Carnivore vs. Keto vs. Paleo (Nutrition Doctor Explains)

...Discover which diet is best for you and your clients- based on nutritional science.

Written by: Dr. Marc Morris Ph.D CSCS

If you've been exploring various dietary trends lately, you've likely come across the carnivore, keto, and paleo diets. Each of these diets has gained popularity for its unique approach to nutrition and potential health benefits.

Today, we will delve into these three diets, understanding what they entail, their potential advantages, drawbacks, and how they stack up in terms of nutritional balance.

The Carnivore Diet

The carnivore diet, as the name suggests, revolves around animal-based foods. Followers of this diet predominantly consume various types of meat, including beef, pork, lamb, fish like salmon and tuna, poultry, and eggs.

Some versions of the carnivore diet even allow for higher fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Additionally, this diet goes to the extreme by incorporating insects and organ meats like liver, kidney, and heart while entirely excluding plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.


Potential Benefits of the Carnivore Diet

1. Weight Loss: The carnivore diet's high protein content often leads to increased feelings of fullness and satiety, potentially aiding in weight loss.

2. Improved Nutrient Intake: Animal source foods are rich in essential nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, which can contribute to better overall health.

3. Potential for Enhanced Athletic Performance: The high protein content in the carnivore diet may support muscle mass and strength, benefiting athletes and physically active individuals.


Drawbacks of the Carnivore Diet

1. High Saturated Fat Intake: Excessive saturated fat consumption can elevate the risk of heart disease in some individuals.

2. Increased Risk of Certain Cancers: Studies suggest that a diet high in red and processed meats may increase the risk of certain cancers, particularly colorectal cancer.

3. Higher Cholesterol Levels: Excessive animal product consumption can lead to elevated LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels and a greater risk of heart disease.


My Thoughts

The carnivore diet is incredibly restrictive, and most unbiased experts do not recommend it. While some people may adopt it to address specific medical conditions, there are generally more sustainable and flexible dietary options available.

The Keto Diet

The ketogenic (keto) diet centers around the manipulation of macronutrients. It emphasizes healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, butter, and cream, along with protein sources such as chicken, beef, fish, pork, and eggs. Low-carb vegetables like spinach, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and other leafy greens are allowed, while higher carb foods such as grains, fruits, and legumes are restricted.

The primary goal is to induce a state of ketosis, where the body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.


Potential Benefits of the Keto Diet

1. Weight Loss: The keto diet often leads to rapid weight loss, particularly due to the initial loss of water weight and fat tissue reduction when in a calorie deficit.

2. Improved Blood Sugar Control: By limiting carbohydrate intake, the keto diet can help regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

3. Increased Satiety: A higher protein intake and better food choices can enhance feelings of fullness, potentially aiding in adherence to the diet.


Drawbacks of the Keto Diet

1. Micronutrient Deficiencies: The diet may result in deficiencies of essential nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.

2. Transition Challenges: Some individuals experience the "keto flu" when starting the diet, which includes symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and nausea.

3. Lack of Fiber: The elimination of whole grains and starchy vegetables can lead to constipation due to reduced fiber intake.

4. Overconsumption of Unhealthy Fats: Some keto dieters may mistakenly believe that they can consume unlimited amounts of unhealthy fats, potentially leading to excessive saturated and trans fat intake.


My Thoughts

While the keto diet can be effective for weight loss and blood sugar control, it is not supported by scientific evidence as a superior diet.

Moderate protein and carbohydrate intake can achieve similar results when calorie intake is appropriate.

Want to Learn More?

Watch my in-depth review of all three diets in this video here!

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The Paleo Diet

The paleo diet, short for the Paleolithic diet, aims to mimic the dietary patterns of our prehistoric ancestors. It encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, healthy fats and lean meats. The diet excludes grains, dairy, legumes, and all refined and processed foods.


Potential Benefits of the Paleo Diet

1. Weight Loss: Emphasizing whole, nutrient-dense foods often results in calorie reduction and subsequent weight loss.

2. Improved Blood Sugar Control: A diet rich in lower glycemic index foods can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

3. Reduced Inflammation: The paleo diet's focus on anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds can contribute to reduced inflammation.

Drawbacks of the Paleo Diet

1. Limited Food Choices: While less restrictive than the carnivore and keto diets, the paleo diet still excludes certain foods and may lead to nutrient deficiencies.

2. Impact on Micronutrients: Eliminating grains, legumes, and dairy can affect the intake of various micronutrients.


My Thoughts

The paleo diet offers a balanced approach, with macronutrient distribution typically closer to 30% protein, 40% fat, and 30% carbohydrates. While it may not be a cure-all, it is a more appealing option than the other diets discussed in this post.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, when considering these diets, it's essential to understand that one size does not fit all.

A flexible approach, combining elements of each diet while emphasizing whole, unprocessed foods, is often a healthier and more sustainable choice.

Remember that personal preferences, health goals, and dietary restrictions should guide your decisions, and consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian is advisable when embarking on a significant dietary change. 

As great as all these tips are, if you’re really serious about starting a nutrition coaching business then the next thing you’re going to want to do is check out the video I have linked down below on the best tools to master client check-ins and save you time in the process. 

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