Diet Plan Information: Potato Diet Plan

 

What is the Potato Diet Plan?

The potato diet plan requires that you eat one thing and one thing only: potatoes. By only consuming potatoes, your daily caloric intake is likely to go down and you will lose weight. Your taste buds will also be somewhat “reset” because you’re not consuming sugars, fats, oils, or anything else aside from potatoes. The potato diet was made more popular in 2016 when magician Penn Jillette lost 100 pounds on the diet and has managed to keep it off since.

 

How Do You Implement the Potato Diet Plan?

Many people have done the potato diet plan for a few days to a week to try to shed some extra pounds before summer or a wedding. Dieters consume roughly two to five pounds of potatoes per day and while that sounds like a lot of potato, it’s not very many calories (roughly 500-1500 calories depending on how many potatoes you eat).

No condiments are allowed on the potato diet. You can’t add that pat of butter or that scoop of sour cream. Also, you can’t eat fried potatoes – only baked or boiled.

 

Is the Potato Diet Plan Safe?

Well, that depends on who you ask. Some people call potatoes “the perfect food” because they do contain a number of nutrients.

However, there are numerous studies out there that suggest consumption of potatoes is associated with a number of potential health risks. One study found that higher intake of potatoes (boiled, baked, mashed, or fried) is associated with an increased risk of hypertension (Borgi et al., 2016). Another study found a correlation between potato consumption and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (Bidel et al., 2018).

It should be noted that there aren’t any studies just on the potato diet itself so the increased health risks are likely associated with the standard American diet as a whole rather than just the consumption of potatoes. Being overweight is unhealthy and if you can consume only potatoes for a time to lose the weight, it may be worth trying. Be sure to take supplements if you decide on the potato diet to ensure you’re getting all of your nutritional needs. As with any diet, talk to your doctor before starting.

“I do not believe that you have to spend a lot of money to eat well: it is hard to beat a plain old baked potato.” –Laurie Colwin

 

Pros of the Potato Diet

  • Boring But Easy: Since all you’re eating is potatoes, you may not consume as much as you otherwise would because they are so plain. This makes the diet pretty easy to follow, even if a bit boring. You can even bake a potato in the microwave!
  • Affordable: Potatoes are plentiful and cheap so the potato diet is generally inexpensive.
  • No Calorie Counting: You’re permitted to eat as many potatoes as you’d like on the diet. You’ll never go hungry and you never have to restrict portion sizes.

 

Cons of the Potato Diet

  • Boring: All you eat are plain potatoes. No butter, no sour cream, no cheese. Just potatoes.
  • Not a Balanced Diet: Since all you’re eating are potatoes, you’re not getting all of the nutrients you need to remain healthy. You’ll need to take supplements like zinc, magnesium, calcium, and more. Be sure to check with your doctor before embarking on this diet.
  • Weight Regain: As soon as you return to your normal method of eating, you’re likely to regain any and all the weight you lost.

 

Books on the Potato Diet

  • Potatoes Not Prozac: Revised and Updated: Simple Solutions for Sugar Addiction Paperback (Kathleen DesMaisons Ph.D.): “Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons came up with the solution and published it in her revolutionary book, Potatoes Not Prozac. In that instant bestseller, she provided the tools needed to overcome sugar dependency, including self-tests and a step-by-step, drug-free program with a customizable diet designed to change your brain chemistry.”
  • Presto!: How I Made over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales (Penn Jillette): “An unconventional weight loss tale from an unconventional personality. Penn Jillette tells how he lost 100 pounds with his trademark outrageous sense of humor and biting social commentary that makes this success story anything but ordinary.”
  • Spud Fit: A whole food, potato-based guide to eating and living (Andrew Taylor & Many Van Zanen): “The Spud Fit Challenge was borne out of Andrew’s desire to remove addictive foods from his life once and for all; if an alcoholic should quit alcohol then maybe a food addict should quit food? He continues to avoid addictive foods by enjoying a wide variety of delicious, whole foods in all their forms, without any need to count calories, analyse portion size, measure or weigh food (or yourself!), restrict intake or overthink anything at all.”
  • The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good! (John McDougall & Mary McDougall): “Bestselling author John A. McDougall and his kitchen-savvy wife, Mary, prove that a starch-rich diet can actually help you lose weight, prevent a variety of ills, and even cure common diseases. By fueling your body primarily with carbohydrates rather than proteins and fats, you will feel satisfied, boost energy, and look and feel your best.”

