Crazy Fad Diets? Or a Way to Better Health?
Two very popular diets today are the Keto, or Ketogenic Diet, and Paleo, aka The Stone Age Diet.
Neither of these diets are new, although their popularity has risen in the past few years. The Keto diet originated in the 1920s by researchers to treat children with epilepsy in order to reduce seizures. The Paleo diet goes all the way back to our caveman ancestors, or so they say, as it is based largely on more primitive, simplistic eating and cooking habits.
Both Keto and Paleo restrict carbohydrates, but there are several key differences in the foods you eat and the purpose of each diet.
Let’s take a look at these two diets, their similarities and differences, and whether they really are healthy paths to losing weight.
The Ketogenic Diet, Unleashed
The basis of the Keto diet is replacing almost all carbs from your diet (except for a few limited vegetable sources) with fat sources to put your body into a state of ketosis for the duration of the diet. The metabolic state of “ketosis” uses ketones which your liver produces from fat stores for energy instead of glucose.
During ketosis, you burn stored fat, which can lead to significant weight and fat loss. However, it can also lead to muscle loss as well. Even if you’re exercising, as your muscles need glycogen to get bigger which comes from the glucose in carbohydrates.
When you first begin the Keto diet, you may experience the Keto Flu, or carb flu, where you’ll experience flu-like symptoms and sugar cravings while your body adjusts to a diet without carbs. This goes away in a couple off weeks. Drinking plenty of water during this time will help your symptoms as you can become dehydrated.
In addition to weight loss, the Keto diet is may have additional health benefits. Besides treating child epilepsy, the Keto diet may also improve neurological conditions like Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and mood disorders.
Most people go on the Keto diet to lose weight. However, just because something is Keto-friendly, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Since the Keto diet directs low carbohydrate intake, you can eat nearly anything that is not a carb. That includes all meat (bacon, processed lunch meat, steak), full-fat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese), and all fats (animal and plant).
As some proteins and fats are healthier than others, it’s recommended that you eat grass-fed and nitrate-free meats, and pastured eggs and poultry. Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, nut butters and avocado are preferred over vegetable oils like corn, soy, and saturated fat from meats like bacon and conventional beef.
Vegetables are limited on the Keto diet to greens and non-starchy vegetables like mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Unfortunately, sweet potatoes and carrots are not Keto-friendly because of their high carb content. Fruits are also highly restricted, and are limited to berries, which are lower in sugar than bananas, grapes, and apples – all Keto no-nos.
Since so many vegetables and whole grains are not Keto approved, it’s possible to become nutrient deficient, so you may need supplements to get all of the necessary vitamins and minerals that should come from food. Additionally, fiber, a necessary nutrient for digestion and heart health, is only found in plant sources, so make sure you’re also eating Keto-friendly, fiber-rich foods like flax and chia seeds, coconut, and berries.
The main goal of the Keto diet is to restrict carbs and consume enough fats to put your body into Ketosis for energy. With the Keto diet, rather than counting calories, you track your macronutrient intake (nutrients your body in abundance). The standard Keto diet restricts carbs to only 5-10%, around 15-25% of protein, and the rest in fat, meaning that between 70-80% of your diet should come from fat.
The Keto diet is safe for most people, but you should talk with your physician to discuss any health issues before starting the diet. Also, be sure you’re consuming healthy fats and good-quality lean proteins like grass-fed meats, along with enough keto-friendly vegetables so you’re getting enough nutrients.
The Ancestral Paleolithic Stone Age Diet – Eat Like a Caveman
The Paleo diet originated in the 1970s by a gastroenterologist who thought that our modern-day diet which is high in sugar and processed foods was linked to modern-day diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, all which did not exist back in the days of hunter-gatherer societies.
As civilization evolved to practice farming, which allowed tribes to stay in one place, they planted vegetables and grains making them more available, and domesticated animals like cows for milk and dairy products. However, developers thought that our bodies never adapted to this new type of food or the inundation of carbs and sugar like we eat today.
Unlike the Keto Diet, Paleo’s main goal is eating healthier and reducing your risk of disease. Although it’s high in animal product consumption, Paleo-friendly meat must be grass-fed without any nitrates, anti-biotics, or anything used to increase production.
Similar to Keto, Paleo forbids any grains, but Paleo does allow for the consumption of any and all vegetables.
You will consume mostly grass-fed meats and poultry and eggs, nuts and seeds, healthy fats like ghee, olive oil, and coconut oil, and your only carbs come from fruits and vegetables.
Because carbohydrates are allowed in moderation, you won’t go into ketosis, but you will still burn fat and be able to lose weight.
The biggest drawback to the Paleo diet is the elimination of all dairy products, which are a great source of calcium and vitamin D, essential for bone health. Talk with your doctor about adding a calcium/vitamin D supplement.
Both Keto and Paleo are low-carb diets that rely on fat for energy rather than glucose, which can aid in fat burning and losing weight.
Both diets allow unprocessed meat, poultry, and seafood, nuts and seeds, eggs, healthy fats, non-starchy vegetables, and low-sugar fruits.
Sugar, processed foods, and all types of grains and legumes, are not allowed on either diet.
Both diets are low-carbohydrate, but Keto’s main concern is balance of macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbs, in order to keep you in a ketonic state, while the paleo diet cuts out anything that was not available to the cavemen.
Any protein, as long as it doesn’t contain carbs or sugar, is allowed on the keto diet, but paleo only allows for completely unprocessed meats, which usually means grass-fed.
Keto diet allows for artificial sweeteners, but excludes any natural sweetener including raw honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup; whereas the Paleo diet allows the natural sweeteners but nothing artificial. Stevia, which does not affect blood sugar like other sweeteners is alright on both diets.
So, which is better?
It depends on your dietary goals and any health restrictions you may have.
Putting your body into a state of ketosis may not be safe if you have certain health issues like diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, heart disease, or have had your gall bladder removed. You should have a physician monitor your health while on the keto diet even if you are in good health.
You can lose weight and fat on the Keto diet, which may improve health issues that go along with obesity. Studies have shown improvement in type-2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS), cognitive issues, neurological disorders, migraines, and depression and anxiety for individuals practicing the Keto diet.
The Paleo diet is generally safer as it requires healthy meats and fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, but still be cautioned if you have heart or kidney disease, diabetes, or at risk of osteoporosis.
You can also lose weight and fat on the Paleo diet. Studies have contributed the diet to improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels as well as blood pressure and lower risk of heart disease.
Both diets cut out sugar and processed foods which is the basis for any good diet, and something you can do without going on a particular diet.
There are different philosophies attached to each of these popular diets, so choose the one that fits your lifestyle and the one you can stick with.
Always consult a doctor before starting any new diet, especially one that restricts a macronutrient like carbohydrates.