Keto, Paleo, AIP…. HUH!?!
Are you curious about the keto diet? It seems to be taking over, growing rapidly in popularity, and spreading faster than the paleo movement ever did. How different are they? Is it KETO VS PALEO? Are these two lifestyles competing or can they work together in harmony?
As a lifelong foodie, chef and self-made healing diet expert, I am going to break down the difference between paleo and keto. Explain the benefits to both and even explain the benefits of the autoimmune protocol, and why an elimination diet could be exactly what you need to really kick start your healing journey.
Whether you’re looking at paleo or keto for weight loss, to reduce inflammation or reverse chronic disease the foundation for success with any lifestyle change is information!
How Did I Learn All of This?
Over the past three years I have dedicated my life to getting healthy, losing weight and reversing autoimmune disease and inflammation. I read a lot of books, The Paleo Approach, The Primal Blueprint, The Hidden Plague, It Starts With Foods… I scoured the internet, support groups, I’ve talked to hundreds about their healing journey. Most of all I have my OWN experiences as my main source of knowledge.
I have completed the Autoimmune Protocol, 6 rounds of Whole30, eaten paleo for 2 years and through trouble shooting and research found my way to keto, which I have been doing a paleo-keto for 10 months now!
It has been a long, winding, complicated journey of dealing with setbacks and surprises. From mystery pain, weight loss stalls, hormone imbalance and more. But I have also experienced great success. I have put my autoimmune skin condition in remission, lost 60lbs of body fat and put on a lot of muscle. I feel better than ever before.
My best advice to you is …read, read a lot and NEVER GIVE UP. In healing, as is most things in life, the only way to the other side is through.
Let’s Break It Down
Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is an elimination diet which removes any and all possible inflammatory foods from your diet. The foods removed all contain higher levels of anti-nutrients, which are essentially the plants defense mechanism. Everything in nature has it. These foods, which were once alive, contain substances that make them hard to digest or otherwise unattractive as a food source to possible threats. When a person with leaky gut ingests these foods, they can permeate the gut and these inflammatory substances will then get a ride on the lymphatic system or blood stream. This causes the immune system to attack healthy cells and cause inflammation. For folks with arthritis- in the joints, for folks with my condition Hidradenitis Suppurativa it’s in hair follicles, for Hashimoto’s it’s the thyroid and so on.
So yes, leaky gut, is exactly that, leaky, as in these anti-nutrients escape the digestive track and go cause problems in your body, usually in the form of inflammation.
The foods to avoid are vast, and I will say MOST people do not react to all of these foods, but the point is that you remove all possible trigger foods from your diet until you see improvement, then you add these foods in one at a time. Observe. Take notes. Go slow… and the culprits will show their face.
Last year the first medical study for the efficacy of the AIP was performed. The participants all had Ulcerative Colitis. The results were amazing with about 70% of the subjects improving or finding remission.
For me, what I learned is that nightshades, cheese, milk, sugar and some nuts are my trigger foods. Honestly, I didn’t even try gluten. I can eat most grains but chose not to.
AIP Elimination List:
- Nuts and Seeds
- Seed-Based Spices (like cumin, peppercorns)
- All nightshades (peppers, paprika, tomato, potato, eggplant)
- Beans (even green beans)
- Grains (all grains, even white rice)
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners (not swerve, stevia etc)
- Dairy (including ghee and butter)
You Can Eat: All animal proteins, all vegetables and fruit (except nightshades), coconut, lard, bacon, avocado, olive oil, salt, herbs.
AIP is not a low carb diet, although some folks have found that doing a keto/AIP is very useful. However, it can be VERY restricting, starches are a main source of calories in AIP and used for all sorts of baking and binding. The AIP is NOT meant to be a forever diet. This ELIMINATION DIET is a tool. Once you learn your trigger foods, you should be able to enjoy a variety of foods that do not make you flare. Most folks stay paleo or go keto after this.
AIP MEAL #1: kale, sweet potato, asparagus, zucchini, bacon and a turkey burger.
AIP MEAL #2: Ground Beef with Chard, Nightshade Free Guac, Sweet Potato and Lettuce
The paleo diet is widely known as the caveman diet, but it has greatly evolved from just trying to mimic the eating habits of prehistoric man (and woman). The basis of paleo is to avoid all grains, gluten and processed foods. Think foods that you could eat without farming. Foods that you could forage, animals you could hunt. Yet, we live in a modern time, where we make flour from coconuts! So while cavemen certainly didn’t have access to ghee or almond meal, these things are allowed on paleo. Think plants and animals plus a few modern-day comforts like maple syrup, grain free flour, and more.
Folks on paleo enjoy plenty of quality animal protein, with a big emphasis on sourcing. Healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil and animal fats. All the vegetables, including tubers. Fruit, nuts, seeds and of course the ever-popular paleo treats.
While it is advised to stick to plants and animals, a la Whole30… most folks enjoy the occasional cake, cookie, stuffed sweet potato, bacon wrapped dates and other deliciously indulgent paleo meal.
Paleo is not a low-calorie diet. It is organically lower in carbs than the Standard American Diet (SAD) and eliminates gluten and dairy. This shift from SAD, which includes a lot of processed foods and about 500 grams of carbs per day, to paleo which is based on whole foods, and is naturally around 150-200 grams of carbs per day, along with the elimination of gluten and dairy (the two most common inflammatory foods), is why folks feel AMAZING when they make the switch.
