This is such a big issue, and with all the great marketing behind Atkins, I understand the confusion. On the surface they appear to be the same "diet," however, when you look deeper they are entirely different!
Both have their foundations as the modern diet is fundamentally flawed, and that protein and fats should make up the largest part of your diet. To better understand each one let's first take a look at Atkins.
Dr. Atkins, a cardiologist, based his diet on his finding in practice that most heart and health problems stemmed from our diets. He proposed a radical idea that fat was healthy and we needed to completely reset our physiology away from the high starch and sugar diet that most Americans still eat. While most people never really got past the part of the plan that said eat meat, there were 2 phases to his original plan.
The phases boiled down to basically, phase 1 meat, phase 2 addition of cheeses and nuts, then maintenance which meant adding in acceptable vegetables. It is low-carb - not no-carb - in its ideals. In fact, vegetables are only a no go in the beginning!
The paleo diet is based on the philosophy that our physiology hasn't changed in the last 10,000 years, but the way we grow, harvest and eat our food has dramatically changed with the advent of farming. Paleo can more accurately be described as a hunter-gatherer or ancestral based diet. It only boils down to eating things that aren't processed and that our ancestors would recognize as real food, not a food-like product that most buy through a window.
The major high points are cutting out all grains including corn, all processed foods, and legumes, and is heavily concerned with how the animals were treated and especially the animal's diet. There is absolutely no restriction on some vegetables, just that they should be in season in the area that you live. One of the other major points to paleo is that it is a lifestyle, not a trendy diet that just helps you lose weight then you go back to eating the crap that you did previously.
Atkins and Paleo do have similarities but, in my opinion, differ on some of the most important aspects of diet and health. Paleo is more of a philosophy of how you feed your body, removing the cause of most problems to the body. Atkins is mostly used to treat a symptom of obesity, once that signs have changed you are allowed to revert.
One of these significant differences involves the care and feeding of the animals that you are eating. This is possibly the most significant difference I see in the diets, the fats in grass-fed beef can be extremely beneficial! Atkins doesn't care where your meat comes from, how it was farmed or how it was raised. It doesn't take into account grain feeding, gluten, or added hormones.
Both diets can be called a higher fat diet and, if you don't consider the source of the fat and what it was fed, you may be loading your body with the toxins and hormones that were fed and injected into that animal. These hormones and toxins are typically stored in the fat of the animals. This is why I will spend the extra money for grass-fed beef and think it makes an enormous difference in the flavor and quality of the meat that we eat.
Paleo also allows unlimited seasonal vegetables that were and are essential to our health, whereas Atkins does restrict these in the beginning stages. In either diet change, you are likely to feel better, have more energy, and improve your overall health.
My preference is to eat things as close to nature as possible and with as little human interference as possible. I also really like my veggies, so paleo is a better choice. I hope you found this week’s Q & A helpful. Please pass it along and, if you have any questions, please send them to [email protected]
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