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King Keto

This post originally appeared on Locally Optimal, our data science Medium publication. 

Paleo is down. Keto is up — way up.

In the contest between the popular, fat-rich diets, Yelp reviewers are voting every day on which one is more relevant to their food lives. And after years of paleo dominance, peaking in 2014, keto has overtaken its lower-fat cousin in recent weeks: The string “keto” is coming up more often in U.S. food and restaurant reviews than “paleo” is.

Keto’s meteoric rise illustrates the power of diet trends, even if this is a subtle shift between two similar diets, not a dramatic swing between opposing philosophies. The keto diet weights fats over carbohydrates more than paleo does; paleo places a greater emphasis on whole foods. Both diets place major restrictions on what adherents can eat. That has dieting Yelpers looking to spread the word about their experiences.

When Yelp users write reviews of restaurants, food trucks, and groceries, they often focus on the quality, diversity and cost of offerings. Sometimes, reviewers also address whether people following restricted diets will find something to eat, which makes them useful resources for Yelp users with similar concerns.

Take, for instance, Lyla A.’s review of Flower Child in Austin, Texas: “I am doing Keto and they were happy to remove items that I couldn’t eat.” Or Christine Y.’s review of Bamboo Sushi in Portland, Oregon, which applauded the restaurant’s fulfillment of a request for a keto-friendly birthday treat: “They made this glorious dish with little cucumber rolls, and stuck candles inside of it — it was PERFECT.” Austin and Portland are, along with Dallas and Phoenix, the top U.S. cities for reviews mentioning “keto.”

Individually, a Yelp review can make the difference between a keto-friendly, delicious meal and a disappointing night out. Collectively, Yelp reviews contain data illuminating trends on avocadoscookie dough, and diets.

Graphic by The DataFace.