Paleo Plan

5 Ways The Paleo Diet Is Better Than Atkins

Dr. Oz, who I’ve been reading up on, calls Paleo the “alterna-Atkins”. People have asked me repeatedly how the Paleo diet is different from Atkins. While there are similarities between the diets – namely that they’re both considered low carb – there are many differences. This is my attempt at succinctly laying these differences out for all to see.

1. Atkins doesn’t give a hoot about where your meat comes from.
You could be eating the most factory-farmed, GMO-infested, pesticide-laden, corn-fed, antibiotic-laced, omega 6-mongering beef, and the good people at Atkins won’t blink an eye. Same with their eggs. They just want you eating lots of protein and fat, and very few carbs. However, to their credit they say you should “steer clear of cold cuts and other meats with added nitrates”.

On the other hand, Paleo diet/Primal goers have a high regard for their meat quality. Pasture-raised and grass-fed is best for its nutrient levels and fatty acid composition. Plus, it’s better for the animal, the environment and those animals are more sustainable to raise. Moreover, it’s closest to what our genes are expecting.

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2. Atkins makes a lot of their money on their “products”, like their Atkins Advantage Caramel Chocolate Peanut Nougat bar, the ingredients and nutrition facts of which are below. Click on the image to enlarge… if you dare.

As you can see, not much regard for the quality of ingredients here. It’s funny to me that just about the same nutritional facts (fat, protein, carbs, sugar) can be found in a Larabar, which contains about 3 or 4 ingredients – all totally recognizable and all totally Paleo. There’s no reason to eat these bars full of processed corn, wheat, peanuts, soy, sugar, and artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, and poisonous colorings. But they sure do make a lot of money on them…

The closest the Paleo/Primal community comes to this kind of trash is, well, we don’t. Let’s see… Paleo vendors are selling meat, 4 ingredient trail mixes, basically homemade baked goods? Nothing even comes close to the Atkins Advantage bars.

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3. Atkins advocates eating vegetable oils. Here’s their list of acceptable fats that I found here:

Butter
Mayonnaise – make sure it has no added sugar
Olive oil
Vegetable oils – Those labeled “cold pressed” or “expeller pressed” are especially good and olive oil is one of the best.
Canola*
Walnut
Soybean*
Grape seed*
Sesame
Sunflower*
Safflower*
*Do not allow any oils to reach overly high temperatures when cooking. Use olive oil for sautéing only. Use walnut or sesame oil to dress cooked veggies or salad, but not for cooking.

At least they tell you not to cook those oils on “overly high temperatures”, whatever that means. But sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, soybean, and other vegetable oils like corn are overly processed with chemicals and heat. They’re often hydrogenated, but there’s no mention of that in their guidelines. The biggest problem here is that these oils are brimming with omega 6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation.

The Paleo/Primal guidelines are clear: don’t eat too many omega 6 fatty acids. In fact, don’t eat any in the form of sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, soybean, corn, or other vegetable oils. Fewer omega 6′s, less chronic inflammation. Less chronic inflammation means less heart disease, joint pain, skin problems, diabetes, and the list goes on and on.

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4. Atkins advocates the use of Splenda and other artificial sweeteners, as found on their list of things to eat page here.

On the other hand, the Paleo/Primal world suggests you stay away from those chemicals, since many people are sensitive to the phenylalanine in aspartame. There are studies now that suggest that eating artificially sweetened foods can increase your appetite for sweet foods (eating sweets begets eating sweets), and thus make you fat. There are also studies that suggest a link between artificial sweeteners and neurological disorders, including migraines and possibly seizures. Enough said.

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5. Atkins is fine with grains.
In phases 4 and 5 (of 5 phases), you’re allowed to eat a certain amount of oatmeal, whole wheat products, and brown rice. But we all know that grains beget cravings for more grains, and furthermore, even a small serving of grains can make a lot of people feel terrible. No wonder Atkins isn’t a very sustainable diet. They take you off these foods, which caused the problem in the first place, and then let you eat them again once you’ve lost the weight? Grains very often cause gut permeability, which causes all kinds of inflammatory conditions and symptoms. That’s part of the main premise of eating Paleo, so I won’t go into it now. But here’s a blog post for further reading if you’re new to this.

If there’s anything about Paleo that really hits home for people, it’s that grains make them feel bad. Whether it’s digestive problems, skin flare-ups, joint pain or whatever, they just don’t work for most people’s genetic make-up. So Paleo takes those foods out. Forever.

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29 Comments

  1. YOU SAID:
    “If there’s anything about Paleo that really hits home for people, it’s that grains make them feel bad.”

