THE ATKINS DIET: It’s an Old Story But Here’s What You Need to Know

WHAT IS THE ATKINS DIET?

Atkins diet is a low-carb diet that is recommended for those who want to lose weight.

Those in support of this diet claim that one can lose weight even when eating enough protein and fat as required as long as they avoid foods with high carb level.

For over a decade now, many studies that have been done suggest that low-carb diet devoid of the need for calorie counting are good for weight loss and can further improve one’s state of health.

The Atkins diet was publicized by Dr. Robert Atkins, a physician who wrote the best-selling book about it in the year 1972.

From that time, the Atkins diet has been popular all around the world with even more books being written about it.

Initially, this diet was considered unhealthy by conventional health authorities, mostly due to its high saturated fat content. New studies have shown that saturated fat is harmless (1, 2)

From then, more studies have been conducted and they show that it can bring about more weight loss and greatly improve the blood sugar level, high-density lipoprotein, cholesterol, triglycerides and other health markers other than low-fat diets (3, 4)

Even though its fat content is high, it does not elevate low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level but some certain individuals may experience a rise in the LDL level (5). The mechanism of action of this Atkins diet is that it reduces one’s appetite thus making one eat fewer calories without the thought of it; increased protein consumption leads to reduced appetite (6, 7).

Atkins diet
Photo Credit: Atkins

PHASES OF THE ATKINS DIET

This diet has been subdivided into four phases which include:

  • Phase 1 (induction phase): this phase is the beginning of the weight loss. It recommends a high-protein and high-fat intake with low-carb vegetables such as leafy greens. It spans for about two weeks and the recommended carbohydrate level is below 20grams daily.
  • Phase 2 (balancing phase): gradually include more nuts, low-carb vegetables and little quantity of fruits to your meal
  • Phase 3 (fine-tuning phase): when there is an obvious improvement and it seems as if you are getting close to your target weight, increase your carbs intake to slow down the weight loss process.
  • Phase 4 (maintenance phase): in this phase, you can consume as many carbs as your body can handle without adding weight.

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It is worthy of note that these phases are difficult to follow and may not even be worth it. In as much as you can stick to the meal plan, weight loss will ensue.

Some group of people do not even observe the induction phase but rather go on to include lots of vegetables and fruits right from inception. This method can also work.

Another group of people may decide not to progress from the induction phase and remain there indefinitely. This is also called a very low-carb ketogenic diet (keto).

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FOODS TO AVOID ON THE ATKINS DIET

When observing the Atkins diet, stay away from the following foods:

  • Sugar: in the form of soft drinks, fruit juices, cakes, candy, ice-cream
  • Grains: such as wheat, spelled, rye, barley, rice
  • Vegetable oils: such as soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and more
  • Trans fats: typically found in refined foods that have “hydrogenated” on their list of ingredients
  • Diet and low-fat foods: these have a very high sugar content
  • High-carb vegetables: avoid them only during the induction phase. Examples include carrots and turnips
  • High-carb fruit: should also be avoided only during induction. Examples include apples, oranges, pears, and grapes
  • Starches: should be avoided only during induction. Examples include potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Legumes: avoided only during induction. Examples include beans, lentils, chickpeas

FOODS TO EAT

The following foods are considered healthy and your diet should contain most of them:

  • Meats: such as pork, beef, lamb, chicken, and bacon
  • Fatty fish and seafood: such as salmon, sardines, trout
  • Eggs: especially those that are omega-3 enriched or have been pastured
  • Low-carb vegetables: such as kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus
  • Full-fat dairy: the likes of butter, cheese, full-fat yogurt, cream
  • Nuts and seeds: such as almonds, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts
  • Healthy fats: including coconut oil, avocado oil, and extra virgin olive oil

The simple truth is that once your diet is based on fat and protein sources, you will surely lose weight.

BEVERAGES

The following drinks are allowed on the Atkin’s diet:

  • Water: water should be your all-time beverage
  • Coffee: coffee has been found to contain a high amount of antioxidants and is deemed healthy
  • Green tea: is healthy too

Small amounts of alcohol are also allowed but focus on dry wines that do not contain sugar and do away with high-carb containing drinks such as beer.

FOODS YOU COULD EAT

Other good-tasting foods are also allowed on the Atkin’s diet and they include foods such as bacon, thick cream, dark chocolate, and cream.

These foods are usually considered fattening because of their high fat and calorie content.

When you are on a low-carbohydrate diet, your body mainly uses fat as its energy source and reduces one’s appetite, thereby reducing the risk of overeating and weight gain.

