The Paleo Diet will now challenge The Atkins Diet for the title of “Ultimate Low-Carb Diet.” The Atkins Diet was released to the public in 1958, and continues to be popular amongst dieters thanks to the New Atkins for a New You, an update to the weight loss plan released in 2023. The Paleo Diet is even older—about 2.5 million years older—but is enjoying a modern-day renaissance with seemingly unmatched popularity.
The lack of carbs is where these two diets stop sharing similarities. Atkins is relatively liberal in food selection, allowing for bacon, cheese, seafood, meat, butter, olive oil and cream. Paleo, on the other hand, is extremely restrictive, with dieters limited to the types of foods only our nomadic ancestors would eat. Red meat, chicken, eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables, and nuts—albeit not peanuts or cashews— are allowed, but grains, beans, dairy, sugar, salt, and flour are all off limits.
You can pick up the Paleo Diet for $14.95 on Amazon, while the newest Atkins book will set you back a bit more, at $16.99. Both have companion cookbooks which you can buy at your discretion, and they’re each $19.99. The Atkins website features a carb-counting tool, scientific evidence, and a recipe guide, not to mention many other tools and features. Paleo’s site has detailed nutritional analysis, published research, and a breakdown of why it’s good to eat like a neanderthal. And of course, both diets feature helpful mobile apps.
The weight loss plans in each of the books are presented quite differently. The Atkins Diet is more structured, with four phases to conquer individually—Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss, Pre-Maintenance and Lifetime Maintenance—while the Paleo Diet spells out what you can and cannot eat, offers a meal plan, and reads more like a history book.
On Atkins, the Induction phase lasts at least 14 days, Ongoing Weight Loss ends once you are within 10 pounds of your weight goal, Pre-Maintenance burns off those last 10 pounds, and Lifetime Maintenance will ideally take you to the grave a long time from now.
The Paleo Diet will tell you about the period of time before agriculture and animal husbandry when our ancestors didn’t consume grain, dairy, salt, or sugar—about 2.5 million years of dieting history. The history lesson makes this one of the more captivating dieting books.
Bacon, butter, cream, meat, fish, nuts, avocado, and whole grains are all foods you can eat on the Atkins diet. While those usually forbidden diet foods are allowed on Atkins, carbohydrates are not. Once carbs are forbidden, you start to realize how prevalent they are in the average diet. Other food no-nos on Atkins are dried fruit, added sugar, refined carbs, juices and most snacks and sweets. Weight loss will come quickly; as once you reduce your carb intake, your body will start burning stored fat for energy.
You truly will eat like a caveman on the Paleo Diet. This diet focuses on foods that come from the earth like plants and animals, and prohibits grains, sugars, flour, salt, dairy, legumes and oils. Basically, if it didn’t exist 10,000 years ago, you can’t eat it today. While it can be tedious, you can still prepare delicious dishes with allowed foods like meat, chicken, fish, eggs, fruit, veggies and seeds.
Fitness isn’t a tenant of either diet, but is encouraged. Atkins broaches the subject of exercise, and recommends brisk walking, swimming and water aerobics. And since our paleolithic ancestors were nomads, hunters and gatherers, it’s best to pair the Paleo Diet with as much exercise as possible.
Experience of the Authors
Dr. Robert Atkins wrote the original book, but New Atkins for a New You is an updated version written by Dr.’s Eric Westman, Stephen Phinney, and Jeff Volek. They are professors of medicine at Duke University, UC-Davis, and the University of Connecticut, respectively. Each author is an expert on weight loss and nutrition, and has written for numerous scientific journals.
Dr. Loren Cordain wrote The Paleo Diet, and is a professor of health and exercise at Colorado State University. He’s dedicated much of his professional career to the study of the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet and nutrition in modern humans. Dr. Cordain has written hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific publications.
Both diets have scientific evidence proving the nutritional superiority of their respective meal plans. If followed correctly, you’re going to lose weight on Atkins or Paleo, but both forbid a food nearly every human being eats on a daily basis: bread. Paleo takes it a step further and eliminates sugar, dairy, and oil. They’ve both been dubbed as a “fad diet,” Paleo specifically by the American Diabetic Association; for what it’s worth Atkins has been relevant off and off for more than half a century.
So it’s dealers choice. Because both diets are fairly restrictive, you have to ask yourself what you can reasonably live without. Or, you could continue to eat all the foods you love and just make sure you burn more calories than you consume. Moderation baby!
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