    That is indeed the case with me. I can’t exactly explain the feeling I get, but I just feel bad all over.

  2. Jennifer Moore

    Paleo for 3 months… feeling better than I can EVER remember (I’m 49)
    Have read the paleo books. Now reading “wheat belly”.
    Give yourself a gift. Read it. And understand why you feel better without
    the wheat!!!

  3. I like this article for breaking down the differences between Atkins and the Paleo Diet. I would have prefered a more objective view because I am interested in the Paleo diet but am unable to find grass-fed meats, which is probably why Atkins is more popular.

  4. csimmons

    You obviously don’t know much about the Atkins Diet, or at least the original book written by Doctor Atkins in 2002. In the book he stresses quite clearly and often that processed meats are not allowed. Also, non-starchy vegetables are not only allowed, but strongly encouraged, just like in the Paleo Diet. Non-starchy fruits are also allowed, although in the later phases. He even mentions – quite often, actually – that Atkins is based in part on what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate – just like the Paleo Diet.

    Fact is, Atkins and Paleo are more similar than they are different. That the company Dr. Atkins founded now only seems to push processed, prepackaged garbage is unfortunate, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the Atkins Diet has helped millions of people lose weight (including me) and keep it off, with no significant side effects.

    I’m very interested in the Paleo way of eating and will more than likely structure my diet around it’s principles, since I want to cut dairy and certain grains.

  5. J Crawford

    I have read and tried the Atkins diet with actually great success until it comes to adding the carbs back in gradually for the maintence phase. I have regained over the last few years, adding in more than just whole grains,lol. I am now going to try induction of Atkins style but also using some paleo concepts. Then when transitioning to maintenance I plan to use more paleo concepts by not adding in some of the allowed foods from maintenance and using more paleo foods there. Probably not going to give up dairy such as cheese though.

    I was really shocked to see the first statement here though, that Atkins doesn’t give a hoot about where your meat comes from. Having read his books I can testify that he absolutely encouraged hormone free, antibiotic free, organic meats, and free range poultry and eggs whenever possible. You will find that in his book Age Defying Diet in the section titled “select safe foods” , where he also addresses genetically modified and irradiated foods. I also have used his cookbooks which will specify things such as nitrate free, etc. So even though it is not as much the focus of Atkins plan as the Paleo, it is there.

  6. Jamie z

    I have been diagnosed 3 years now with RA/SLE crossover with signifigant unfounded chronic stomach problems and hypoglycemia. I have been living a healthy lifestyle my whole life as a model and actress at a young age i have stayed trim and fit. It wasnt until my daughter at the age of 14 started developing similar problems that I began to really take a look at our diets. Mind you at the age of 30 I did try the Atkins diet but it never had any positive affect on my medical conditions. When I came across the thought process of the paleo diet things started to make sense to me. We started following it very closely and within 1 week the digestional problems I experienced for a LIFETIME were gone! My energy with 6 autoimmune diseases is double and although I was not even close to being heavy both my daughter and I lost a healthy 10-12 lbs in 2 months time. There is no sugar or carb cravings. In fact eating them makes us both ill almost instantly now. I have talked to several doctors in various medial institutions who are monitoring this diet closely and who truly see a difference in my bloodwork, my innflamation, weight, and disease progression. I have even been able to ween off of some of the medications and hopefully more to come. Im not saying its a miracle. Im saying its common sense. I eat what was put here for me to eat. I raise my eggs and my veggies. I shop for grassfed lean meats when possible and i eat balanced. Fruits veggies meat. We make breads out of almonds and coconut. We make ice creamish products. But i will never ever go back and for a 14 year old teenage girl who is socially active to hang out with friends and look at a bag of chips and say to her friends ” no thanks want to try my kale chips “. And some sleepover just to eat because they love I cook from scratch and it taste amazing. If we could do this anyone can! With SLE some nights I could barely open a can of soup I had no energy or time running her from here to there with dance competitions. But we live different now remember ” you are what you eat. Dont be cheap, easy and fast”. And also “if you cant pronounce it dont put it in your mouth”. One more thought. The other day I had mustard with meat I was eating and recieved a comment from someone snuckering “real paleo” I said actaually it is I made it and listed my ingredients. I said i see you are eating pickles what is in those? He listed his ingredients. Not all too bad until he got to calcium chloride etc .. I said that sounds delicious. And his comment was ” its salt its on the periodic table”. I said really wow i dont remember it. Lets google that. After 10 minutes we found it is salt in fact. The very same salt they use for snow removal or in oil tanks and septic tanks. And can be used in food. I dont know about you but if I am going to eat salt of any kind its not going to be one that has not been found to be potentialy dangerous to humans thus far and was made in a lab Ill stick to the one mother nature has put here for us. I mean I dont see anyone kn the roads licking the pavement. Just food for thought!

