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Keto vs Paleo vs Whole30: Which One is Right for You?

Though keto, paleo, and Whole30 overlap in their general benefits like weight loss, increased energy, and improved cognitive function, each diet centers on specific foods and protocols. For example, keto allows you to lose weight while enjoying indulgent, fat-rich foods, while paleo is a micronutrient-dense diet that promotes overall health, and the Whole30 is a structured, 30-day detox for quick weight loss and DIY food-sensitivity testing.

In this article, you will learn about:

The Keto Diet

To put it simply, the keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that puts your body into a state of ketosis by breaking fat cells down into ketones to use as energy instead of glucose.

What Goals Is Keto Best For?

Many dieters first begin keto as a weight loss solution, although many quickly experience a boost in energy, focus, and productivity, as well as a substantial decrease in hunger cravings. A one year study on 349 men and women found that the participants lost an average total of 12% of body fat while on keto.

Additionally, the keto diet is the ideal option for anyone dealing with inflammatory health concerns, high cholesterol, constant cravings, and high blood sugar.

What Do You Eat on the Keto Diet?

The ultimate goal of keto is sticking to the right ratio of macronutrients - high fat, moderate protein, and low carbs. While it’s easy to take a “lazy keto” approach and indulge in low-quality processed foods to satisfy your daily macro needs, this overlooks the importance of nutritious, micronutrient-dense foods.

To reap the full benefits that keto has to offer, we recommend taking a clean keto approach that’s based on whole foods and healthy fat sources like avocado and MCT oil for ultimate long-term health.

Compared to “lazy keto,” a clean keto approach can also help to maximize nutrient density and offer more health benefits.

Some healthy clean keto-approved foods include:

  • Avocado
  • Meat (preferably grass-fed)
  • Seafood
  • Berries
  • Olive oil
  • Cheese
  • Keto MCT oil
  • Nuts
  • Herbs
  • Dairy products
  • Natural Sweeteners (stevia and monk fruit
  • Low-carb veggies (like broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, etc)

While on keto, be sure to avoid high-carb, glucose-rich foods like:

  • Sugary foods
  • All potatoes
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Soda
  • Corn
  • Beets
  • Most fruits

Learn more!

Should You Do the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is ideal for weight loss goals and it’s even a great solution for those dealing with obesity, diabetes, PCOS, or epilepsy.

But it’s not for everyone. If you’re struggling with hormone issues, have a hard time with detailed food tracking, or if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you may want to consider other diet options.

At the end of the day, keto may be too restrictive for some, but for those who are willing to put in the effort, the weight loss, cognitive benefits, and energy boost are well worth it.

The Paleo Diet

The Paleolithic diet (aka the paleo diet, caveman diet, or stone-age diet) is designed to mimic what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago, which modern research suggests was a diet that consisted of nutrient-dense whole foods.

What Goals Is Paleo Best For?

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had dramatically lower rates of modern lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cancer, obesity, and ADHD, which is believed to be largely due to their hunted and foraged whole food diets.

By eliminating processed foods, the paleo diet minimizes the number of chemicals and toxins consumed by prioritizing natural, earth-grown foods.

What’s more, studies of paleo-friendly diets have shown it to be an effective plan for improved improve blood sugar, digestive issues, inflammation, insomnia, low energy, weight, diabetes, and insulin sensitivity.

What Do You Eat on the Paleo Diet?

A hunter-gatherer wouldn't recognize many modern "foods" as food, so good way to think about what’s paleo or not is: if you don’t know what an ingredient is, don’t eat it.

Eating paleo is easy for both meat lovers and vegetarians, with many whole food options that are carnivore or plant-based.

Some paleo-friendly foods include:

  • Grass-fed Meat
  • Wild-caught Seafood
  • Organic Vegetables
  • Organic Fruits
  • Organic Bone Broth Protein
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Herbs
  • Anti-inflammatory oils

Some foods to avoid on paleo include:

  • Processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Soda
  • Grains
  • Dairy products
  • Legumes
  • Soy
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol
  • Vegetable oils

Should You Do the Paleo Diet?

Benefits aside, the paleo diet may not be for you if you can't imagine life without dairy products like cheese, grains, or beans. There’s also some controversy between paleo dieters regarding which foods to avoid as there is conflicting research around certain foods (i.e. legumes and grains) that are not allowed on the paleo diet.

However, when comparing keto vs paleo vs Whole30, paleo is the least restrictive of the three, making it a great starting point for clean eating newcomers.

Paleo is also the easiest option to incorporate in your lifestyle, especially when taking an 80/20 approach (i.e. eating paleo-friendly foods 80% of the time, while indulging in non-paleo foods the other 20%).

The Whole30 Diet

Whole30 is a highly structured 30-day plan that eliminates “trigger” foods (aka inflammatory or over-processed foods) that may be responsible for issues like slow digestion, food cravings, inflammation, energy slumps, brain fog, and more.

What Goals Is Whole30 Best For?

Whole30 is a popular go-to option for anyone who is experiencing constant cravings, bloating, low energy, or is in need of a total diet reset.

During the 30-day Whole30 plan, you may find that your skin is clearer, your sleep is deeper, your mental focus is better, or your tummy is flatter. After the 30 days are up, you will then begin to slowly reintroduce each “trigger” food to test whether or not your symptoms return.

After completing the Whole30 diet, you may finally discover the hidden culprits behind your health woes. Perhaps dairy has been the cause of your acne and bloat, or gluten has been giving you brain fog, or that your sugar consumption was what was keeping you from a restful night of sleep.

What Do You Eat on the Whole30 Diet?

The Whole30 is similar to paleo but with less wiggle room.

Your go-to foods during the Whole30 include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit (in moderation)
  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Organic MCT oil
  • Ghee
  • Nuts (except peanuts)
  • Seeds
  • Olive oil

Foods to completely avoid on the Whole30:

  • Dairy (except ghee)
  • Added sugars (and sweeteners)
  • Grains
  • Soda
  • Alcohol (including vanilla extract!)
  • Legumes
  • Processed foods
  • Preservatives

Should You Do the Whole30 Diet?

The Whole30 offers the chance to gain self-awareness and to develop disciplined eating habits. However, since it only lasts 30 days, it may not be suitable for the long-term.

To sum it up, the Whole30 offers a fast-track to a clean and nutrient-dense diet.

Keto vs Paleo vs Whole30: Which Diet is Right for You?

Now that you know the main benefits of keto, paleo, and Whole30, you might have one in mind that you’d like to try!

Though keto, paleo, and Whole30 are all great options, the best diet is the one YOU can stick to. So do your research, consult with your doctor, and give it a try to see how you feel mentally and physically.

If you find that you’re not experiencing the desired results, don't worry! There is always a lesson to be learned and everyone is different. By exploring a variety of nutritional approaches, you will ultimately find the plan (or combination of plans) that will help you live a happy, healthy life!

UP NEXT: Keto Lifestyle 101: The Ketogenic Diet for Beginners

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