Which Diet Is Best For You? Keto Vs Paleo Vs Vegan

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Are you looking to diet and deciding between keto vs paleo vs vegan diets?

You’re in the right place. 

After reading this post, you’re going to learn:

  • the differences between keto, paleo, and vegan,
  • the similarities you can take away from these trendy diets,
  • and how to make an informed decision on what’s right for you.

Let’s get started.

keto-vs-paleo-vs-vegan

Disclaimer:

Although we are doctors and personal trainers, we are not your doctors. The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary activities are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read our full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning we may receive a commission if you use them.

Okay, let’s get started.

What is the Keto Diet?

The Ketogenic Diet is a very low-carb that is meant to put your body into a state of ketosis.

(This is when your body uses fat for its primary energy source instead of glucose).

Ketosis is achieved by consuming a VERY low amount of carbohydrates, which mimics a state of fasting.

It can be considered both the most restrictive and demanding of all three diets.

What is The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet, also known as the caveman diet is exactly what it sounds like.

The goal is to eat like your ancestors. In other words, you can only eat food that could be hunted or gathered.

This diet consists mainly of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, and fruit.

It excludes grains and dairy because these foods were not available to early humans. 

What is The Vegan Diet?

The vegan diet is a strict version of the vegetarian diet. 

This means that you do not eat ANY animal products. This includes eggs, dairy, and cheese.

Your meals are based around fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.

Okay.

Now let’s compare them one to one.

Which Diet is The Healthiest?

All three diets have the potential to be healthy, but in my opinion, keto is the least sustainable and the least healthy of the three.

The only way to truly compare them is to compare them to each other.

Which is Healthier Keto or Paleo?

Both diets are very similar, but paleo is healthier than the keto diet because it has fewer restrictions.

The more restrictive you are with your food choices, the more likely you are of becoming deficient in certain nutrients.

In the keto diet, you are only allowed to eat a very small number of carbohydrates every day.

As a result, fruit consumption is generally prohibited due to the high carbohydrate content. Vegetable consumption also has to be kept in check.

In addition, in order to meet your macronutrient requirements, you will likely have to eat a lot of animal protein. 

In doing so, it is important to get high-quality animal products, and not processed meats which can be detrimental to your health.

keto-diet

Can the Paleo diet put you into ketosis?

The short answer is no. There are two ways to make your body enter a state of ketosis:

  1. The first is fasting. We have written about Intermittent Fasting extensively. Intermittent fasting will put you into a temporary state of ketosis, which will reverse once you break your fast and consume a meal with carbohydrates.
  2. The second method is through carbohydrate elimination. If you were to stop consuming carbohydrates, your body would have a very hard time relying on glucose as a constant energy source. Therefore, it will turn to an alternative energy source to keep you going; ketones.

The paleo diet does not do either of these things.

Is Vegan Healthier Than Keto?

Both keto diets and vegan diets are highly restrictive and have the potential to be unhealthy if you don’t carefully plan out your food intake.

With keto, you can get into the habit of eating low-quality fats and processed meats, which many would argue is unhealthy.

Meanwhile, you can find vegan potato chips, doughnuts, cake, and french fries.

Anything that has not been made with animal ingredients could be considered plant-based. 

Therefore, it is important to note that just because you are eating vegan, it does not necessarily mean you are eating healthy. 

In addition, you must supplement certain nutrients in a vegan diet that cannot be found in the non-animal kingdom.

wfpb-vegan-diet

Can vegans do keto?

Interestingly, you can combine the vegan diet and the keto diet together – the vegan keto diet.

In keto, the major macronutrient of the diet is fat. 

Most fat predominant foods are vegetarian/vegan friendly.

The only real difference is in the protein source. As a vegetarian, there are several low carb-protein substitutes that you can use. These include:

  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • Seitan
  • Vegan Protein Powders (Pea Protein, Brown Rice Protein etc)

Nuts, nut butter, avocados, seeds, and monounsaturated oils will continue to be staples in your diet.

With that said, you are combining two restrictive diets. I personally would not recommend this approach for sustainability reasons.

What About Paleo vs Vegan?

Paleo and veganism are similar in their approaches to food but differ when it comes to animal products (or lack thereof). 

On both diets, you’ll be eating lots of vegetables and fruits. 

However, meat and dairy make up key components of any paleo meal, while grains and legumes make up vegan meals.

Neither approach is healthier. It all depends on what you value most in your diet.

Determine which of the two is more sustainable for you and your unique situation and go from there.

paleo-diet

So the takeaway is-

The healthiest diet is the one that you can sustain over the long run.

If you cant maintain any of these diets, it doesn’t matter which one is better. 

I’m not a fan of keto- and we don’t really know the long-term effects of being in ketosis for long periods of time.

I think paleo is a little bland.

Vegan is unrealistic for many people.

I suggest that you take the best parts of all three diets and merge it into something that works for you!

More on that later.

Now let’s go over some contraindications.

When Should You Avoid Each Diet?

Who Shouldn’t Eat Keto?

The keto diet should not be used by anyone with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, liver disease, or gastrointestinal diseases.

It should also be avoided in pregnant and lactating women.

Women, in general, should always be careful when trying to go keto. As with any significant metabolic alterations, the ketogenic diet could potentially alter your menstrual cycle.

High-intensity athletes may not benefit from keto either. This is because short-duration anaerobic activities rely heavily on glucose and glycogen. 

As such, athletes have seen negative impacts on their performance while in ketosis.

If you decide to try keto, make sure to consume as much healthy fat as you can while minimizing processed foods that are also high in saturated fat.

disadvantages-of-keto

Who Shouldn’t Eat Paleo?

