Diets are nothing new. No matter what year it is, there’s always a buzz about whatever the current trendy diet is. Some of them have merit, and some of them don’t, but all of them sound like complete gibberish if you don’t know anything about them.
We live in an age where science knows more about the human body than ever before in history. We have centuries upon centuries of knowledge and study about how the body works — what’s good for it, what’s bad for it and everything in between.
This means we have better knowledge than ever about which diets have actual health benefits for your body and which ones are complete scams. The Paleo and Keto diets are two examples of diets that have been shown to be beneficial to your body.
Most people would probably say they’ve heard of the Paleo diet. Even if you haven’t tried it for yourself, it seems like all of us know someone who has or have seen news headlines and stories about the wonders and benefits of the diet. The Keto diet is slightly less well known but is another popular option today.
But what are these diets, anyway? Are Paleo and Keto the same? And how are they good for you? Let’s break the two diets down one at a time.
What Is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is based on the theory that our bodies would be healthiest if we ate the same way our ancestors ate thousands of years ago. Of course, thousands of years ago there were no processed foods or heavily sweetened things. There wasn’t even food that required human cultivation. The only foods available were those obtained through hunting and gathering.
Simply put, the Paleo diet is a hunter-gatherer’s diet. It posits our bodies weren’t intended to digest more processed foods and would be healthiest if we eliminated those from our diet altogether. It’s also been called the “Caveman Diet.”
What Foods Can You Eat on the Paleo Diet?
A few of the foods considered no-nos in the Paleo diet are:
- Any processed or packaged foods
A few of the foods that are highly encouraged within the Paleo diet are:
- Root vegetables
The Paleo diet is all about creating lean muscle and eating food that will give you fast energy. Because of this, the diet focuses on consuming protein and fat to gain vigor and muscle mass. The goal of the diet isn’t necessarily to be low-carb, but it often ends up working out that way due to the nature of the foods consumed. The diet can even often be called high-fat.
Hallmarks of the Paleo Diet: High in Fat With No Calorie Counting
Wait, you might be asking. How are “high-fat” and “diet” even in the same sentence? Isn’t that a complete contradiction?
Not necessarily. The type of fats encouraged by the Paleo diet are fatty meats that give you energy boosts and not the kind of fat that one might find in a donut or cake.
One of the hallmarks of the Paleo diet that makes it so popular and accessible is it doesn’t involve endlessly counting calories or ticking off certain nutrient boxes every day. It’s just about simplifying your diet and removing the foods that, arguably, our bodies were never meant to digest in the first place.
Because of this, the Paleo diet is much more relaxed than many diets and is fairly easy to follow. It just involves cutting out more processed food choices and replacing them with natural alternatives. There are no complicated ratios or formulas to memorize. The theory is many modern diseases and health problems stem from consuming foods our bodies aren’t equipped to handle. Eliminate these foods, and you eliminate the health problems.
The Benefits of the Paleo Diet
At the end of the day, the Paleo diet isn’t intended to solve any one particular problem. The goal is simply to become healthier and eliminate many of the health issues and diseases that have become epidemic in today’s world.
One of the primary benefits of the Paleo diet is improved digestive health. Since the entire goal of this diet is to eliminate foods our bodies were never meant to digest, it makes sense this would be a huge benefit. Many grains and legumes contain a high phytic acid content that makes them difficult to process. Dairy, as well, is another food group many people have a difficult time digesting. The Paleo diet removes all of these food groups, and the result is a healthier digestive system.
Secondary benefits of the Paleo diet include better stomach and intestinal health, as well as relief from autoimmune diseases and improved blood sugar balance. Weight loss has also been known to occur over time, due to the removal of unhealthy fats, carbs and processed foods from the diet.
What Is the Keto Diet?
The Keto diet may have a lot of similarities to the Paleo diet in practice, but it’s from a completely different school of thought. The Keto diet falls roughly into the realm of “bio-hacker” diets. It’s been carefully designed to stimulate dramatic weight loss, although it’s been shown to help with various health conditions as well.
The Keto diet works and causes your body to lose fat so quickly by essentially re-teaching your body to burn fat in a more efficient process by entering a unique metabolic state known as ketosis. This state is what the diet draws its name from.
Ketosis is a state your body enters if your body’s preferred energy source — glucose — isn’t available to burn for energy. With no glucose, your body turns to fatty acids as a backup reserve and begins burning those for energy. When burned, these fatty acids produce ketones.
To achieve this and get your body to burn excess fat instead of glucose, you need to make it so glucose isn’t readily available. This means heavily cutting down on the carbs in your diet. In fact, for the best results, you should cut your carbs down to about 5 percent of your diet and raise your fat intake to roughly 75 percent. With this balance in your diet, your body has no choice but to burn through fat cells for fuel.
What Foods Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
Some of the foods discouraged in the Keto diet include:
- Refined sugars
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes
Regarding foods that are allowed on the Keto diet, it’s more complicated than you might think. While eating nothing but fatty foods might sound like a dream come true, the reality is many of the fatty foods we all crave are also high in carbs, making them counter-productive for this diet. Some things you can eat are:
- Healthy fats like seeds, nuts, coconut oil and animal fats
- Animal protein
- Leafy green vegetables
The Benefits of the Keto Diet
The goal of the Keto diet is weight loss. There are some cases where other health benefits have come along as well, but this is the primary goal. The reason this method of fat loss is so appealing, as opposed to the many other methods available, is how quickly this diet helps people lose fat.
