Paleo, Keto, or Something Else?
You know the “why” behind reducing carbs and increasing fats, but what does the “how” look like? There are actually many different “diets” that would qualify as low-carb, high-fat. The trick is to find the one that will get you the results you want but is sustainable as a lifestyle. Today, we will look at some of the most popular approaches to low-carb, high-fat, so you can decide which appeals to your personal goals and tastes.
Let’s start with the diet that reduces carb intake the most: the Keto diet. Keto refers to “nutritional ketosis,” a natural state in the body where fat is burned for fuel instead of sugar (glucose). It occurs whenever there is adequate carb restriction (for example, when you fast during nighttime sleep). Essentially, because there isn’t glucose to burn, the body burns stored fat, which leads to fat loss. Proponents of Keto cite many other benefits as well:
• reduced cravings/hunger
• improved mental performance
• better sleep and hormone regulation
The Ketogenic diet is not new. It was founded in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic. The diet was initially used because of its effectiveness in treating epilepsy. Today, it is being studied as a treatment for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases.
In general, Keto dieters consume 65-75% fat, 20-35% protein, and 5% carbs. The exact number of grams of each macronutrient you need to eat each day to remain in Ketosis are called your “macros.” You can use an online macro calculator (for example, this one) to find your personal macros. You can then enter these numbers as goals, using a food-tracking app (for example, MyFitnessPal) to help track your macro intake each day. It’s also possible to “eat Keto” without tracking macros, by focusing on increasing fat, minimizing carbs, and letting protein fall in the middle. For me, this was enough to see and feel results, but others prefer hard numbers.
But is Keto the same as Atkins? They are certainly similar. With the Atkins Diet, there are phases where carbs are restricted less and less as the diet progresses. Keto is about getting into and staying in nutritional Ketosis by finding one’s personal macro setpoint.
Another very popular diet for low-carb eating is the Paleo or Primal diet. The basic premise is that our digestion and nutrition needs have not evolved much from those of our early ancestors, so we should only eat foods that were available during hunter-gatherer days. This excludes grains, dairy, legumes, and anything processed or containing sugar. There is an emphasis on wild or grass-fed/pastured meat. The amount of carbs allowed is higher than Keto, as there isn’t an emphasis on getting the body into Ketosis (though you can easily do so on a Paleo diet).
A macro breakdown might be 20% carbohydrates, 65% fat, and 15% protein for most people, with the carbs coming mostly from non-starchy vegetables and some fruits.
You may also want to consider the following diets:
• Bone broth diet. It is a variation of Paleo that adds in large amounts of bone broth for its beneficial collagen content and includes intermittent fasting periods.
• Elimination diets. In addition to being lower-carb (from removing grains and sugar), these diets are intended to address autoimmune-related symptoms and help identify trigger foods that should be avoided indefinitely by the individual. Some common elimination diets are AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) and Whole30.
If you’re currently eating closer to the USDA’s macro recommendations (10-35% protein, 45-65% carbohydrates, 20-35% fat), then switching to low-carb, high-fat will be a big change. Some people prefer to dive right in with a Keto diet for faster results; others wade in gradually by removing processed foods and increasing high-fiber carbs (remember that handy “3/20” rule) and healthy fats.
Wherever you fall, you’re going to need new recipe ideas to get started, and I cannot wait to share some of my favorites with you! Over the next several days, we’ll look at simple recipes, easy swaps, and helpful resources for transitioning to a low-carb lifestyle.
Hope you’re hungry—tomorrow, we’ll start with breakfast!
From my kitchen to yours,
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