Diet Comparison Guide

Paleo? GAPS? Gluten-free? Low-Carb? Atkins?
 Primal? Weston A. Price? Or the Ancestral diet?

What is the right diet for you?

It can be confusing to understand the differences between these alternative options to the standard low-fat, high-carb American diet. Many of these diets are gaining in popularity and although they share many similarities, they are also quite different.

Some of these diets eliminate all grains, while some allow gluten-free grains. Some encourage dairy, tubers or artificial sweeteners. Some are designed specifically to manage celiac disease or promote weight loss, while others go beyond and aim for optimal health and well-being.

See the diet comparison guide below to help you identify the best diet for you, depending on your health status and personal goals.

Download the PDF version of the "Diet Comparison Guide"
to better understand what diet is best for you.

A bit more about their respective background to help you compare these different diets

  • Gluten-free diets: originally developed to manage celiac disease (an autoimmune disease in which gluten causes the immune system to attack the gut lining), it is now also becoming a popular option for people with non-celiac gluten intolerance. Read more about grains and gluten-free grains. Gluten-containing grains, such as wheat, barley, rye and most oats (oats are almost always cross-contaminated with gluten unless certified gluten-free) and foods containing ingredients derived from these grains are avoided, while gluten-free grains, such as rice, quinoa, millet, corn, buckewhat, arrowroot and amaranth are allowed. (1)
    [A typical gluten-free menu could include gluten-free breakfast cereals with lactose-free milk (people with gluten intolerance are often lactose intolerant too) and fruits for breakfast, a sandwich made with gluten-free bread and a yogurt for lunch, a gluten-free granola bar for snack and gluten-free pasta with gluten-free cookies for dinner.]
  • Low-carb diets: low-carb diets were popularized by Dr. Robert C. Atkins in the 1970s and have been proven to be an effective approach to promote weight loss, although it remains unrecognized by most health professionals and authorities. The Atkins diet limits carbs below 20 g a day during the induction phase, but allows up to 100 g a day in the following phases, depending on your personal tolerance. (2-5)
    [A typical low-carb menu could include eggs, bacon, cheese, tomatoes and a coffee sweetened with artificial sweetener for breakfast, a chicken salad with ranch dressing for lunch, a diet coke and low-carb  chocolate bar for snack and a steak with mashed cauliflower, broccoli and butter for dinner.]
  • Weston A. Price: Weston A. Price was a dentist at the beginning of the 20th century that traveled the world to study the benefits of different traditional diets not only on dental health, but overall health, as well as the deleterious impact of the introduction of processed food, especially white flour and sugar. A charity called the Weston A. Price foundation was founded in 1999 in honor of his findings with the objective of disseminating the research of this nutritional pioneer and promoting the consumption of traditional foods. (6)
    [A typical Weston A. Price menu could include homemade sourdough toasts with butter, free-range eggs, seasonal fruits and a glass of raw milk for breakfast, a salmon salad served with a homemade salad dressing and raw sauerkraut for lunch, raw cheese and/or soaked nuts for snack and a homemade stew with grass-fed beef, vegetables and butter for dinner.]
  • Paleo diet: Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf are 2 of the big names responsible for the popularity of the Paleo diet because they explained in details the link between evolutionary biology, nutrition and optimal health in their books. The Paleo diet eliminates grains, dairy, vegetable oils high in omega-6 fats, legumes, soy, peanut and sugar and focuses on high-quality food, such as seasonal and organic vegetables, tubers and fruits, grass-fed meat, free-ranges fowls and their eggs as well as natural fats like coconut oil, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, nut butter and ghee. (7-8)
    [A typical Paleo menu could include scrambled eggs with vegetables cooked in coconut oil with free-range wild boar bacon, a grilled salmon salad with olives, avocado and extra-virgin olive oil, grass-fed beef jerky or coconut chips for snack and a steak with a baked sweet potato and broccoli cooked in coconut oil for dinner.]
  • Primal diet: Mark Sisson developed the Primal diet following the same evolutionary principle as with the Paleo diet. The main difference is that the Primal diet allows the inclusion of full-fat, sugar-free dairy products. (9)
    [A typical Primal menu would be very similar to the Paleo menu above, but could also include full-fat plain yogurt, cheese and butter].
  • GAPS diet: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride based her diet on SCD (specific carbohydrate diet) created by Elaine Gottschall to design a nutritional protocol that can help “heal and seal the gut”. This gut-healing protocol is designed to balance the gut flora and promote proper healing of the gut lining by avoiding grains, starchy vegetables, sugar, soy, oils high in omega-6 and other processed foods. The protocol also includes homemade bone broth, meat on the bone and fermented foods. (10)
    [A typical GAPS menu could include scrambled eggs and vegetables cooked in coconut oil for breakfast, a homemade chicken and vegetable soup prepared with homemade broth, an avocado for snack, a homemade stew prepared with bones and served with vegetables and ghee for dinner as well as a cup of bone broth and some fermented foods at most meals.]
  • My opinion

    I believe that gluten-free diets and most low-carbs diets may be effective to solve some problems in the short-term, but they are not optimal for long-term health. The GAPS diet is a very good protocol to promote gut healing, especially if you are dealing with conditions associated with a leaky gut. The Weston A. Price diet, Paleo diet and Primal diet all shares common particularities borrowed from the diets of our ancestors.

    I believe that the best diet may differ from one person to another, but following an elimination diet protocol similar to what is advocated by the 4-week Paleo challenge is the best way to
    “reset” your body and then determine whether you can tolerate dairy, more carbohydrates from fruits and tubers, nuts and even some gluten-free grains to design your optimal diet.

    Use the ancestral nutrition principles to
    design your OWN Paleo diet
    .

    The Paleo dietitian can help you.

    See the PDF chart comparing Paleo, Primal, GAPS,
    gluten-free, low-carb and Weston A. Price

    to better understand what diet is best for you.


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      References
    1. Celiac Sprue Association. Treatment of Celiac Disease. Celiac Sprue Association website.
    2. Yancy Jr WS, et al. A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia. Ann Intern Med. 2004; 140: 769-777.
    3. Dansinger ML, et al. Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction. JAMA. 2005; 293: 43-53.
    4. Phinney SD and Volek JS. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable. 2011.
    5. Westman EC, Phinney SD and Volek JS. The New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great.  2010.
    6. Weston A. Price Foundation website.
    7. Cordain L. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. 2010.
    8. Wolf R. The Paleo Solution – The Original Human Diet. 2010.
    9. Sisson M. The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy. 2012.
    10. Campbell-McBride N. Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment For: Autism, ADD, ADHD, Depression, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Schizophrenia. 2010.


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