  7. I don’t think you truly understand the atkins diet. I’ve done it before. If you READ THE BOOK you will know that atkins allows only whole grains in small, controlled portions after you lost the weight. You don’t go back to eating the crap you used to once you’ve lost the weight you wanted to lose. You still only get 20-60 carbs per day depending on what your body can tolerate without weight gain. Also, atkins doesn’t say you have to eat certain fats/oils. It has a list of acceptable ones and you can use whichever ones you want. It’s not like you’re eating safflower oil by the spoonful. As for artifical sweeteners, atkins does NOT allow aspartame. Splenda (or sucralose) is OK because the only way it is chemically modified is by turning sugar into something your body CAN’T digest. Splend has NEVER been linked, in any study whatsoever, to migranes, seizures or whatever. That’s aspartame and, I believe, Saccharin. Get your facts straight before telling people paleo is better for you. I’ve done the research. Paleo is not better for you.

  8. @alex
    I have followed the Atkins diet for years and agree with most of what you said. However Splenda actually has been linked to many side effects including migraines. It took me three years to figure out what kept making me feel like I was having a stroke. My entire left side would go completely numb and i started getting anxiety attacks! I had mri s and had to see a neurologist. He eventually said I was having atypical migraines caused by some kind of allergen. I finally figured out it was the fruit flavoured water sweetened with Splenda that I had been drinking. Within a month after cutting it out of my diet I didn’t have another episode. That stuff is poison!

  9. I just wanted to add my 2 cents regarding Splenda as well. I was using it in my coffee every day and started having some bizarre symptoms. I was having vertigo spells where I felt like my whole body was moving in different directions and like I was falling when I was actually not moving at all. I also had arm and leg numbness. After a neurologist, 2 cardiologists, and an MRI to rule out MS failed to diagnose anything, I finally figured out it was the Splenda when I had more than usual in a day and had a really bad vertigo spell about 15 minutes later.

    I stopped using Splenda, and within about 3 weeks the vertigo went away. The numbness took a couple months to go away, but it finally did as well. I thought it was “just modified sugar,” but I wouldn’t wish that stuff on my worst enemy.

  10. Atkins foes not say eat vegatable oils or chemically enhanced meats anymore than automakers say speed by supplying cars that CAN GO OVER THE SPEED LIMIT. Atkins says you can eat and stay within parameters. You decide the quality. I feel sorry for this gal.

  11. jsdavis

    JCrawford and csimmons have it summed up. This really isn’t an objective view on the difference at all. The main points being that Dr. Atkins wrote the book (the original in 2002),and it was an amazing program. After his death, the name is just stamped on things and put out as “Atkins health foods” to make money. Like someone else said, that’s shame, but if you really did more research into the diet, you would realize that these two diets really do have more in common than you realize.

    For some people, always buying the best, all natural, perfect, no additives, free range chicken or beef isn’t always affordable. There are still affordable options, and you can still lose weight and be healthy, but some of us don’t have that extra money to put into buying the top of the line products at our local health food store. Either way, both WOE’s are valid. You just need to find what works best for you. I’ve never felt better than I do being on Atkins, and it’s the only WOE that has worked for me to get the weight off and keep it off. It might be better for others to choose Paleo, but either way, that decision should be made with objective advice and lots of information…not just a little.

  12. Steve N

    You obviously don’t know much about the Atkins Diet, meaning the ACTUAL Atkins Diet (2002).

    Atkins also didn’t want people eating over processed meats. As far a the company “making money” on thier products, There are MORE Paleo specific products out there then their ever was even when Atkins was at it’s height. As far as the oils, there is a list of ones he didn’t want you using, I think a Cardiologist is capable of determining what’s good and not good for the heart. As far as artificial sweeteners, Splenda was the only one he approved of. Grains are a part of our diet and there is more and more evidence that removing it has negative long term affects on people, people with actual intolerance is one thing. I’m not against Paelo but to pretend it’s not an Atkins ripoff is delusional.

  13. I’d have to agree with Squire and Cabert – Splenda caused the exact same symptoms for me! As far as the differences/similarities between Atkins and the Paleo, I do know from YEARS of research and experimentation that Dr. Atkins advocated as much real food as possible (with the exception of Splenda) but minus the bad carbs. It’s certainly not as you paint it here. Now the Atkins COMPANY (since he died) has made a killing off selling people crap. But please don’t denigrate the late doctor’s name. He was all for eliminating processed foods.