 

Evidence-Based Studies on the Potato Diet

There are no studies purely on the potato diet plan but there are some studies regarding the consumption of potatoes. Again, note that these studies are not based solely on the potato diet plan but rather an increased consumption of potatoes in conjunction with a regular diet.

  • Increased Risk of Hypertension: “Higher intake of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes and French fries was independently and prospectively associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension in three large cohorts of adult men and women” (Borgi et al., 2016).
  • Increased Risk on Type 2 Diabetes: “Long-term high consumption of potato (each serving a day increase) may be strongly associated with increased risk of diabetes” (Bidel et al., 2018).

Diet Plan Information: Alkaline Diet

 

What is the Alkaline Diet Plan?

The alkaline diet (also known as the alkaline ash diet or the acid-alkaline diet) follows the idea that eating certain foods that leave metabolic waste can alter your body’s pH level and result in health issues. The main hypothesis is that all foods leave behind some metabolic waste that can be neutral, alkaline, or acidic. By avoiding the food items that leave acidic metabolic waste and leave you with an acidic body, you can make your body more alkaline which can improve your health.

 

So… What is pH?

pH Scale

In case it’s been a while since you took that high school chemistry course, here’s some information on pH. Potential Hydrogen (pH) is a scale from 0 to 14 that ranks whether a substance is alkaline (basic), neutral, and acidic. The pH scale is centered around the neutral pH of 7, meaning a substance is neither alkaline nor acidic.

In the pH scale, 0-6.9 is considered acidic, 7.0 is considered neutral, and 7.1-14 is considered alkaline. For example, vinegar is acidic (pH 2-4), pure water is neutral (pH 7.0), and sweet potatoes are alkaline (pH 9.0).

 

And Why Should I Care About pH?

Those who advocate the alkaline diet argue that keeping your body’s pH in balance is the key to better health. Many who follow this diet use pH testing strips to monitor the pH in their urine, aiming to keep it alkaline (pH 7.0+) rather than acidic (pH 6.9-). It’s worth noting however that different parts of your body will have different pH values as they serve different purposes.

 

How Does the Alkaline Diet Plan Work?

Proponents of the alkaline diet suggest that consuming acid-forming foods may throw off your body chemistry, tipping your pH balance into the acidic category which could lead to health issues. Conversely, eating items that are naturally alkaline (non-acidic foods or alkalizing foods) may lead to health benefits.

Eating alkaline can alter the pH of your urine (Remer & Manz, 1995). In fact, urinating is one of the ways your body maintains its natural pH. If you eat highly acidic foods like red meat, the pH of your urine will become more acidic while your body expels the metabolic waste. Additionally, states of being can alter your body’s pH. Being dehydrated, over-exerting your body during intense periods of physical activity, and being mostly sedentary can all affect your body’s pH.

 

What Can You Eat on the Alkaline Diet?

A scale showing which foods are alkaline and which food are acidic, based on pH.

The good news is that there are many, many foods and food groups that you can eat on the alkaline diet. The alkaline diet menu is extensive! Consuming these foods may help to alkalize the body and reduce your pH.

Most whole foods, plants, and fruits are allowed. There are numerous food charts on the alkaline diet online. Please note that this list does not cover everything that is alkaline as there are many more foods that are.

  • Leafy Greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, collard greens)
  • High-Alkaline Vegetables (onions, corn, beets, celery, peas, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, egg plants, olives, bell peppers, asparagus, cabbage)
  • Non-Acidic Fruits (tomatoes, cherries, apricots, pineapples, apples, pears, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, melons, grapefruit, papayas, lemons, limes, bananas)
  • Some Grains (wild rice, quinoa, hemp seeds, lima beans)

 

What Can’t You Eat on the Alkaline Diet?

