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Both popular diets tend to be swept under a "low-carb diet" umbrella.  While not the same, paleo and keto are not mutually exclusive. 

So what exactly is the difference between paleo and Keto? 

Here's a super-simplified, bare-bones look at the two:


Keto is geared mostly toward weight loss or specific health goals, while paleo is geared toward overall health and wellness. 

Diet (for weight loss or not) is only one of the central tenants of a paleo lifestyle. Others include engaging in active play, preferably outdoors; maximizing quality sleep time; and reducing exposure to environmental toxins. For a closer look at the dietary guidelines for a paleo lifestyle, see Paleo 101.


The goal of a keto (short for ketogenic) diet is to get one's body to burn stored fat for energy instead of burning carbs. This state is called nutritional ketosis and is achieved by removing as many (non-fiber) carbs from the diet as possible. 
A very strict keto diet would exclude all grains, potatoes, starchy vegetables, and even fruit.
Cheese and other dairy products do contain small amounts of carbs but are generally considered acceptable. Carb-free artificial sweeteners are okay. 
Food quality is not an inherently essential consideration.


People can enter a state of ketosis eating very low-quality processed foods as long as their carbohydrate intake is low enough.

Paleo, the so-called caveman diet, however, relies on whole foods and healthy fats. While a paleolithic diet could be a very low carb, high-fat diet, it would also be very possible to focus on lean meats, fruits, veggies, and leafy greens and not worry about carb intake at all.

Better Together

As you can see, keto is not inherently paleo, and paleo is not inherently keto. The main difference is that a paleo diet is primarily concerned with food quality, while a ketogenic diet is concerned primarily with managing macro-nutrient quantities.
In other words, looking at a food label, paleo dieters would be most concerned with the ingredient list, while keto dieters would be most concerned with the nutritional information (how many grams of carbs, fat, etc.). 
While ketosis can be responsible for much of the weight-loss success of a paleo diet, a (relatively) high-carb paleo diet is very achievable.
Theoretically, a keto diet could include nothing but factory-farmed bacon, cheese, and diet coke, and a paleo diet could include nothing but sweet potatoes and bananas; but both of these examples fall extremely short of the bountiful healthfulness that both diets have to offer.
Ultimately, the human body is so complex, and no two are EXACTLY alike--even twins will have some key differences based on environmental exposures and lifestyle choices. Your specific nutritional needs and medical conditions will dictate the best diet for you, whether keto, paleo, or something else.

At the end of the day, paleo can be as ketogenic as you need, and keto can be as paleo as you desire!


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Hey Y'all!

I'm the Monster Momma.

I'm a Christ-follower, wife, mother to five sweet paleo monsters, writer, and

paleo food fiend.

Join me and my family on our paleo journey!

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