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Leading a healthy lifestyle means eating the right foods, but the foods that are right for you may not be for another. This individualized approach has led to a flood of different trends. Among them are two notable diets:
Both diets restrict refined sugars, but on the paleo diet, most calories come from protein. For the keto diet, they often come from fat. In general, there is no definitive answer on which diet is inherently better.
Important: Before starting a diet or eliminating food groups, consult with a registered dietician, nutritionist, and/or a doctor.
Ultimately, it comes down to what works for you, since everyone responds differently to different foods, says Sarianne Madsen, RD, CSP, pediatric and ketogenic dietitian at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco.
According to Madsen, "The focus for health should be on achieving a lifestyle change of increasing whole foods that minimize blood sugar spikes and crashes, not on short-term restrictions and yo-yo dieting."
Here are the tenets, benefits, and disadvantages of the paleolithic and ketogenic diets including weight loss and overall health.
There is limited evidence for the exact diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. It greatly varied depending on geography and food availability, so the paleo diet is only a modern interpretation of their eating pattern that is adapted to present-day lifestyles, with an overlay of current beliefs.
However, "just because they ate a certain way doesn't mean it is optimal for modern-day humans," says Ayana Davis, MS, registered dietitian nutritionist at UCSF Cancer Center. Here are the main principles of the paleo diet:
"A common misconception about paleo is that it is low-carb because it restricts grains, when in fact, paleo includes fruits and vegetables which can add up quickly to a moderate or even high daily carbohydrate intake," says Madsen.
However, some people who practice the paleo diet may choose to limit carbs if that's part of their individual nutrition goals.
People who want to lose weight quickly often try the keto diet, but it takes two to three weeks to start ketosis. This diet quickly became a hugely popular trend, but there's little evidence about its purported benefits. Here are the fundamentals of the keto diet:
"People should have a discussion with their doctors or dietitians to decide if the ketogenic diet is safe for them based on their individual health conditions," says Davis. Following diet fads without consulting health professionals may result in rapid weight loss fluctuation (or yo-yo dieting), which is associated with increased mortality.
There is no conclusive answer on which diet is healthier because it depends on each individual.
"The ketogenic diet can help achieve weight loss faster than the paleolithic diet, but as a lifestyle, the paleolithic diet is easier to follow long term and therefore achieve long-term weight loss success," says Davis. However, on the paleo diet, an individual might not get enough calcium and fiber due to the limitation on dairy, legumes, and whole grains, she says.
Since the 1920s, the keto diet has been used for patients with epilepsy for its therapeutic benefits, and more recently, for type 2 diabetes, brain tumors, and Alzheimer's as well, says Madsen.
The keto diet is thought to help with weight loss because it can control appetite, hunger, and satiety, but there is limited research on the matter. If the diet isn't properly planned and monitored, it won't be sustainable. There may be a risk of micronutrient deficiencies, lack of fiber that may lead to constipation, and other drawbacks.