Technically, the alkaline diet does not prohibit any food group. Rather, it advocated that only 20 percent of your daily nutritional values come from acidic food groups. Acidic food groups include but are not limited to:

  • Stimulants (coffee, soda, energy drinks, black tea, fruit juice)
  • Carbonated Water
  • Dairy (cheese, milk, butter, yogurt)
  • Carbohydrates and Grains (bread, pasta, oats, brown rice, barley)
  • Certain Nuts (peanuts, chestnuts, walnuts, pistachios)
  • Certain Fruits (coconut, plums)
  • Artificial Sweeteners 
  • Proteins (eggs, pork, beef, fish, poultry)

 

How Do You Implement the Alkaline Diet?

If you’re ready to start on the alkaline diet, you’ll find yourself needing to cut out the acids in your life. This includes eschewing many processed foods and instead turning to a more natural, plant-based diet. It is recommended that you fill your plate with plant-based foods first like wild rice, sweet potatoes, spinach, and cauliflower before adding in the 20 percent of acidic foods like meat, bread, and dairy.

Additionally, on your path to greater health it may be necessary to cut out numerous habits in your life. It can be difficult for some to remain abstinent from these temptations but if you’re willing to make the change, there is no doubt you’ll see a number of health benefits.

  • No smoking or using tobacco
  • No alcohol
  • No drug use

You can purchase a quality alkaline water filter here. This ionizing water pitcher may help protect you and your loved ones’ health and fuel your body with clean, high pH water.

 

Pros of the Alkaline Diet

  • No Calculator Necessary: As long as your plate has roughly 80 percent alkaline foods and no more than 20 percent acidic foods, you’re good to go!
  • Bring on the Veggies: The alkaline diet relies heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables as the base of its food pyramid. If you’re a salad-lover, vegetarian, or vegan, this diet is right up your alley!
  • Nothing is Prohibited (using common sense moderation, of course): You can still eat the occasional sandwich or hamburger while still consuming mostly alkaline foods.

 

Cons of the Alkaline Diet

  • More Research Needed: There are few human studies that actually prove that the alkaline diet is reliably effective regarding the body’s pH levels. Many scientists hypothesize that instead the benefits come from a diet low in processed foods and high in natural, plant-based nutrition.
  • Learning the pH Scale of Food: If you don’t already know which foods are acidic and which ones are alkaline, you may find yourself checking Google every time you sit down for a meal to make sure it will adhere to the alkaline diet.

 

Books on the Alkaline Diet Plan

 

Evidence-Based Studies on the Alkaline Diet Plan

There are numerous studies on the body’s pH value and how it can vary based on what foods you consume and what your lifestyle is.

  • Benefits of Alkaline Water Consumption: “In addition, a large number of studies showing the benefits of alkaline water (mineral water) have revealed that people consuming water with a high level of total dissolved solids (TDS) (ie, with a high mineral content) have shown a lower incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer and lower total mortality rates” (Mousa, 2016).
  • Benefits of Alkaline Diet on Sprinters: “Thus, an alkalizing diet may be an easy and natural way to enhance 400-m sprint performance for athletes without the necessity of taking artificial dietary supplements” (Limmer, Eibl & Platen, 2018).
  • Benefits of Alkaline Diets for Chronic Kidney Disease: “Patients who followed the diet have seen a slowing of progression and occasionally regression of their renal function. Both observations and scientific literature indicate that this is because of a reduction in the acid content of the diet” (Passey, 2017).
  • Carnivore versus Herbivore Stomach pH Levels: “Based on the available data, our analysis illustrates a general pattern in which species feeding on carrion and animals have significantly higher stomach acidities compared to species feeding on insects, leaves, or fruit” (Beasley et al., 2015).

Diet Plan Information: Mediterranean Diet

 

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is one modeled off of the traditional diets of those people living in countries near the Mediterranean sea. It advocates eating plenty of fish, seafood, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, and more while avoiding sugary or processed foods.

