Health and weight loss have often been linked with strict, nearly impossible eating regimens. Who hasn't heard of Gwyneth Paltrow’s stringent macrobiotic diet? Luckily for meat lovers, other diets have emerged catering to the tastes of would-be carnivores while promoting weight loss, health and overall well-being.
What is the Atkins Diet: Delicious Weight Loss
The Atkins diet has been around for decades, often making popular appearances in popular culture. Most recently, Kim Kardashian cited Atkins as the reason for her epic weight loss after giving birth. The Atkins diet centers on depriving the body from quick energy sources to force your system to resort to stored fats for energy in a process referred to as ‘ketosis’.
The advantage the Atkins diet has over other diets is its range of desirable foods. Dieters on Atkins can enjoy butters, fats, mayonnaise, fatty meats, cheese and full fat dairy without having to feel guilty. However, there are strict carbohydrate limitations which rule out all fruits and many vegetables – both of which are healthy parts of most diets.
What to Eat on the Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet consists of four stages: induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance and maintenance. The first stage is the most restrictive, with less than 20 grams of carbohydrates allowed. The 20 grams must come from greens or low-carbohydrate vegetables such as spinach, cauliflower, asparagus and broccoli. The dieter then slowly introduces other food types, previously not allowed, following a food ladder.
Foods allowed in all stages are:
- Fish and shellfish
- Poultry, bacon, beef, ham, pork, venison and veal.
- Non-starch vegetables like greens and mushrooms
- Cheese, including blue cheese, cheddar, cream cheese, feta, Gouda, mozzarella, Parmesan and Swiss
- Condiments and seasonings
- Beverages, including club soda, coffee, diet soda and herbal tea free of barley or fruit sugar
Foods introduced into the diet in latter stages are:
- Foundation vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole milk and yogurt
- Tomato juice
- Other fruits
- Starchy vegetables
- Whole grains
What are the Effects of Eating a Low-Carb Diet?
What is the Paleo Diet? (Eat Like a Caveman)
Popular among many celebrities and fitness enthusiasts, the Paleo diet (short for ‘Paleolithic’) has taken center stage in the past couple of years. As you may have guessed, this diet is based on the eating habits of Paleolithic humans, more commonly referred to as ‘cavemen’. There is one ground rule in the Paleo diet: you can only eat what cavemen ate. If a certain food cannot be obtained by means of hunting and gathering, it should not be part of your diet. The second rule of Paleo is to stay as natural as possible, and avoid all kinds of processed foods, chemicals and artificial components.
The scientific theory behind this rule is that human genes have not evolved since the Paleolithic age, and hence, the human body is not equipped to deal with the foods that were introduced to our diets after this era. Scientists argue that in eating these foods we are not genetically equipped to deal with, have led to ‘maladaptations’, such as diabetes.
What to Eat on the Paleo Diet
The foods you can eat on a Paleo diet are:
- Meat (pasture-raised)
- Fish and seafood
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil
Meats should optimally be free range and grass-fed. If that’s unattainable, organic meat that has not been subjected to hormones and antibiotics is a viable alternative. It is important to stay away from fatty meat parts such as chicken skins, since that’s where most of the unnatural substances deposit. Eggs should also be free range and organic.
It is important to note that peanuts are not considered nuts, so you might have to replace peanut butter with nut butters such as almond butter.
The foods you shouldn't eat on a Paleo diet are:
- Legumes (such as beans or chickpeas)
- Artificial foods and drinks such as soda and jelly
- Vegetable oils
- Genetically modified foods
- Fruit juices
Paleo vs Atkins: How to Choose which Diet is best for you
The choice between Paleo and Atkins is highly personal. Both diets require a degree of commitment, but while Atkins eliminates certain foods for a limited period of time and then reintroduces them, Paleo rules out certain foods for good. You should ask yourself whether you are willing to completely rid your diet of dairy, legumes, carbohydrates, sodas and artificial products.
If your main focus is health, Paleo generally brings some advantages. Adopting a completely natural eating style and eliminating chemicals altogether should do wonders for your health. The integration of clean organic produce and healthy, grass-fed meats combined with the elimination of foods that cause metabolic problems, like dairy and grains, will promote higher energy levels and feelings of well-being.
This contrasts with the negative health impacts that some Atkins dieters see when they indulge in fatty meats and butters, causing their cholesterol levels to skyrocket. Even with a keen eye on avoiding the unhealthy side of Atkins, the diet doesn't help rid your body of chemicals. On the contrary, sodas, artificial sweeteners and artificial foods are all integrated into the Atkins diet.