Paleo and Keto Lifestyles: What’s the Difference?
by Carol Thompson
Are you confused about paleo and keto lifestyles? If so, you are not alone. Both lifestyles seem to be all the rage. While similar in many ways, they are also quite unique. The paleo way of eating is built around a philosophy based on the belief that we are healthiest when we eat the way our ancestors did and as we are genetically designed for as hunter-gatherers. The logic is supported by the idea that it takes approximately 1,000 years for natural selection to change human DNA. Hunter-gatherers eat lots of animal meat/fish, fruits, berries, and vegetables—some roots but more above ground ones—plus nuts and seeds. These foods are basically allowed without restriction. Processed foods including sugar and flours/grains of any kind are not on the menu since farming is not part of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Such a diet is high in protein fibre, low in starchy carbs, and fats come from animal sources or in whole form like avocados, nuts, and seeds.
People in the ketogenic camp (ketoers) generally share the philosophy of eating as we are genetically designed to eat. They have a slightly different take, however, of what hunter-gatherer looks like. Ketoers typically believe dairy and eggs were part of their diet and fruit was limited in many areas where only berries were available for short seasons. Additionally, they speculate that long periods of time between meals (feast/famine) due to scarcity and harsh climates also influenced genetic makeup. Accordingly, they conclude longer times between meals and considerably less carbohydrates (carbs) means metabolism alternates between burning glucose (carbs) and fat for fuel. Why would that even be important?
When fat becomes the source of fuel instead of glucose/carbs, a byproduct of fat metabolism, known as ketones, are produced. Hence, the name ketogenic. Glucose is a dirty burning fuel that produces the least amount of energy output for the amount of oxidation or free radicals released. Fat, on the other hand, burns clean and produces up to 10 times the amount of energy depending on the type of fat being burned. Inflammation, primarily the result of oxidation, has become widely recognized as the cause of most modern day diseases and why antioxidants are so highly promoted. Moreover, being in a perpetual state of glucose/sugar burning they believe increases the basal/baseline insulin levels, resulting in insulin resistance which eventually becomes diabetes. What they postulate to be of even more importance is that ketones, especially beta-hydroxybuterate, is considered the most preferred food of the brain, and without access to it over the course of a lifetime, damage ensues. Alzheimer’s, for example, is now believed to be insulin resistance of brain cells and now viewed as type 3 diabetes.
In conclusion, a paleo diet, or eating as our ancestors did, is great for maintaining good health. When one starts from a place of disease, however, even the paleo clan promote the Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) plan, which is basically eating paleo in a ketogenic way for the healing benefits of fat burning and ketones. Therefore, paleo is basically a philosophy of eating as our ancestors did, whereas keto is more about intentionally eating in a way that will create a physiological metabolic shift so ketones are made.
Carol Thompson has dedicated her life to health and healing and has done so as an instructor of Natural Family Planning, teaching assistant with the Department of Medicine (U of S), doula/lay midwife, and in private practice as a homeopath/keto coach. Her office is in the Prairie Star Gallery, 1136 8th Street, Saskatoon. She can be reached at (306) 280-2160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.