Overall, the diet is typically described as a life style rather than just a diet and those who want to embark on the Mediterranean diet should be prepared for such a commitment. “This diet represents a behavioural model, a “way of life”, that can ensure longer life expectancy and improve quality of life itself” (Daniele et al., 2017).

 

History of the Mediterranean Diet

When researchers discovered that fewer people in the Mediterranean countries were dying from coronary heart disease, scientists wondered if their diet might have something to do with it. “Populations living in the Mediterranean area have a decreased incidence of cancer compared with populations living in Northern Europe or the US, likely due to healthier dietary habits” (Daniele et al., 2017).

Since then, there have been numerous studies conducted on the Mediterranean diet and its health impacts. “Data from several randomized clinic trials have demonstrated a beneficial effect in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and breast cancer” (Tosti, Bertozzi & Fontana, 2018).

Many researches tout the cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet. “Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with lower CVD incidence and mortality… This diet has an important population health impact for the prevention of CVD” (Tong et al., 2016).

 

How Does the Mediterranean Diet Plan Work?

The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating whole, unprocessed food with an emphasis on consuming seafood rather than red meat. “[The diet] is characterized by a relatively high consumption of inexpensive and genuine food such as cereals, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish, fresh fruits, and olive oil as the principal source of fat, low meat consumption and low-to-moderate consumption of milk, dairy products, and wine” (Mattioli et al., 2017).

By focusing on consuming whole foods rather than processed items, your daily caloric intake typically goes down, helping you to lose weight. It should be noted that weight loss does not come as quickly on the Mediterranean diet as it does on some other diets and this diet requires more of a lifestyle change. If you’re able to stick to it, this diet has numerous health benefits including a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, reduced mortality risk, and reduced risk of breast cancer among others (Tosti, Bertozzi & Fontana, 2018).

 

What Can You Eat on the Mediterranean Diet Plan?

The core of the Mediterranean diet is rooted in historical diets from peasants who lived in areas surrounding the Mediterranean sea. While this doesn’t sound too glamorous at first, know that this diet allows for a ton of different food groups — so long as the food isn’t processed.

  • Fruit (apples, oranges, olives, avocados, berries, tomatoes, lemons, limes, bananas, pears, grapes)
  • Vegetables (carrots, lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, garlic, onions, bell peppers)
  • Whole Grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc. and nut butter like almond butter)
  • Seeds
  • Seafood (salmon, sardines, trout, cod, shrimp, shellfish, etc.)
  • Some Dairy (cheese, Greek yogurt)
  • Some Other Protein (eggs, poultry)

“The Mediterranean table would be full of small bowls filled with brightly colored salads. I ate salads upon salads, upon salads. Each one combining different types of cooked and raw vegetables. The fresh shredded carrots with cumin, parsley and lemon. The roasted eggplant and pepper salad dripping with sweet olive oil” (Milius, 2020).

 

What Can’t You Eat on the Mediterranean Diet Plan?

In general, the Mediterranean diet plan suggests that you avoid anything that is processed or high in sugars.

  • Food with Added Sugar (soft drinks, candy, ice cream, pastries)
  • Refined Grains (white bread, refined wheat, white flour)
  • Certain Oils (canola oil, soybean oil)
  • Processed Meat (deli meats, sausages, hot dogs)
  • Processed or Packaged Foods (anything labeled as “diet” or “low-fat” is likely highly processed)

 

How Do You Implement the Mediterranean Diet Plan?

The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is heavily based on plants rather than meat, so load up your plate with a ton of fruits and veggies before you add that slice of salmon. Make sure you choose whole grain rather than refined white flour when it comes to things like bread or pasta.

Incorporate healthy fats like olive oil and avocado into your diet. Fats can help you feel fuller longer. Additionally, if you have the time and resources, making meals ahead of time can encourage you to eat that trout and green beans rather than ordering out again.

