Since people are more familiar with the trendier Keto and Paleo diets, and the never-really-went-away 1960s Atkins diet, you’re bound to be asking how these three differ from eating low sugar, low carb. While Keto, Paleo and Atkins sounds like a law firm, these diets are more like kissing cousins to a low-sugar, low-carb diet—there’s enough of a relationship to welcome them, but not quite enough to embrace them in a full bear hug.
Eating keto —named for ketosis, a process where the body burns fat (rather than carbs) for energy—is distinct in that your body reaches this goal on a very high-fat, carb-restrictive diet, with consumption of only 50 net carbs a day. While I admire people who can sustain this, and appreciate their good results, I’d find it impossible to follow it over any significant period of time. Personally, I aim to stay somewhere below 100 carbs a day (keeping a rough count, based on getting familiar with carbs and the glycemic index), an approach which got me to my prized mission of normal blood sugar.
[Keto DESSERTS on the other hand, are another story! Disclaimer: Goodbuy Sugar exists to bring these, and similarly low-sugar, types of sweets into the world.]
The Paleo (caveman) diet isn’t as high fat or as strict about carbs, but because it emphasizes food in a ‘state of nature,’ it includes high-sugar and dried fruits and things like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and dates—not our best friends on a low-sugar diet. Also, because of pre-agricultural and other principles behind it, most versions reject grains and legumes—including oats, soy, peanuts, and beans—and dairy. So you might remember this diet by the following adage: “most protein from meat—AND much more sweet.” Since I consider beans a critical staple of a low-carb diet, and I plow through peanut butter, Paleo would be hard to follow.
Finally, from what I understand about Atkins, you’re not supposed to consume more than 20 net carbs a day—below the keto folks’ sparse 50!—for the first two weeks, and then you re-introduce carbs in stages until you maintain the weight that you ostensibly lost. Apparently, adherents often eat only 2-3 meals a day, which makes me think that, like keto, the diet may be overly fatty and low fiber. But for those of you who respond well to set rules, Atkins could be a good way to kick start a major change in diet, even if it’s drastic at the start. Just keep in mind that weight loss is not equivalent to lowering blood sugar. For example, when my weight was the lowest it’s been, I still had high blood sugar, and when my sugar finally normalized, I was at the weight I was before I started eating low carb! Since muscles weigh more than fat, you might actually gain weight even as your waistline gets smaller, but you are losing visceral fat and so your sugar improves.