Atkins Diet: Is it an ideal weight loss solution? Fad Diets Series Part 1

4 min read

→Hello everyone and a very Happy New Year to all of you!

As we have bidden adieu to the year 2017 and have welcomed the new year – 2018, many of us must have made a list of ‘TO-DO’s” or resolutions for the new year. I’m pretty sure that after a smashing year end party, the resolution that would top most of your’s “TO-DO” list would be – Weight loss! In today’s busy world, we want everything to be easy & quick. So most of us opt for shortcuts! And such shortcuts to lose weight are what we Nutritionists call as Fad diets.

Fad diets are basically diets that promises quick weight loss or other health advantages but remember, they don’t have solid scientific backing. Also, these Fad diets are usually unbalanced as many such diets demand either eliminating one or more food groups completely or inclusion of only selected food groups in the diet. Both ways, it is not recommended because every food group is equally important in the proper functioning of the body & eliminating any of them might hamper your regular body functions.

There are plenty of such Fad diets being practised all over the globe. So, let us review some of the most popular Fad diets & their pros and cons one by one. I promise you to be unbiased throughout! But always remember, shortcuts are never a great idea, there’s always a fear of coming back to square-1 once you stop following it. So, better take the long route, atleast you’re pretty sure that you’ll not be back where you started from!

Anyways, let’s talk about our first such Fad diet from the series which is been practised by many and that is – The Atkins Diet!

What is Atkins Diet All About?

The Atkins Diet first appeared in the late 1970s and has gained popularity in the recent years in response to low-carbohydrate diet craze. Dr. Atkins, a well-known cardiologist, limited his patients’ intake of sugar and carbohydrates & as a result many of his patients successfully lost weight and kept it off – even though they had previously been unsuccessful on regular low-calorie diets!

The Atkins Diet is based on the understanding that everyone’s metabolism can use two different types of fuel for energy – either sugar (and carbs that are quickly turned into sugar by the body), or fat. But the type of fuel you burn can have a big difference in losing or maintaining weight. A typical diet reduces calories, but is still high in carbohydrates (and thus sugar). As a result, many people constantly cycle between sugar “highs” and sugar “lows”. For many, it’s really hard to lose weight that way.

Dr. Atkins, therefore limits the intake of carbohydrates (sugars) so the body burns fat, including body fat, for fuel. This approach leaves the body steadily fuelled, and weight is lost, even when more calories are being consumed. Steady fuelling also means more constant energy levels all day long, and less hunger and cravings!

The Atkins Diet Plan – 

The Atkins Diet is basically a 4-phase plan,

  1. Phase 1 – Induction – In this phase, you’re allowed to eat 20 grams of carbs per day with meals high in fats & high in proteins. Carbohydrates to be eaten are limited to leafy greens. Also, a four-square meal pattern is to be followed which means only 4 small meals per day and no munching in between the meals. This phase is continued for 2 weeks.
  2.  Phase 2 – Balancing – In this phase, along with low-carbohydrate vegetables, some nuts (no chestnuts) and small amounts of fruits (berries, cherries, melons but not watermelon) are added into the diet.
  3. Phase 3 – Fine-tuning – Here, some more carbs are added to the diet until the weight loss slows down.
  4. Phase 4 – Maintenance – In this phase, you can eat as many healthy carbs as your body can tolerate without regaining weight.

Foods to Eat – 

  1. Meats – beef, pork, lamb, chicken, bacon and others.
  2. Fatty fish and seafood like salmon, trout, sardines, etc.
  3. Eggs.
  4. Low carbohydrate vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus and other leafy greens.
  5. Full-fat dairy which includes butter, cheese, cream, full-fat yogurt.
  6. Nuts and seed such as almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
  7. Healthy fats which include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil.

Foods to Avoid – 

  1. Sugar in the form of – soft drinks, fruit juices, cakes, candy, ice creams, etc.
  2. Grains such as wheat, rye, barley, rice.
  3. Vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil and a few others.
  4. Trans fats that are usually found in processed foods with the word “hydrogenated” on the ingredients list.
  5. “Diet” and “low-fat” foods because these are usually very high in sugar.
  6. High carbohydrate vegetables such as carrots, turnips, etc (in induction only).
  7. High carbohydrate fruits such as bananas, apples, oranges, pears, grapes (in induction only).
  8. Starches including potatoes, sweet potatoes (in induction only).
  9. Legumes such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc (in induction only).

*Water – As always, water should be your go-to beverage when on Atkins plan.

What about Vegetarians?

It is possible to do the Atkins Diet as a vegetarian (and even vegan), but difficult. You can use soy-based foods for protein and eat plenty of nuts and seeds. Olive oil and coconut oil are excellent plant-based fat sources. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians (vegetarians that consume dairy products & eggs) can also eat eggs, cheese, butter, heavy cream and other high-fat dairy foods.

The Upsides – 

As mentioned above, during this diet the body burns fat, including body fat, for fuel which leaves the body steadily fuelled. Steady fuelling also means more constant energy levels all day long, and less hunger and cravings!

Dr. Atkins also outlines a phenomenon called “Insulin Resistance”. He theorizes that many overweight people have cells that do not work correctly. One of the remedies for insulin-resistant people is a diet restricted in carbohydrates. The crux of the Atkins Diet is a limitation of carbohydrates in all its forms.

The Downsides – 

The Atkins diet emphasises foods high in protein; however, foods high in protein may also be high in fat. Too much fat increases “bad” LDL cholesterol. Additionally, the diet limits or restricts fruits and vegetables, depriving dieters of the fibre essential for digestion, which may lead to chronic bowel disease. Limiting consumption of many fruits and vegetables also deprives dieters of antioxidants that help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Also, the majority of people who achieve significant weight loss through the Atkins Diet eventually regain their weight once they’ve gone back to carbs. In fact, a lot of people actually end up heavier than before they started.

So, that was Atkins Diet! But is it right for you? Before you start down the low-carb road, you should take some time to decide whether low-carb is the right way for you to lose weight. Just because it has been effective for others doesn’t mean that it will be right for you. No specific diet works for everyone, and you may even find another type of diet that works better for you than this one!

Till then,

Stay fit and stay healthy!

-Abha Sardesai

Abha Sardesai, Nutritionist, Food Blogger.

Abha Sardesai, Nutritionist, Food Blogger.

Abha is a Food Science and Nutrition graduate and currently pursuing M.Sc. in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. She calls herself an amateur Food and Health Blogger and an extremely big foodie at heart. For her food is not just about calories, carbohydrates and fats; it is a way of life! Abha truly believes that no food is unhealthy, what can be unhealthy is our attitude towards it. So if we correct our attitude, we can enjoy all those yummy foods! :)

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