 

Pros of the Mediterranean Diet

  • Excellent for Seafood Lovers: This diet is seafood-heavy with the majority of the caloric protein coming from fish rather than poultry or red meat. You can still have red meat on occasion, though.
  • Allows Moderate Amounts of Alcohol: Wine lovers rejoice! You’re allowed to consume moderate amounts of wine on the Mediterranean diet.
  • Relatively Easy to Follow: The Mediterranean diet has been consistently ranked as one of the easiest diets to follow by US News because of the variety of foods you can consume.

 

Cons of the Mediterranean Diet

  • Requires a Lifestyle Change: If you’re going to go for the Mediterranean diet, it will require a number of changes in lifestyle, especially if you grew up eating tons of red meat and eating a lot of processed foods (as many in the US and UK do). Furthermore, the base of the Mediterranean diet pyramid is exercise and physical activity.
  • Can Be Pricey: Shifting to consuming seafood can be more expensive than relying on things like burger patties or cubed steak for your protein.

 

Books on the Mediterranean Diet

 

Evidence-Based Studies on the Mediterranean Diet

  • Studied Health Benefits: “Consuming a Mediterranean diet rich in minimally processed plant foods has been associated with a reduced risk of developing multiple chronic diseases and increased life expectancy. Data from several randomized clinic trials have demonstrated a beneficial effect in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and breast cancer” (Tosti, Bertozzi & Fontana, 2018).
  • Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: “Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with lower CVD incidence and mortality… This diet has an important population health impact for the prevention of CVD” (Tong et al., 2016).
  • Disease Risk Reductions: “[The Mediterranean Diet’s] effects on cardiovascular health are related to the significant improvements in arterial stiffness. Peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, and chronic heart failure are all positively influenced by the MedD” (Mattioli et al., 2017).
  • Metabolic Health: “Adherence to Mediterranean diet or DASH style diet was favorably associated with [metabolically healthy obese] and [metabolically obese normal weight] phenotypes only in the younger age group, suggesting that potential dietary intervention to prevent cardiometabolic disease differ by age group” (Park et al., 2017).

Diet Plan Information: Mayo Clinic Diet

 

What is the Mayo Clinic Diet?

The Mayo Clinic Diet is a diet developed by professionals that remakes the food pyramid from the bottom up, allowing you to make smart choices about what you eat. The diet itself focuses on consuming the majority of your meals from the healthy foods portions of the pyramid while still being allowed to eat some of the less-healthy foods from the top.

 

How Does the Mayo Clinic Diet Plan Work?

The Mayo Clinic Diet focuses on a few simple core values that help you reach your health goals. These include eating healthy food and portions and exercising more, even if it’s just taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s all about doing little things that can lead to life-long health improvements.

Many proponents of the diet claim that you don’t have to count calories. However, the Mayo Clinic diet still restricts your calorie intake. In general, men should consume between 1,400 and 1,800 calories per day while women should consume 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day (Mayo Clinic FAQs).

While the traditional food pyramid has the base of its pyramid listed as grains (carbohydrates), the bottom of the Mayo Clinic food pyramid has three things: fruit, vegetables, and daily physical activity.

A comparison of the traditional food pyramid with the Mayo Clinic Diet food pyramid.

Side effects of the Mayo Clinic Diet tend to be minor, if at all. When you start eating a new diet, there may be a transitional period where you experience some gastrointestinal discomfort like stomach aches or gas. As always, be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new diet or making lifestyle changes, especially if you have any health conditions.

 

How Do I Start the Mayo Clinic Diet?

The most important thing to remember about the Mayo Clinic Diet is that it’s more than a diet — it’s a lifestyle change. Not only is the diet meant to help you lose weight and keep it off, it’s supposed to help you make better health choices by making small improvements here and there.

If you’d like to start on the Mayo Clinic Diet, the first thing you’re going to have to do is to break some bad habits regarding how, when, and what you eat. The plan suggests that you avoid eating out, never eat while watching TV or another digital screen, and refraining from snacking unless it’s fruit or vegetables.

 

How Do You Implement the Mayo Clinic Diet Plan?

The first phase of the Mayo Clinic Diet Plan is referred to as “Lose it!” and the second phase is referred to as the “Live it!” and is meant to be followed for life.

