There's a lot of terminology that surrounds some of the best 'diets' out there at the moment and it can be hard to know which to choose. Here I take a deeper look at the differences between Paleo and LCHF and provide a handy comparison table - is one better than the other?
There's so much confusion for those wanting to follow a healthier lifestyle: understanding different 'diets' and the terminology that comes with them. I was at a huge health conference recently, the Public Health Collaboration
conference, and over lunch each day I would end up discussing differences and seeing the confusion between these 'diets' and which was ‘best'.
You'll note I say 'diets' not diets because they are both lifestyle choices: change for life, it's not about quick weight loss anymore, it's about nourishing your body for life to stay healthy.
By the way, the Public Health Collaboration conference was brilliant, everyone should consider becoming a member. It's full of the most forward-thinking, driven, amazing people: health experts, GP's, doctors, alternative therapists that really ‘get' health and are doing their damnedest to bring about the change we need for our world to thrive.
I'm not a nutritionist, however I've gained a wealth of information on these diets over the 5 years I've been following a predominantly Paleo diet, so the aim here is to pass it on. Knowledge is power (then you just need to go do something with it!).
So, of the ‘lower carb' options, is there one which is ‘best' and what do they mean:
There's a *lot* of overlap
Fundamentally, these diets are all trying to achieve the same goals and largely ascribe to the following values:
• Our modern diet is heavy in processed foods, dangerous highly-processed oils and refined sugars. Research has shown that these ingredients have contributed massively to our modern disease epidemics (such as Diabetes Type II, Fatty Liver Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Coronary Heart Disease).
• The lower carb diets focus on eating ‘real', unprocessed food. Why? Because it's what our ancestors ate, at a time when the modern diseases we now face didn't exist. By looking at our (paleolithic) ancestors, we can see what our bodies know how to process without damaging ourselves.
The modern food revolution and mass-farming methods has provided us with food types (such as most grains) that are sub-standard in terms of nutrient density and hugely different in structure to how they were in previous era's. That has a detrimental effect on our bodies.
• These ‘diets' aren't diets. They are a permanent lifestyle change which brings lasting health results. Weight loss may well occur as a result of following them but that's not the main reason for their existence. This is about eating well, as part of an active and healthy lifestyle, for life.
Following any of these diets will result in long-term positive health changes but of course you should consult with your doctor should you considering following any of them (just know you may need to educate your doctor as to the diet you wish to follow!).
The true diet of our ancestors, a Paleo diet looks at what our Palaeolithic ancestors ate (and lived) and applying it to our modern day. So it doesn't mean running around in a loin cloth beating your chest and trying to catch a deer for dinner (although if that's your thing, have fun!), it's looking at what they ate and trying to largely replicate how they lived.
Paleo isn't necessarily ‘low carb' although it's often considered to be. By stripping out the over-processed foods from your diet, you'll naturally be at a lower carb level but depending on the volume of starchy veg in your diet, you may not be as low carb as you think! Carbs aren't not monitored to the same degree as a LCHF diet.
Strictly Paleo means avoiding neolithic foods (i.e. foods that materialised after the palaeolithic age, with the advent of farming and agriculture). That means no grain, legumes (pulses and beans), dairy, alcohol, processed vegetable oils or refined sugar. Arguably, the quality of food you source is stricter than on a LCHF diet (e.g. in terms of where your meat comes from).
What you can eat is pasture raised or wild meat (including organ meat), wild oily fish, vegetables (with a preference for the ones grown above ground), fruits (with a preference for the lower carb options such as berries, nectarines and plums), eggs and nuts.
Known as ‘Low Carb, High Fat', or more recently ‘Low Carb, Healthy Fat', and also referred to as a ‘Keto' or ‘Ketogenic' diet.
The focus here is to get your body into what is called ‘ketosis'; making fat in your body the primary source of fuel.
By lowering carbs to such a low level (ideally under 50g per day, ketogenic is under 20g per day), the balance of you nutrition comes from protein and much higher, healthy fats.
As opposed to the Paleo diet, some full-fat dairy is allowed (and indeed encouraged) but fruit is off the menu with a LCHF diet.
• Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables growing above ground and natural fats (like butter).
• Avoid: Sugar and starchy foods (like bread, pasta, rice, beans and potatoes).
If you're diabetic, have high blood-pressure or are breastfeeding, you MUST do more research first and speak with health specialists/your GP before changing to a LCHF diet. LCHF can successfully put Diabetes type II into remission and lower high-blood pressure but you do need to do it the ‘right' way.
|Carbohydrates||Low to Medium ||Low (<50g low carb, <20g Keto)|
High, healthy saturated fats
(incl coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, lard)
High, healthy saturated fats
(incl butter, ghee, olive oil. avocado)
|Meat, Fish, Eggs||Yes ||Yes|
|Dairy||No||Yes, full fat|
|Sugar - refined||No||No|
|Sugar - natural alternatives (honey)||Yes in moderation||No|
Yes (low natural sugar options)
1-3 portions per day max
No (exception: Berries)
1 portion per day max
|Vegetables - grows above the ground||Yes ||Yes|
|Vegetables - grows below the ground||Yes (if not looking to lose weight)||No|
|Nuts||Yes (note peanuts are a legume, not a nut)|
Yes (lower carb options are pecans,
macadamia, brazil nuts)
In moderation, low carb options:
Red wine, white wine, spirits
|Other drinks||Water, coconut water, kombucha, herbal tea ||Water, coffee, tea, bulletproof coffee|
You can probably guess right? You think I'll say Paleo because that's the lifestyle I follow?
Well … you're wrong, ha! My conclusion is, and always will be, find the 'diet' that works for you and your body. Consider your health, illnesses, syndromes, allergies, hormone imbalances (the list goes on) – talk to health experts, talk with your GP, kynesiologist, nutritionist, alternative therapist – work out what works for you. It will probably be a hybrid of the diets above (I'm currently somewhere between Paleo and LCHF!) or a tweaked variation of one.
Basically, eat good naturally raised food that we have been eating for many hundreds of thousands of years (from before the farming revolution), keep up high consumption of fatty and oily foods, and keep low or eliminate foods that are artificially or mass produced and which are often high in carbohydrates. Whatever label you want to put on it after, be it Paleo, LCHF, Banting, Ketogenic, Whole 30 – frankly who cares, you're now WINNING!
What I can say with certainty is if you follow either a Paleo or LCHF lifestyle, you're make big steps in the right direction to a happier, healthier life. Now go do it! xx
p.s. this is my interpretation of Paleo and LCHF from my own research over the years. There is no absolute 'right' or 'wrong' here. If your opinion differs, that's cool.