  14. Atkins diet sent lots of people to the hospital…. but unfortunately Paleo diet will soon as well… I am not a hater, but I want to talk with facts, meat consumption or animal ‘products’ (meat/fish/poultry/eggs/dairy) have the BAD cholesterol.. we can’t find that BAD cholesterol anywhere else! as well as high amount of saturated fats WHICH are the same as the hydrogenated oils you guys don’t consume.

    Paleo people ate meat because of necessity of survival.. we don’t need meat to survive anymore, if you look somewhat like this: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Image:paleolithic-man.jpg THEN i will believe your jaw, molars, canine teeth are made for eating meat… (even though their digestive system remained the same as ours “herbivore-like”).

    People get sick consuming grains.. YES! because of the gluten protein which can cause from headaches, runny nose to a serious constipation.. but ‘other’ grains are very important sources of vitamins, minerals and ESSENTIAL amino acids like Omega 3 (higher source of omega 3 found in flax seeds).

    I hope this Paleo-fashion ends up soon for an optimal health for our human race which is NOT AT ALL a paleolithic race anymore…. I would like to note as well that Veggies and lots of Exercises are VERY welcome to stay as part of this paleo-regime, they are as important as the air we’ve been breathing billions years ago. ;)

  15. faceinfive

    I have been researching both WOEs for months and months in an effort to correct some health issues.
    For my family, a blended attempt between Paleo and Atkins has been incredible in resolving allergies, migraines, hormone imbalance and the like. We have gone gluten free for the long term due to allergies, and I discovered recently that soy is a problem for me.

    That said, I do owe my initial improvements to several months on the ORIGINAL 1992 Atkins book. If you go back to the essence of what Dr. Atkins wrote, he IS NOT a proponent of artificial sweeteners. I really believe this has been added to the plan to allow for people who think there is NO WAY they could continue the WOE or any other without added sweetener. What he said was “if you do, choose Splenda or Stevia instead of Aspartame and Saccharine.” If you think back, not much research was readily available on Splenda in the 1990s and early 2000s because sucralose had not been around in “food” form long enough to have long term data. I think that Dr. A’s advice would still be to skip it if you can. As a tried and true fan of coffee drinks prior to going healthy, I can tell you that sweetened coffee was the last forfeiture for me. And if I can give up my grande caramel macchiato with splenda, I promise that anyone can! :)

  16. I call extremist on the no artificial sweetener party line.

    I don’t do a 1:1 replacement of sugar for sweetener.. I consider the load on my liver and never exceed 32 grams of any sweetener a day, regardless of whether its “all natural” or “all not natural”. I believe Lustig quoted 16 grams for prehistoric man and 32 grams as “not excessive”.

    But there is “No Such Thing” as an artificial sweetener.. deluding yourself into ignoring quantities with “Any Excuse” is a recipe for disaster.. some people have found “Drowning in Water.. fatal at times..” Give me a break, the hyperbole is ridiculous. Its like saying Vampires find “all natural wood” potentially hazardous to good health and therefore avoid Toothpicks.

    Aspartame is as natural as any “protein” its made up of two amino acids

    Sucrose is as natural as any “sugar” its made up of two simple sugar molecules

    Anything is toxic in too great a quantity.. even Oxygen

    There is no way anyone can ever manage all the chemical compounds on Earth they are likely to encounter in a human lifetime.. attempting to micromanage by “blind faith” is silly.. I hate green vegetables.. they dull my appetite.. so I think I’ll avoid all kelly greenbeans to help with Migraines

    You can however practice portion control and count calories, or count grams.. and adjust for your height and current body weight

    I don’t suggest bathing in Motor Oil.. but really postulating “psychotropic” properties for very simple compounds that are well understood is crazy. At least pick a complex molecule class to pick on.

  17. So GLAD to hear that I can eat a Larabar and be within the Paleo plan. Well, for at least some of them. I noticed some of the chocolate ones have sugar as an ingredient. Oh, well, there are lots of other varieties!

  18. I have to say that for people quoting Atkins..

    they should research it more. Perhaps back to when it originated way back in the 60′s and 70′s. His first book/plan came out in 1972. It was changed over time because it was too extreme.

    There is no “better” diet, if there were we wouldn’t all be struggling. Each person is so different.

  19. Jonny mcnickle

    I don’t think I have seen a more biased report in a long time, why even bother writing it.

  20. I wonder why some people have to attack others to defend their way of doing things. The diets are different, but the way this article was written was a total turn off. People and diets are different, no need to put down another diet just because you don’t follow it.

