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.
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, four-ingredient trail mixes, basically homemade baked goods? Nothing even comes close to the Atkins Advantage bars.
3. Atkins advocates eating vegetable oils.
Here’s their list of acceptable fats that I found here:
- 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.
- Grape seed*
*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.
4. Atkins advocates the use of Splenda and other artificial sweeteners.
Find a full list of their 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.
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.