The paleo diet should not be used by anyone with disordered eating.

This is especially important because it can lead to nutrient deficiencies by excluding dairy, grains, and legumes from your diet.

In addition, this diet can get expensive.

Given that the Paleo diet requires you to consume a decent amount of meat and fish, it is important that you purchase high-quality animal products.

Do your best to consume as many grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, and organic free-range eggs rather than the conventional/farm-raised counterparts.

disadvantages-of-paleo

Who Shouldn’t Eat Vegan?

If you do not wish to use any supplements, you should not follow a vegan diet.

Depending on how much animal products you choose not to consume, a strict plant-based diet can lead to some nutrient deficiencies. 

Specifically:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium/Vitamin D
  • Omega 3 Fats
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Vitamin K2

Some of these can be obtained from your diet- but you will likely need to supplement to ensure you have all your bases covered.

disadvantages-of-vegan

If you would like a list of all the foods you should include in your diet check out our Table of Foods.

table-of-foods-opt-in

Don't Know What To Eat?

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Which of The Three Diets is Best For Weight Loss?

In general, the best diet for weight loss will ALWAYS be the one that you can sustain for a period of at least 6-12 months.

However, a recent 2021 study shed some important light on this matter.

This study compared a plant-based low-fat diet to a high-fat keto diet in 21 participants in a fully controlled environment. 

They instructed the participants to eat as much as they wanted on each diet for 2 weeks at a time. 

At the end of the study, they found that participants who ate the plant-based low-fat diet on average ate 700 fewer calories, despite being told to eat as much as they wanted.

As a result, they also lost more fat compared to keto, in which they lost more water weight.

So what can you take from this?

Consuming more plant-based foods may help keep you satisfied, decrease your total caloric intake, and lead to more fat loss. 

This is in contrast to prior studies which found no difference in weight loss between low cab or low fat. [Study 1] [Study 2].

Other Common Diets

What About Keto vs Paleo vs Atkins?

The Atkins diet is a high-protein, low carbohydrate way of eating that’s been popular for decades.

All three diets are considered low carb. The difference comes down to which foods are included/excluded. 

Unlike keto- you can eat plenty of carbs on the Atkins diet. It does, however, cut out simple sugars like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes.

In addition, dairy products are allowed on the Atkins diet but excluded from the Paleo Diet.

In terms of weight loss success rates, there isn’t much in terms of studies. They are probably very similar.

What About The Whole30 Diet?

The Whole30 diet is a restrictive eating plan in which you only eat whole and unprocessed food for 30 days.

This program involves eliminating specific things from your diet for a pre-defined amount of time.

The first two weeks is a “detox” phase where you eliminate all alcohol, sugar, grains, dairy, or legumes from your diet.

The idea behind this diet is to remove any possible allergens or irritants that could be causing inflammation in your body.

The difference with the Whole30 diet is that it is meant to be temporary.

The good thing about it is that it can help kickstart your journey into something that is more sustainable.

What Do The White Coat Trainers Eat?

So knowing all of this information- what diet do we follow?

We don’t actually follow one specific diet.

We adhere to a science-based approach to eating, which is mainly centered around whole food meals with lots of variety.

Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is to:

  • decrease your consumption of highly processed foods
  • eat more real, whole foods
  • and find a system that is sustainable for you

That is why we created a simple guide that teaches busy professionals how to build the habits of healthy eating one step at a time. 

It’s called The Compound Diet.

the-compound-diet-ebook

Check it out here.

The Key Takeaways

As a busy professional, I recommend that you do a hybrid of the Paleo and Plant-based diet.

Some people have called this the “Pegan Diet” popularized by Dr. Hyman.

By eliminating highly processed foods and low-quality carbohydrates from your diet, you are going to improve your health dramatically.

As far as meat is concerned, focus on high-quality meat products. Not processed meats loaded with sugars, salts, and additives.

Also, experiment with decreasing your overall meat intake while incorporating a wide variety of plant foods into your diet.

Try meatless Monday, or fish-less taco Tuesday. Whatever.

Try this out for 2 weeks and see how you feel.

Lastly, although we don’t have to hunt or gather our food anymore, pretend like you have to. Walk every day.  Exercise 3-4 times a week.

A little progress each day can go a long way.

That’s all I have for you.

What do you think? Have you done any of these diets before?

Comment below and let us know!

Related Posts

References:

  1. Hall KD, Guo J, Courville AB, Boring J, Brychta R, Chen KY, Darcey V, Forde CG, Gharib AM, Gallagher I, Howard R, Joseph PV, Milley L, Ouwerkerk R, Raisinger K, Rozga I, Schick A, Stagliano M, Torres S, Walter M, Walter P, Yang S, Chung ST. Effect of a plant-based, low-fat diet versus an animal-based, ketogenic diet on ad libitum energy intake. Nat Med. 2021 Feb;27(2):344-353. doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-01209-1. Epub 2021 Jan 21. PMID: 33479499.
  2. Segal-Isaacson CJ, Johnson S, Tomuta V, Cowell B, Stein DT. A randomized trial comparing low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets matched for energy and protein. Obes Res. 2004 Nov;12 Suppl 2:130S-40S. doi: 10.1038/oby.2004.278. PMID: 15601961.
  3. Klein S. Clinical trial experience with fat-restricted vs. carbohydrate-restricted weight-loss diets. Obes Res. 2004 Nov;12 Suppl 2:141S-4S. doi: 10.1038/oby.2004.279. PMID: 15601962.

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Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM CPTs, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

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