Other than taking away all our carbs, are the Atkins, Paleo and keto diets basically the same thing?
Short answer — no.
Although each of these diets are low-carb, they all serve different purposes.
We’ve broken down the details of three popular low-carb diets below. All of these diets can result in weight loss, but the one that’s right for you will depend on your overall goals.
The United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Service’s dietary suggestions recommend that adults break up their calorie consumption into 45 to 65 percent carbs, 10 to 35 percent protein and 20 to 35 percent fat.
Before starting on any of these, it’s recommended that you consult your doctor first.
What is the ketogenic diet?
Better known as keto, this diet was created in the 1920s as a way to treat epilepsy. Classic keto requires that 90 percent of a person’s calories come from fat, 6 percent from protein and 4 percent from carbs.
There are different variations of the diet out there, and all of them are high in fat and low in carbs, though they range from 60 to 90 percent of the diet coming from fat.
The purpose of the keto diet is to force the body to go into ketosis, which is a metabolic state that uses fat for energy instead of glucose (carbs). To enter ketosis, dieters need to be eating fewer than50 grams of carbs a day for a few days.
More: 7 fast-food restaurants with keto-friendly options
Although the diet is low-carb, its focus is to be high in fat with some protein — but mostly fat. There are no restrictions on the type of fat you’re supposed to eat, so followers of keto are known to eat things like bacon, avocados and butter.
Keto leans on the stricter side of low-carb diets as you have to maintain a rigid nutrition plan so your body can successfully go into ketosis.
What is the paleo diet?
The paleo diet calls for followers to go back to the way people were eating during the Paleolithic era, 2.6 million years ago, which is basically eating like a hunter-gatherer.
Paleo focuses mostly on a high-protein diet with a lot of vegetables and fruit. Unlike keto and Atkins, this diet doesn’t aim to be low-carb, it just is because of the food it cuts out, including grains, dairy, legumes and refined and processed foods.
While keto doesn’t discriminate between what types of fats you should consume, the paleo diet advises dieters to avoid certain types of oils and trans fats. And though you can eat all the peanut butter you want on a keto diet, the paleo diet cuts out peanut butter because technically peanuts are classified as legumes.
The main focus of paleo is to get people to go back to eating like our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
More: The pegan diet — a hybrid of paleo and vegan — could be the next big thing
What is the Atkins diet?
This diet is specifically marketed and labeled as a low-carb diet. There are two version of the Atkins diet now, Atkins 20, which is the original, and Atkins 40, which is a plan created for those looking to lose fewer than 40 pounds.
The classic Atkins diet has four phases — the first phase starts off with having dieters eating 20 to 25 grams of carbs per day and then slowly progresses to phase four in which people are allowed 80 to 100 grams of carbs, which is still considered low-carb.
Atkins also focuses on net carbs. Instead of counting all carbs as the same, this diet takes fiber and sugars into account, whereas paleo and keto don’t. So if a product has 10 grams of carbs, but 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of sugar, then your net carbs would be 6 grams.
And while you can prepare diet-friendly meals at home, Atkins offers pre-packaged and processed items that meet the dietary requirements.
Paleo and keto do not offer products like Atkins, so followers are expected to stick to the guidelines on their own.