Atkins Diet

What is Atkins Diet?

The Atkins Diet was created by Dr. Robert Atkins, a cardiologist whose interest in the health benefits of low-carb diets first culminated in the 1972 book “Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution,” according to The diet involves four phases, starting with very few carbs and eating progressively more until you get to your desired weight.

In phase one, for example, you’re allowed 20 grams a day of “net carbs,” 12 to 15 of them from “foundation vegetables” high in fiber like arugula, cherry tomatoes and Brussels sprouts, according to the traditional Atkins 20 plan. This is advised for maximum weight loss. Two other iterations of the diet, Atkins 40, which the company says is “perfect for those who have less than 40 pounds to lose,” and Atkins 100, a plan promoted to those seeking to maintaining their current weight, have a starting point of 40 grams and 100 grams of net carbs per day, respectively.

Generally speaking, the theory is that by limiting carbs, your body has to turn to an alternative fuel – stored fat. So sugars and “simple starches” like potatoes, white bread and rice are all but squeezed out; protein and fat like chicken, meat and eggs are embraced. Fat is burned; pounds come off.

But reducing total carbs isn’t all there is to Atkins. Limiting the carbs you take in at any one time is also in the game plan. A carb-heavy meal floods the blood with glucose, too much for the cells to use or to store in the liver as glycogen. Where does it end up? As fat.

In terms of plan flexibility, Atkins 100 allows you to eat the widest variety of foods in the beginning, allocating 100 net carbs throughout the day. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • A minimum of 12 to 15 grams of net carbs a day of foundation vegetables
  • Three 4- to 6-ounce servings of protein a day
  • Two to four servings of added fat a day

The remaining 85 grams of net carbs come from foods like legumes, nuts or seeds, higher-carb fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

Pros & Cons

  • Fatty food that’s guilt-free
  • Quick weight loss
  • Strict limits on breads and other carbs
  • Low-carb dieters may eat too much fat, raising health concerns

How does Atkins Diet work?

To start Atkins 20, the central Atkins program that allows 20 grams of “net carbs” daily during phase one, you’ll likely need to clean your cupboard and hit the grocery store – or your local butcher. Here are tips for beginners:

  • Stock up on fish, beef, chicken and other proteins; eat one 4- to 6-ounce serving at each meal.
  • Add a serving of fat to each meal – butter, salad dressing and olive oil are fair game.
  • Round out your meals with leafy greens and other low-carb veggies.

For more guidance, check out the Atkins lifestyle book “Atkins: Eat Right, Not Less” features more than 100 low-carb recipes, simple ways to reduce carbs and sugar and meal plans. The book also provides options for controlling carbs through the Atkins 20, Atkins 40 and Atkins 100 plans.

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