During “Lose it!” (the first two weeks of the diet), you’ll begin using a habit tracker to evaluate where you are in terms of healthy habits and where you need to improve. This is intended to help jump-start your weight loss and get you on track to better health.

Although there is a Mayo Clinic Habit Tracker, there are now a number of apps out there that can help you keep track of general and customizable habits. Some good healthy habits to consider tracking are minutes of exercise per day, amount of water consumed, number of hours of sleep, number of servings of fruits and vegetables consumed, avoiding temptations (like candy and processed sugars), and staying at or below your daily calorie goal.

During “Live it!” (the rest of your life), you’ll continue to focus on following the Mayo Clinic food pyramid. You’ll still continue to lose about 1-2 pounds per week if you continue your caloric deficit. If you are at your desired maintenance weight, simply add more calories to maintain your weight.

Make sure that you continue to try to get some of your daily calorie intake from each of the levels of the Mayo Clinic food pyramid, with the majority of energy still coming from the base (fruits and vegetables) and the least coming from the top (sweets). Be sure to continue tracking your habits and keep striving to make healthier choices when it comes to both food and exercise.

 

What Can You Eat on the Mayo Clinic Diet Plan?

The good news about the Mayo Clinic Diet is that you can eat just about anything you’d like while focusing on the Mayo Clinic food pyramid. The diet doesn’t prohibit fats or sweets but rather encourages you to make smart choices about when and how you consume foods that are less than healthy.

In general, the bulk of your diet should come from the bottom or base of the pyramid: fruits and vegetables. After that, focus on consuming whole grains like wild rice and then lean protein like chicken, beans, and fish. Oils and sweets should make up the least of your daily calories. Most of all, you should try to make smart choices about what you’re consuming.

For example, when it comes to snacking the Mayo Clinic Diet Plan encourages you to reach for the fruit and vegetables rather than the candy bar. Instead of reaching for a bag of M&M’s (240 calories, 30 grams of sugar), you should reach for a snack bag of baby carrots (25 calories, 4 grams of sugar) or a snack bag of apple slices (30 calories, 6 grams of sugar).

 

What Can’t You Eat on the Mayo Clinic Diet Plan?

For the most part, you can eat a number of different foods on the Mayo Clinic Diet. However, there are some foods that should be consumed only in tight moderation or avoided altogether.

  • Egg Yolks: The Mayo Clinic Diet suggests that you consume egg whites only, and even then only in moderation.
  • Alcohol: While you’re still allowed to have alcohol on the Mayo Clinic Diet, guidelines suggest that you consume no more than 500 calories per week in alcohol.
  • Sweets: Again, you’re still allowed to consume some sweets like candy or brownies but it shouldn’t be in excess of 500 calories per week. (Note that one Snickers bar has 215 calories and one cup of ice cream has roughly 260 calories!)

 

Pros of the Mayo Clinic Diet

  • Developed by Experts: The Mayo Clinic Diet was developed by experts and professionals in the health field to be nutritionally sound. It is considered to be a balanced diet as compared to one that focuses on being low-carb or low-fat.
  • Additional Weight Loss Tools: As a member of the Mayo Clinic, you’ll have access to your Food and Fitness Journal that can help track your weight, waist size, nutrients, and more. You’ll also use your Habit Tracker and your Fitness Planner to keep you on track to reach and maintain your goals.

 

Cons of the Mayo Clinic Diet

  • Calorie Counting: Counting the calories in your food can be a long and tedious task, made more difficult if you’re unsure of the exact ingredients or how big of a portion you’re consuming.
  • Life-long Commitment: For many people, the prospect of having to follow the guidelines of this diet for the rest of your life is a daunting prospect. However, if you’re really committed to being healthier, losing weight, and keeping it off, this idea should be a positive one rather than a negative one.
  • No Independent Scientific Studies: The only studies that have been conducted on the Mayo Clinic Diet have been carried out by the Mayo Clinic itself.

