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The Paleo and Keto Diets explained

articles Feb 07, 2024

The only thing they have in common is they don't do carbs

This topic is so hot right now.

The girls at work have been trying Keto for two weeks. Your personal trainer told you she listened to a podcast about the Paleo diet and how it improves Autism and cures warts.... (just kidding).

Should you try it?

Before you go and turn your pantry (and life) upside down, take a look at what each of them really mean and what a day looks like in terms of eating.

As dietitians, we don't promote this way of eating but we do support finding what's best for you. If you think Paleo or Keto might be the way forward for you, then let us show you what you're jumping into so you have every chance of success.

The Paleo Diet - aka Caveman Diet

The Paleo diet became popular when chef Pete Evans embraced the notion of 'turning back the clock' and removing all processed foods to replicate what humans ate when we lived in stone caves and before we evolved into using agricultural practices to farm the land and produce foods that required tools. According to his bio, his passion comes from his own journey of transforming to living a healthier way of life and seeing that "food can be medicine".

The Paleo Diet definitely has its benefits. It encourages removing anything processed and packaged foods to eating whole foods, incorporating movement and the art of being mindful. This is something that all health professionals agree with and majority already advocate this for everyone.

Paleo's philosophy also states that you need to eat:

  • pesticide-free vegetables
  • leafy greens
  • nuts
  • fruits only on occasion
  • grass-fed meat
  • free range poultry
  • wild caught fish
  • coconut oil

You are not allowed to eat:

  • any type of grains (including oats, wheat, quinoa, rice, barley, buckwheat etc)
  • potatoes
  • legumes (such as baked beans, kidney beans, chickpeas etc)
  • dairy products
  • processed oils (including olive, canola, vegetable or rice bran oils)

Clearly alcohol, caffeine and anything sugary is out too. Eating out - well, that may prove difficult but not impossible.

So what does that leave?
Below is an example of what a day would look like if you choose to eat like a Paleotheic ancestor. 
It's doesn't look too bad to be honest, however in reality it would be a shock to your system and perhaps a gradual transition to this particular way of eating would be helpful.

Nutrition Concerns on the Paleo Diet

  • Fibre: Because you are restricting grains and legumes, you would have to make extra effort to eat all your greens (and other types of vegetables) to meet your daily fibre count for a regular and healthy bowel routine.

  • B group vitamins: These vitamins are found in grains and your leafy green vegetables and help convert food into energy in the boy. Therefore, they would be another reason to make sure you eat enough vegetables to cover yourself.

  • Calcium: This is probably the biggest concern due to the restriction of dairy. It's important to meet your calcium requirements to prevent rickety bones and osteoporosis. This can be achieved by eating fish with bones, or having a supplemented milk alternative. Nuts and seeds also provide a small amount of calcium.

  • High protein consumption: The risk would be to fill up with lots of meat in lieu of having any grains or starchy food, however it's important to note that excessive meat consumption has been linked to cancer. Appropriate portions is the answer, and of course organic practices as stated above would be ideal

  • Cost & Accessibility: There has been some anecdotes that living the Paleo Way can be expensive, especially if you are feeding more than one person on this way of life. It's also interesting to see how whole food philosophy still can be manipulated into consumerism. Despite all the good intentions, stay away from processed 'Paleo Protein Bars' and the like, as this defeats the purpose of living like a cave man.


Ketogenic Diet - aka the new Atkins

Wow has this made a come back!

Ketogenic diets, or "Keto" as it's often referred to, is on trend right now. But the truth is, it's been around for many decades (remember Dr Atkins?)

It has been proved to be an effective way to help reduce seizures in people with epilepsy, however the weight loss world has got on board too because of its dramatic (short-term) effects.

The Ketogenic diet uses the body's ability to burn fat when you significantly restrict your intake of carbohydrates . If your body has no source of carbohydrates to break down into glucose for fuel, it turns to the next best thing - fat. This is called ketosis [read more about ketosis] which is your body's way of survival when food is scarce. It draws on your (body fat) reserves and if you have a lot of reserves, then this can be a way to see some drastic changes. 

The difference between the Paleo and Keto diets is that the Ketogenic diet recommends a very high fat intake, with less emphasis on protein. It also heavily restricts your carbohydrate intake, recommending less than 20-50g of carbohydrate per day. To put it into food sense - an apple contains approximately 15g of pure carbohydrate so that would be your only source for the whole day (not including anything else from any other food!)

Below is an example of what your day would like on a Ketogenic diet:

Nutrition Concerns on the Ketogenic Diet

  • Fibre: Getting enough fibre is super hard because even non-starchy vegetables still contain some carbohydrates. Therefore eating Keto long term can have a negative effect on how your gut bugs flourish (or flounder) and that may have repercussions later on that we're still learning about. 
  • High fat consumption: Fat is king on this diet, however choosing the preferred fat is probably more important to ensure you look after your heart health. Eating lots of fried foods or foods drowned in animal fats is not going to help your long term health, so it's all about making sure your fat come from plant-based sources which are known to have more protective properties.
  • Calorie Counting: Unfortunately you need to count your carbohydrates to make sure your body is in ketosis, otherwise your Keto diet just becomes a calorie restricted diet (which to be honest, isn't a bad thing in my eyes). The key to the significant success of this diet is making sure you only eat up to 50g carbohydrates a day and getting your body to switch to burning fat. For most, counting your calories isn't a fun way to live and the question often is, how long can you keep it up for?

In summary…

  • Paleo Diet aims to replicate the way humans used to eat, before the sophistication of using tools to grow, harvest and process food.
  • The main focus is on eating whole foods, excluding all grains, dairy, legumes and processed oils as these technically weren't available in the Paleothetic era, so this type of diet will require you to plan your meals.
  • Keto Diet is proven to help people with epilepsy, but is now being used for weight loss as the diet consists of eating high fat foods and a restrictive carbohydrate that puts the body into ketosis (fat burning)
  • Both diets restrict certain foods, so it is important that you obtain the right balance of nutrients from alternative sources to prevent conditions like osteoporosis and bowel cancer.
  • The long term success is still dependent on how well you stick at it, and how it fits into your lifestyle so it's important to find a way of eating that suits you!

If you think you would like to change your diet, then contact us today and make sure you get the right information to meet your needs.

*Content included on this site is prepared as general information only. It is not advice and should not be substituted for personal advice which takes into account your individual health, financial or other circumstances.