AFTER THE INDUCTION PHASE, YOU CAN GRADUALLY ADD BACK HEALTHIER CARBS

The Atkin’s diet is quite modifiable. You are to strictly limit your intake of carbs only during the induction phase that spans for 2 weeks.

Once induction has been completed, you can gradually include healthier carbs such as vegetables with high-carb content, fruits, berries, potatoes, legumes and healthy grains such as oats and rice.

Even if you achieve your target weight loss goal, there are higher chances that you may have to remain on a moderate-carbohydrate diet for life.

If you go back to your old ways of eating the same old foods then you will likely regain weight, this is so for any weight loss diet plan.

CAN VEGETARIANS ADOPT THE ATKIN’S DIET?

Even though it may be difficult to adopt the Atkin’s diet as a vegetarian, it is possible.

Your protein sources would be from soy-based foods, nuts, and seeds while fat sources will be from olive oil and coconut oil.

The lacto-ovo group of vegetarians can afford to take eggs, cheese, butter, thick cream and other high-fat containing foods.

ONE WEEK SAMPLE OF ATKIN’S MENU

This is a sample menu for a week on the Atkin’s diet.

It is ideal for the induction phase but ensures to add higher-carb vegetables and some fruits as you progress to other phases.

MONDAY

  • Breakfast: eggs and vegetable fried in coconut oil
  • Lunch: chicken salad with olive oil and plenty of nuts
  • Dinner: steak with vegetables

TUESDAY

  • Breakfast: eggs and bacon
  • Lunch: vegetables and chicken that were left from the night before
  • Dinner: bunlesscheeseburger with butter and veggies

WEDNESDAY

  • Breakfast: omelet with veggies fried with butter
  • Lunch: salad made from shrimp with olive oil
  • Dinner: stir-fried ground-beef, with some veggies

THURSDAY

  • Breakfast: eggs and vegetables fried in coconut oil
  • Lunch: the remaining stir-fry from the night before
  • Dinner: salmon with butter and veggies

FRIDAY

  • Breakfast: eggs and bacon
  • Lunch: chicken salad with olive oil with just enough nuts
  • Dinner: vegetables with meatballs

SATURDAY

  • Breakfast: omelet with assorted vegetables, fried in butter
  • Lunch: remaining meatballs from the night before
  • Dinner: pork chops with vegetables

SUNDAY

  • Breakfast: eggs and bacon
  • Lunch: remaining pork chops from the previous night
  • Dinner: salsa and veggies with grilled chicken wings

Ensure to add different kinds of vegetables in your diet.

HEALTHY SNACKS THAT CONTAIN LOW-CARB

Majority of people think that their appetite declines when they are on the Atkin’s diet. They tend to feel very satisfied with 3 meals or even two meals daily.

If you feel hungry between meals, the following snacks can be taken as they are healthy:

  • Leftover meals
  • One or two hard-boiled eggs
  • A piece of cheese
  • A piece of meat
  • A handful of nuts
  • A small quantity of Greek yogurt
  • Berries and whipped cream
  • Baby carrots (especially useful during the induction phase)
  • Fruits (following induction)

HOW TO FOLLOW THE ATKIN’S DIET EVEN WHEN EATING OUT

Following the Atkin’s diet may be easy in some restaurants. Do the following:

  • Rather than taking potatoes, bread or rice, go for extra vegetables
  • Take only foods that are made from fatty meat or fatty fish
  • Add extra sauce, butter or olive oil to your meal

A SIMPLIFIED SHOPPING LIST FOR THE ATKINS DIET

The perimeter of a store is where whole foods are usually kept and it is thus the best place to shop for these foods.

It’s not compulsory to eat only organic foods but always remember to go for the least processed food item that is okay for your budget.

  • Meats: such as chicken, beef, lamb, bacon, pork
  • Fatty fish: such as salmon, trout
  • Shrimp and shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables: such as spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, asparagus, cauliflower, onions, kale
  • Nuts: including almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • Dairy: including Greek yogurt, thick cream, butter, cheese
  • Berries; blueberries, strawberries
  • Seeds: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Coconut oil
  • Fruits: such as apples, pears, oranges
  • Olives
  • Dark chocolate
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Condiments: such as sea salt, cinnamon, garlic, pepper, turmeric, parsley

Do well to avoid unhealthy foods and ingredients. This includes foods such as ice cream, sodas, breakfast cereals, juices, bread and baking ingredients such as sugar and wheat flour.

CONCLUSION

If you are serious about going on the Atkin’s diet, buy or borrow the Atkin’s books and get started without delay.

The Atkin’s diet is a very effective way of losing weight and it is healthy too. You will be happy you tried it.

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