  21. Anonymous

    Wow I was interested in exploring paleo after reading the Atkins book. This article has really put me off though. It isn’t objective at all. It is downright rude and disrespectful of another way of eating which is actually incredibly similar. The way you belittle the Atkins in such a condescending way is shameful. If this attitude comes from eating grass fed organic environmentally sustainable produce then I think I’ll pass. Such a shame that with attitude like this you can turn someone against doing something positive for their body, something Dr Atkins would never do.

  22. I eat Atkins Organically and that includes dairy. I do not eat all the processed foods that they produce and eat zero grains. I do not follow the net carb garbage and rely on Dr.Atkins books that he wrote while he was alive. I eat organic butter and olive oil and only organic meats and wild caught fish. .most of us on Atkins are on the real diet or it won’t last long. Keep it to 25 carbs daily….all carbs not that foolish net carb nonsense.

  23. The “original” Atkins Revolution book was written in 1972. It barely resembles what the company advocates today. I can that Paleo is good, but I cannot see that it’s necessarily better. I think we all have to do what is best/available for us. It seems the diets are similar and complementary. I think both ways of eating are sound; it’s just what works. Atkins is always known for bacon, but nitrates were never encouraged!

  24. Anyone who is actually familiar with both diets should know that Paleo is basically Atkins diet with a new idealogy mixed in. There are some minor changes, and many of them I believe are for the better, but the two are clearly cut from the same cloth. Atkins though doesn’t use this idealogy of going caveman the way Paleo does.

    I don’t understand why Paleo people are so aggressive towards Atkins. Then again, I’ve noticed the same trend over the years — every new fad diet likes to spread stupid propaganda about how it is “better” than that “evil Atkins” diet, and usually by spreading misinformation, like you see in this article. I saw the exact same phenomenon when the South Beach Diet came up — it was vilifying the Atkins diet like no tomorrow, when the two were perhaps 80% the same thing. Now, SBD was clearly further from Atkins than Paleo is, but it’s funny how Paleo is now vilifying Atkins in the same way, and Paleo is a LOT closer to Atkins.

    I guess a new fad diet just has to pick on the most successful diet in order to get “converts.” It’s sad to see this kind of behavior, but I guess it’s just human nature.

  25. your diet is newer than atkins-lots has been learned since it came out. but you are a refined copy cat taking credit for ideas someone came up with a long time ago. you are selling products and books as well. You are pretty much combination of south beach and atkins. anyone with a brain can see what is good for you and what to leave out. both of the others are guidelines. people, try one diet-if it is healthy and works for you, great. if not, try another. oatmeal cuts high blood pressure. diary and eggs and cheese can help prevent osteoporosis.you are trying to make money like everyone else.be honest, give ideas, dont claim to be all wonderful when you are the same as everyone else. a refined copycat trying to make money off of refined work of others.
    people who need to loose weight-especially a lot, will fall for so many gimmicks, spend a fortune, and find out that nothing works but will power. you prey off people who are desperate. like everyone else.

  26. Molly Jea

    Atkins does not and never has endorsed using vegetable oil of any kind. It in fact specifies fats already found in butter, animal products and dairy. The original book instructed the person starting induction to throw out their Crisco, etc. Olive oil and coconut oil (virgin, unrefined) are often popular. As for adding back grains, again, the original plan allowed upping carbs as goal weight was achieved but advised eating sweet potatoes, low sugar fruits, nuts and other higher carb veggies. It cautioned in using grains, telling the successful weight loss person to add grains and other starches back with caution.

    It amazes me how many people review the Atkins plan without ever having read the book, especially the original version. Yes, the company has been redesigned unfortunately to make profit off manufactured items but Atkins himself did not highly endorse them. He did offer a few limited items at first to give his patients more insulin friendly options but always urged people to stick to natural food. He never advised people to avoid all carbs as many say or stave off fruits forever. He was highly critical of the American diet and proposed a great plan that is still a great one when followed as he originally instructed. The thing is, one needs to read the book before one can do so or have valid comment.

  27. Atkins is a diet designed for lose weight, is the fastest and the best diet for it, I tried it myself and I lost 80 pounds in 1 year, after it I have recovered only 20 pounds after 2 years and a half without diet and any exercise. Being the best diet for losing weight doesn’t mean is the best for your health, our bodies are designed for paleo diet and I’m gonna try it now. I know is not gonna be that easy and fast as atkins but I wanna live all my life with paleo and cross fit. You have to decide between lose weight fast or being healthy. Sorry for my english is my third language.

  28. forgot to say that even atkins is healthier than eat a lot of carbs and donuts all days like most people do

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