Also, on the paleo diet, cane sugar and other forms of processed sugar are not allowed. Most folks severely cut their sugar intake on paleo and use coconut palm sugar, honey and maple syrup but in MUCH smaller amounts.
Once you ditch processed foods (boxed, canned, frozen) you’re eliminating a slew of filler ingredients, from binders, starches, various form of sugar, artificial coloring and flavors and preservatives.
Paleo Meal #2: Sweet Potato Toast with Dairy Free Pesto, Bacon and Eggs
Paleo Meal #3: Ground Beef, Sweet and Sour (soy free) Chicken, Cherries, Carrots, Broccoli and Zucchini
Keto aka Ketogenic Diet
Ketogenic diets have been used in the medical field for decades to treat epilepsy! They are well researched, which I think is one reason why their popularity is growing so fast. Folks figured out that being in ketosis is not only beneficial for epileptics but great for all of us. Our bodies and especially our brains LOVE using ketones as fuel. There are a lot of emerging studies which show ketogenic diets helping people with a number of diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s… and this is only the beginning!
Being in ketosis means that your body is using fat for fuel. The body can create energy from two sources: carbohydrates (sugar) or fat (which are metabolized into ketones in the liver). If neither of these are present the body will then break down protein into glucose (sugar), but we don’t want that. That is why the keto diet, while very similar to the paleo diet, has one big difference… MOST of your caloric intake will be from fat. 70-80% to be exact.
Not 70-80% of your food… just your calories, and fat is VERY HIGH in calories, so it’s really not THATTTT much. Yup, that’s right, you don’t need to eat bacon wrapped butter to go keto. Moderate protein intake, about 15-20% and low carb, 10-5%. The macros vary from person to person.
“Protein is a goal, Carbs are a limit. Fat is the lever” -Keto Gains
A balanced keto diet looks a lot like paleo, except swap that sweet potato for an avocado. If you avoid starchy vegetables, fruit and nuts, it will be super easy to get into ketosis. As Mark Sisson says “you’re not going to carb load on broccoli!”
When you eat a diet rich in fatty animal proteins with plenty of non-starchy vegetables your body will deplete its glycogen stores (which is usually about 2,000 calories). Once those are gone the body will begin to metabolize fat for energy!
The super cool thing is that when not enough dietary fat is present, a fat adapted person will then use stored body fat for fuel. Yes, you read that right. Your liver can metabolize stored body fat for energy!
KETO (AND PALEO) MEAL #1: Spinach, cilantro, pickled onions, avocado, seared steak, chimichurri, avocado oil, ground flax and pumpkin seed topping. This meal would be AIP without the seeds!
Benefits of being in ketosis also include sustained energy levels, no sugar cravings, reduced appetite and mental clarity. Because on keto your body is now privy to endless energy (over 80,000 calories of fat stored in your body) you don’t get energy crashes. When the body uses glycogen (sugar/carbs) for fuel it burns through them very fast so you feel the need to eat for hunger or energy every few hours. The transition from sugar burner to fat burner can be rough, this is the infamous keto flu. It goes away eventually. Taking electrolytes or drinking salt water tends to help.
On keto folks often report being able to go 6+ hours between meals, and a lot of people take on intermittent fasting, where they only eat in small windows and fast 16+ hours a day. I don’t recommend taking this on until you are fully fat adapted and comfortable with your ketogenic lifestyle. Baby steps. Set yourself up for success.
Some folks eat dairy on keto, hell, some folks eat gluten on keto. There are a lot of ways to keto. With the goal of eating so low carb your body goes into ketosis there are MANY ways to get there.
Of course, here at The Castaway Kitchen, we are vehemently against a diet filled with oxidative fats and processed foods. You don’t see me drinking diet root beer with heavy cream. It just won’t happen.
The way I see it, the paleo template is perfect when applied to ketogenic principles. Eat lots of plants and animals. Whole foods. Good fats. So it keto vs paleo is more like keto + paloe bff 4 life!
The reason eating good fats like avocado, coconut, olive oil and grass-fed butter are important on keto is because these nutritious fats are anti-inflammatory. Think of them as a clean fuel. While processed fats like canola and seed-based oils are like burning fossil fuels. Lots of free radicals and by-products that create a toxic environment in your body.
Bonus, good fats like coconut, grass-fed butter and ghee are rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCT) which go straight to the liver to be processed into ketones, instant energy!
So Cristina, what do YOU eat on Keto Paleo?
I eat a whole lot of good food! Lots of veggies, no nightshades. I don’t do nuts or nightshades or dairy. I stick to paleo approved foods and the occasional keto approved sweetener. Here is my KETO PALEO GROCERY LIST:
In a Nut Shell…
If you’re interested in a keto diet to reverse inflammation or lose weight I high recommend starting with an elimination diet. At least a month of removing all inflammatory foods from your diet. Add them back in one at a time. Log all results.
From there you can transition in to keto or paleo and or a mix of both with all the information YOU need about YOUR body.
Remember, change takes time. Transitioning into this lifestyle, keto, paleo or AIP will be a HUGE change that will affect every aspect of your life. Give yourself grace. Don’t compare your day one to someone else’s chapter 10. Remember we are all different, each of us with a unique physical and emotional history that will play into how fast we see results.
Stay the course. Don’t give up. You are worth it, you deserve to be healthy and happy!