What is Atkins Diet?
Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that is usually recommended for weight loss. It is proposed that one can lose as much weight by just eating proteins and fats and restricting carbohydrates in the diet. About 20 studies have shown that a low-carb diet can lead to weight loss and health improvement.
- Atkins diet, despite being high in fat, does not raise the bad cholesterol level in a few individuals.(1) The reason behind the low-carb diet being effective in weight loss is that low-carb and increased protein can reduce appetite making a person eat lesser calories.(2)
Atkins diet is done in 4 stages:
- Phase 1 or the induction: In this phase, a person is recommended 20 grams of carbs per day for 2 weeks and is allowed to eat high-fat, high-protein, and low-carb vegetables.
- Phase 2 or balancing: Slowly nuts along with low-carb vegetables and small amounts of fruits are introduced in the diet.
- Phase 3 or fine-tuning: As the desired weight loss is close to being achieved, more crabs are added to the diet to slow down the weight loss.
- Phase 4 or maintenance: In this phase, carbs are allowed in a quantity so that the weight gain does not occur.
Some people choose to skip the induction phase and introduce plenty of fruits and vegetables. This can be effective as well. Some prefer staying in the induction phase for an indefinite time to maintain weight and this is known as a low-carb ketogenic diet.
Foods to Avoid in Atkins Diet
Foods that should be avoided when following the Atkins diet are:
- Sugar containing foods such as soft drinks, candy, cakes, ice creams, fruit juice, and others.
- Grains such as rye, wheat, barley, and rice.
- Trans fats are present in the foods that have the word hydrogenated mentioned in the ingredient list.
- Low-fat and diet foods as they are high in sugar.
- High-carb vegetables such as carrot and turnip in the induction phase.
- High-carb fruit such as banana, oranges, pears, grapes, and apples in the induction phase.
- Starch such as potatoes and sweet potatoes in the induction phase only.
- Legumes such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas only in the induction phase.
Foods to Eat in Atkins Diet
Following foods should be included when following Atkins diet.
- Meat including beef, lamb, pork, bacon, and others.
- Fatty fish and seafood including trout, sardines, and salmons.
- Eggs as they are rich in omega-3 fats.
- Low-carb vegetables such as kale, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, and others.
- Full-fat dairy foods that include butter, cream, cheese, and full-fat yogurt.
- Nuts and seeds including almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
- Healthy fats which include oils like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil.
- The main focus of Atkins diet is to include fatty proteins with vegetables and nuts and some healthy fats that help in losing weight.
- Beverages such as water, coffee, and green tea are considered healthy to be consumed in the Atkins diet.
A few foods such as bacon, heavy cream, cheese, and dark chocolates can also be consumed. Most of these are high in fat. However, it is said, when following a low-carb diet the body increases the use of fats as energy and suppresses the appetite-reducing the risk of overeating and weight gain.
As the induction phase is over, healthy carbs can be introduced slowly. This can be done by adding high-carb vegetables, fruits, potatoes, legumes, and healthy grains such as oats and rice.
Even if the weight goals are achieved, chances are there that a person needs to stay on a low-carb diet forever.
Vegetarians can eat soy-based proteins including plenty of nuts and seeds.
How Does Atkins Diet Work?
When following an Atkins diet the body’s metabolism switches from burning glucose or sugar as fuel to burning stored body fat, which is known as ketosis.
Low glucose levels or low insulin levels lead to ketosis. The body starts using fat stores as energy making a person lose weight.
To make up for the lack of nutrient-rich foods, vitamins and mineral supplements are encouraged.
Does Atkins Diet Work?
A review was done in 2017 and it was observed that people who followed Atkins diet had more effective weight loss than those following other popular diet plans.(3)
Another review was done and it was found that people who followed Atkins diet had better control of blood pressure, cholesterol level, and weight loss.(4)
Risks of Following Atkins Diet
According to a study people following the Atkins diet have reported a few symptoms in the early stages which include headache, weakness, fatigue, nausea, constipation, dizziness and unusual smelling breath.(5)
Atkins diet can help in losing weight but one needs to keep a check on the nutrient intake and include supplements if the nutrient uptake is falling below the normal range.