 

Books on the Mayo Clinic Diet

 

Evidence-Based Studies on the Mayo Clinic Diet

The only studies that have been conducted on the Mayo Clinic Diet have been carried out by the Mayo Clinic itself. However, because the diet promotes eating whole, unprocessed foods, it makes sense that those who adhere and stick to the diet lose weight. “The Mayo Clinic Diet is meant to be positive, practical, sustainable and enjoyable, so you can enjoy a happier, healthier life over the long term” (Mayo Clinic).

Diet Plan Information: Atkins Diet

 

What is the Atkins Diet Plan?

The Atkins diet is a diet plan focused on consuming low carbohydrate (low carb, low-carb) foods and is typically recommended for weight loss or weight maintenance. Originally suggested in 1972 by Dr. Robert Atkins in his book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution: The High Calorie Way to Stay Thin Forever, the Atkins diet has been wildly popular for the last several decades.

 

How Does the Atkins Diet Plan Work?

There are four phases of the original Atkins diet plan, referred to as the 4-Phase Plan.

  1. Phase 1 – Induction: The induction phase of the Atkins diet gets the weight loss rolling with a diet that consists of less than 20 grams of carbohydrates daily for two weeks. Your diet will consist mostly of fats, proteins, and low carb vegetables. This forces your body to start using fat instead of carbohydrates as fuel.
  2. Phase 2 – Balancing: Phase 2 focuses on finding your carb tolerance by upping your daily carb intake by 5 grams. Weight loss during this phase comes more slowly than in Phase 1 as you are adding an extra 5 grams of carbs per week until you find your tolerance (up to 40 grams daily). For example, if you started off at 20 grams of carbs for your Phase 1 week, you would up that to 25 grams of carbs daily in the starting week of Phase 2. If you continue to lose weight, the next week you would up it to 30 grams of carbs daily for the next week. During this phase, you can add cheese, nuts, seeds, and Atkins food products to your diet.
  3. Phase 3 – Pre-Maintenance: During the pre-maintenance phase, you will up your daily carb intake by 10 grams per week (up to 100 grams daily). So, if you were at 35 grams of carbs daily for a week, you would up that to 45 grams of carbs daily for the next week until you find the balance that helps you maintain your weight.
  4. Phase 4 – Maintenance: Phase 4 focuses on maintenance and maintaining your healthy weight with neither losing nor gaining weight. Based on Phase 3, you’ve figured out how many grams of carbs you can consume daily without gaining weight. If you find yourself gaining weight again, simply lower the daily consumption of carbohydrates to regain control (sometimes called the “Atkins Edge”).

Currently the original Atkins plan is called the Atkins 20 Plan, referring to the grams of carbs that would be consumed on a daily basis. There are new plans that have since been added including the Atkins 40 Plan and the Atkins 100 Plan, respectively allowing up to 40 grams and 100 grams of carbs.

 

Weight Loss on the Atkins Diet Plan

As stated before, any diet will work as long as you’re willing to stick to it. That being said, there are a number of studies that show that the Atkins diet plan is effective for both weight and fat loss.

A 2003 study by the University of Cincinnati and Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that women on a low carbohydrate diet lost substantially more weight and body fat than those on a low fat diet. Over six months, the group on the low carbohydrate diet lost an average of 18.7 pounds while the low fat group lost 8.6 pounds (Brehm et al., 2003). Again, note that both groups still lost weight.

More recently, a 2017 study that examined a number of studies over the past few decades concluded the following: “Nine of the 10 clinical trials supported the ability of the Atkins Diet to
produce clinically meaningful short-term weight loss, and six of the eight long-term clinical trials supported the effectiveness of this diet for long-term weight loss” (Anton et al., 2017).

The takeaway? You can and will lose weight on the Atkins diet if you follow the guidelines and stick to them.

 

Is the Atkins Diet Healthy?

The healthiness of the Atkins diet has been the subject of debate ever since Dr. Atkins wrote his original book in 1972. At that point in time, it was believed that consuming high amounts of fat was the leading cause of heart and cardiovascular disease. Contemporary scholars all but discredited Atkins. “Atkins’ theories are at best half-truths, and the results he claims lack credibility” (Hirschel, 1977).

