but source foods from pasture-raised, organic sources emphasized in paleo. Combining principles of both can give you more options.

3. Is keto or paleo better for athletes?

Paleo would likely be better for most athletes, since it provides more carbohydrates to properly fuel intense training. However, some endurance athletes utilize keto along with carb cycling to maintain energy levels.

4. What foods can you eat on both keto and paleo diets?

Some foods like meats, eggs, seafood, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil are allowed in generous amounts on both keto and paleo diets.

5. Which diet is more sustainable long-term, keto or paleo?

Research shows higher long-term compliance rates with paleo, likely because it allows more flexibility with carbs/fruits compared to the strict standards of keto needed to maintain ketosis.