The Atkins Diet is a low-carbohydrate eating meal plan. It was popularized by Dr Robert C. Atkins in the 1970s.
The diet has been revised and updated multiple times, with each iteration claiming to be more effective than the last.
Though many variations of the Atkins Diet, most focus on protein and fat intake while limiting carbohydrate intake.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about this popular diet plan, including how it works and what foods you can eat!
What is the Atkins diet?
The Atkins diet emphasizes the consumption of fat and protein along with severe restriction of carbohydrates.
Low carbohydrate consumption shifts the source of energy from glucose to fats. This eliminates the desire for carbohydrates and reduces the fat content of the body eventually causing weight loss.
In addition, low carbs consumption reduces the chances of many health problems such as high blood sugar, hypertension and weight loss.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this diet plan is a healthy approach to losing weight, boosting your energy, and improving health problems such as hypertension.
Moreover, this diet plan helps change your eating habits, finally giving you a healthy life.
Phases of the Atkins diet
This diet plan comprises four phases. Once you get comfortable with one phase, you may shift to the next phase or start 2 or more phases together.
Phase 1– Induction
This is a strict phase of the Atkins diet in which carbohydrates are restricted to only 20 grams per day for 2 weeks. You eat protein, use fats, and green vegetables, and drink at least eight glasses of water daily.
Phase 2 – Balancing
In this phase, you can slowly add back some nutritious carbs such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables to your diet. You may stay in this phase when you are only 10 pounds away from your weight loss goal.
Phase 3 – Pre-maintenance
You can switch to this phase when close enough to your goal weight. You can slowly add a range of nutritious foods to your diet plan in this pre-maintenance phase also until your weight loss slows down.
Phase 4 – Lifetime maintenance
You move into this last phase when you have achieved your weight loss target. Now you can keep on with this diet for life without regaining weight.
It should be noted here that all these phases are not necessary. In fact, some people skip the induction phase and still lose weight.
Foods to eat
Individuals on the Atkins diet should consider using the following foods in their meals:
- Fiber-rich, nutrient-dense vegetables such as zucchini, broccoli, and salad greens
- Low sugar fruits
- Complex Carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes
- Beverages such as water, coffee, and herbal tea
Foods to avoid
Following are foods you should avoid with the Atkins diet:
- High starch vegetables like potatoes, and green peas
- High sugar fruits (phase 1 only)
- Simple carbohydrates such as processed grains, and bagel
- Legumes (phase 1 only)
Potential Health Benefits
According to the advocates of the Atkins diet, this eating plan is more than a simple diet and provides many potential benefits. Some of these benefits are:
Supports weight loss
The Atkins diet focuses on the use of fats instead of carbohydrates as a source of energy. This mobilizes fat stores in the body and increases fat utilization thus reducing the body fat percentage.
A study says that out of 38 popular diets in the U.S. News & World Report, the Atkins diet proves to be the most effective diet in producing clinically meaningful short-term and long-term weight loss.
The Atkins diet restricts calories, therefore, helping you maintain weight for life.
Controls blood sugar levels
One potential benefit of the Atkins diet is that diabetics can also easily follow this eating plan. Whenever you eat high carbs foods, your blood sugar levels increase which spikes up the insulin levels.
As diabetics already experience problems in maintaining the balance between blood sugar and insulin, they can’t tolerate high-carb foods.
Therefore, eating low carbohydrates foods is beneficial for them. Experts in the Global Diabetes Community also suggest the Atkins diet is suitable for diabetics.
Prevents heart problems
Not only does the Atkins diet support weight loss, but it also decreases your blood cholesterol levels. Following the Atkins diet increases HDL (good cholesterol) and decreases LDL (bad cholesterol) in the body.
A decrease in LDL potentially reduces the risk of heart problems eventually increasing your survival rate.
Evidence also shows that low-carbohydrate diets have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular risk factors.
Risks of the Atkins diet
Although the Atkins diet is effective in weight loss, extremely reducing carbs intake may cause some side effects which are as follows:
- Low blood sugar
- Kidney problem
- Electrolyte imbalance
Some of these risks can be life-threatening. Therefore you should immediately seek help from your doctor if the condition gets worse.
The Bottom Line
Atkins diet is a popular low-carb eating plan that comprises 4 phases.
Studies prove that this diet plan provides many health benefits such as weight loss, sugar control, and reduced heart problems.
However, following this diet plan may also cause some side effects. Therefore, diabetics and hypertensive patients should talk to their doctor before starting the diet.