In some cases, the Keto diet has helped patients with physical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, as well as cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also been used to help prevent and treat seizures.
How Are Paleo and Keto Similar?
As you may have noticed from the descriptions of each diet, they do have a bit of overlap with one another. The goals are completely different, but there are a few unmistakable similarities in the way they both set about achieving their goals.
- They Discourage Some of the Same Food Groups
Both diets recognize the value in avoiding grains, legumes and refined sugars to maintain a healthy diet. For Paleos, the reason for this avoidance is to rid the digestive system of processed or unnatural foods. For Ketos, the goal is to cut these out as a possible source of energy for the body.
They also both discourage dairy, although their approach to it is slightly different. The Paleo diet absolutely restricts it. The Keto diet allows it but doesn’t encourage it.
- They Embrace Some of the Same Food Groups
Both diets urge the consumption of healthy fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, animals and natural oils. Both also tell dieters to eat healthy meats, preferably organic and grass-fed. Both allow participants to eat non-starchy and leafy green veggies.
- They Help You Lose Weight
With the Keto diet, weight loss is the primary goal. If you stick to this diet, it’ll help you lose weight and do it fast, there’s no doubt about that.
The Paleo diet will cause you to lose weight as well, although it’ll most likely be a slower process. The goal of this diet isn’t to lose weight. Rather, the weight loss is the natural consequence of cutting out foods that are sugary, processed and carb-heavy.
Paleo Vs. Keto: How Are They Different?
Although Paleo and Keto do have some definite similarities, they also have differences. These differences naturally reflect the very different goals of the two diets.
- The Paleo Diet Isn’t Strictly Low Carb and High-Fat
While the entire purpose of the Keto diet is to cut down on carbs and pump up on the fats, the Paleo diet isn’t concerned with this. The Paleo diet restricts grains and processed sugar, but there’s no restriction on carbs. As long as your carbs come from fruit, squash, sweet potatoes and the like, you can eat as many as you like. You can even use natural sweeteners like honey or pure maple syrup.
Because of this difference, your body will likely not resort to burning fat cells for energy, since your carb consumption isn’t low enough to force your body into ketosis.
- The Keto Diet Doesn’t Eliminate Dairy
This is a slight technicality, especially since we mentioned earlier that both diets discourage dairy. But it’s actually more complicated than that. The Paleo diet absolutely cuts out dairy of all kinds, since our ancient ancestors would have had no access to it. The Keto diet will sometimes allow full-fat dairy products, although this can vary depending on which source or authority you consult.
- The Keto Diet Measures Percentages
The Keto diet is slightly more intense than the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet doesn’t require you to measure, count calories or anything of that nature. It’s about cutting out certain foods altogether and making an entire lifestyle change.
The Keto diet, on the other hand, is heavily based on measuring and counting. For this diet to work, you must follow a specific macronutrient breakdown. If you don’t, your body won’t enter ketosis. As mentioned previously, these percentages equal roughly 5 percent carbs, 20 percent protein and 75 percent fats.
- The Keto Diet Works Toward a Specific Goal
The Keto diet has a concrete goal dieters want to achieve. They are trying to lose weight, and they’re trying to do it quickly. This is the primary aim, and other health benefits are usually secondary.
The Paleo diet has no singular objective. Instead, the idea is to achieve overall health. The dieter will never “reach their goal” because there is no goal other than general health. There is no test to tell if this goal has been achieved. Ideally, the dieter will simply feel better, and their body will begin to function more regularly and smoothly.
- The Paleo Diet Can’t Be Tested
Unfortunately, there’s no real way to test if the Paleo diet actually works. The best you can do is take stock of your own body and try to determine if you feel better than you used to. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this approach. But if you’re the type of person who likes definitive proof, you might be disappointed.
The Keto diet offers definitive proof. If you want to be sure your body has entered ketosis, you can test this using urine strips.
Tips for Starting a Keto or Paleo Diet
Before you start any new diet, you should always check with your doctor and make sure it’s safe to do so. It’s easy to skip this part and just jump right into a new diet, but it’s always worth it to be safe. Do your research beforehand and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you commit to anything.
Another good idea for starting a new diet is to have an accountability partner. Find a relative, friend or coworker who wants to embark on the same diet as you and do it together. Keep each other on track by asking the other person how their diet is going and encouraging them to stick with it when they’re feeling unmotivated.
If you’re interested in beginning a Keto diet, it’s time to start researching ways to get healthy fats. We’ve mentioned some of them here, such as nuts, seeds and natural oils like coconut oils, but there are so many more. You will need to plan your meals carefully to meet the percentage requirements. Reading up on how others have done this, via blogs and social media, may help.
If the Paleo diet seems more your speed, cut out those processed foods. Clean your pantry and give them to a friend, or donate them to a food pantry. If they aren’t sitting on your shelf, they’ll be less of a temptation. You can also find a number of high-quality Paleo cookbooks to help you find new recipes. Blogs about both the Paleo diet abound, and these can offer insights on where to find the right food.
Stop By Yalla Mediterranean for Paleo and Keto Dishes
Just because you’re adopting a Keto or Paleo diet doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a fun night out for dinner. At Yalla Mediterranean, we offer dishes to suit any diet, including Keto and Paleo devotees. Check out our menu online and visit any of our locations to get food that fits your meal plan.