Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Effects of a High-Fat Diet on Health and Weight: Paleo vs. Atkins

I bet cavemen would have loved butter. (Photo by Rakka)

Today I thought I'd shed some more light on the food items that I've been eating and also provide some explanations as to why I've chosen them and excluded others.

It might sound like I'm eating according to The Atkins Diet, but that's not entirely true. The most important difference between my diet and Atkins is that I eat a lot of fruit. In that sense I'm more closer to the Paleolithic diet, but again, I don't really subscribe to everything in that diet either, since some of the items I eat, like butter and cheese, were hardly on the caveman menu.

Nevertheless, there are several things with both Atkins and the Paleo diet that I agree with. In my eyes the thing they have in common is the idea that the way most people eat today is unhealthy because it's unnatural; that is, humans have neither evolved by nor adapted to eating things like refined sugar and flour all the time. The Paleo diet takes this approach a step further by banning everything that wasn't available to humans (or hominids) two million years ago, including all dairy products, juices, root vegetables that are inedible raw, processed meats and especially agricultural products like bread. Atkins tackled the problem from a slightly different angle: he simply looked at Western eating habits and showed that they cause obesity.

There's no doubt in my mind that one can lose weight by following the Atkins Diet. What he says makes a lot of sense, and I've seen the results in people. I wanted to see what would happen if I ate more fat while still eating restricted items like fruit, however. Spesifically, I've eaten a lot of things that are rich in saturated animal fat, some of which are allowed in the Paleolithic diet (fatty meat and fish, for example) and some of which are not (like butter, cream and cheese). I never buy anything that says "low-fat"; instead, I go out of my way to find the product with the most fat. I use butter to fry bacon. I take swigs of olive oil from the bottle and drink heavy cream straight out of the carton.

Some of the things that I regularly eat are:

Meat: mostly beef (I prefer the best cuts, medium rare), sometimes lamb or chicken
Seafood: fish (especially salmon), prawns
Fruit, berries & nuts: bananas, apples, pineapples, mandarines, plums, blackcurrants, blueberries, almonds, cashew nuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchinis
Vegetables: lettuce, onions, garlic, broccoli
Fats: olive oil, sometimes palm oil or coconut oil
Dairy products: butter, heavy cream, cheese, yoghurt

I have eliminated bread and pasta almost completely, though I did eat pasta every now and then when I first started - with olive oil and butter, of course. I still sometimes eat carbohydrates with a high glycemic index like rice and sweet potato (the latter of which is also edible raw, by the way). I also eat dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa), which I'm trying to cut down on, and drink beer, arguably the greatest product of the agricultural revolution. I haven't counted the calories I'm eating, but you'd be surprised how much energy is in a hundred grams of cheese or half a desiliter of heavy cream.

And no, heavy cream straight up is not disgusting, it's a delicacy for the true connoisseur.

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