Whether you’re looking to lose weight or simply adopt a healthier lifestyle, you may have considered the Atkins Diet or Paleo Diet. These popular eating plans have been credited with epic weight loss, everywhere from Hollywood to your next-door-neighbor, among other health benefits. To learn more on how the two diets stack up, we spoke to two medical experts.
“Atkins is a very low-carbohydrate diet designed to put the body into a state known as ketosis, at which the body has an extremely high fat-burning rate, leading to weight loss,” says Dr. Christopher Calapai, D.O., an Osteopathic Physician board certified in family medicine and anti-aging medicine. “Then, you gradually work back up to a level of carb intake where you can still lose fat while maintaining your weight.”
According to Dr. Calapai, Atkins is for weight loss while the aim in Paleo is optimum health. Paleo can be low-carb but doesn’t have to be; this make it differ from Atkins which requires low carb to get to ketosis then the gradual build.
Dr. John Douillard, DC, CAP and author Eat Wheat: A Scientific and Clinically-Proven Approach to Safely Bringing Wheat and Dairy Back into Your Diet (Morgan James, January 2017) has spent the past 30 years helping more than 100,000 patients in his natural health practice improve their digestive systems. He emphasizes the primary difference: Atkins allows dairy products and over time the introduction of grains and legumes. Both grains and legumes are taboo in the Paleo diet. “Paleo is a no starchy carb diet while Atkins can be considered a low starchy carb diet,” says Dr. Douillard. “Atkins eating is an easier entry diet into the world of low carb diets.”
Atkins: The amounts of proteins, fats and carbs taken in are known as macronutrient ratios.
Paleo: Emphasizes avoiding toxins and eating high quality food.
Atkins: You may eat processed foods, as long as they are labeled low carb if weight loss is not affected
Paleo: Clean eating is the mindset with emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods.
Atkins: People are required to count calories and track carbs which makes many people feel it’s difficult to turn into a lifestyle.
Paleo: Carb and calorie counting are not required; however, being extremely mindful of what is actually in food is a necessity.
EAT THIS, NOT THAT
Both Atkins & Paleo: Refined sugar is restricted; meats are allowed.
Atkins: Less strict on processed or refined oils; allows for Atkins Protein bars and some carbs.
Paleo: Grass-fed meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and vegetables are preferred; this is also more restricted in terms of carb, as no starchy carbs (think: potatoes) are allowed.
Atkins: The re-introduction of grains and legumes after a period of time is allowed.
Paleo: Foods are seasonal in nature. Eating off the land from season to season creates a break from overeating any one specific food group.
This may be why people find that they can tolerate grains in the later phases of Atkins eating but cannot do so with a Paleo diet, explains Dr. Douillard, adding that eating Paleo may give those with really weak diet digestion better results initially.
“However, one of the hallmarks of a good and strong digestive system is the ability to digest a variety of foods. Between the two, I prefer Atkins because it is actually more Paleolithic than the Paleo Diet,” says Dr. Douillard. According to the expert, numerous studies have shown that hunter gatherers from the upper Paleolithic age some 40,000 years ago did eat cereal grains and legumes. If fact, according to Harvard anthropologists, the hunter gatherer’s ate about 35-40% of their diet as carbs (including grains and legumes), 20-35% fats and only 15-30% as proteins. “This suggests that their diets were actually quite well balanced rather than just a strict high protein, high fat and vegetable diet.”
Read more here about what our Paleolithic ancestors actually ate.