However, newer studies have found no significant correlations between consuming saturated fat and heart disease (Siri-Tarino et al., 2010). There is a growing body of evidence that sugar is more detrimental to peoples’ health than fats are. “A diet high in added sugars has been found to cause a 3-fold increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease” (DiNicolantonio, Lucan & O’Keefe, 2016).

Because of the increasing popularity of low carb diets like the Atkins diet, more and more studies have been conducted not only on the efficacy but also the safety of low carb diets. Most of the studies were short-term (less than one year) and found no negative effects on cardiovascular health. “A very low carbohydrate diet is more effective than a low fat diet for short-term weight loss and, over 6 months, is not associated with deleterious effects on important cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women” (Brehm et al., 2003).

As for side effects of the Atkins diet, there are relatively few. Some people report a feeling of weakness, dizziness, or fatigue, especially when beginning Phase 1 of the Atkins diet. Make sure to talk to your doctor before starting any sort of new diet or lifestyle change as everyone is different and will respond to diets in various ways.

 

What Can You Eat on the Atkins Diet?

One of the most common questions about the Atkins diet is: “What do you eat on the Atkins diet plan?” The answer varies greatly depending on the phase of the plan you are on. Unlike many diets, the rules and restrictions of the Atkins diet can vary weekly. Below is a general guide on what each phase’s menu should look like.

  1. Phase 1 – Induction
    • Grams of Carbs per Day: less than 20g
    • Atkins Menu: meat, supplements, healthy fats, low carb vegetables
  2. Phase 2 – Balancing
    • Grams of Carbs per Day: 20g to 40g
    • Atkins Menu: meat, supplements, healthy fats, low carb vegetables, nuts, fruit
  3. Phase 3 – Pre-Maintenance
    • Grams of Carbs per Day: 40g to 100g
    • Atkins Menu: meat, supplements, healthy fats, low carb vegetables, starchy vegetables, nuts, fruit, whole grains
  4. Phase 4 – Maintenance
    • Grams of Carbs per Day: varies, but likely less than 100g
    • Atkins Menu: meat, supplements, healthy fats, low carb vegetables, starchy vegetables, nuts, fruit, whole grains

What Can’t You Eat on the Atkins Diet?

Although there are plenty of Atkins approved foods, there are still some that you should avoid altogether if you’re looking to lose weight. These foods include:

  • Added Sugar (soda, fruit juice, candy, ice cream)
  • Processed Grains (white bread, white rice, flour tortillas, pasta, white flour, pastries, breakfast cereals)
  • Certain Vegetable Oils (corn oil, canola oil)
  • Low-Fat Foods (often contain much more sugar than traditional foods)

 

Pros of the Atkins Diet

  • Weight Loss: As mentioned before, if you stick to the Atkins diet and guidelines you’re going to lose weight.
  • No Calorie Counting: The Atkins diet doesn’t force you to count every calorie you put into your body which means that you’re less concerned about each bite you take and more focused on enjoying your food.
  • No Restriction on Protein: For many people who are looking to lose weight but maintain muscle mass, the Atkins diet is appealing because there is no upper limit on the amount of protein that can be consumed.
  • Feel Fuller Longer: Consuming more fats and protein and less carbs and sugar often leaves people feeling fuller for longer periods of time, reducing their overall caloric intake.

 

Cons of the Atkins Diet

  • Restrictive Diet: If you have a sweet tooth, this diet will be hard to maintain as it doesn’t allow for refined or processed sugars. Even natural sugars found in fruits are not allowed during some phases of the Atkins diet.
  • Carb and Net Carb Counting: Even though you don’t have to count calories, you still have to count carbohydrates. This can be tedious, especially in the beginning of the diet when you’re still learning which foods are acceptable.
  • Supplementation Needed: Taking extra supplements like magnesium, potassium, and more are essential in order to prevent nutritional deficiency, especially during the induction phase.

 

Books on the Atkins Diet Plan

Unsurprisingly, there are a number of books on the Atkins diet that have been written over the past several decades. Many of these books include information on Atkins nutritionals, possible side effects of the Atkins diet, recipes for the Atkins diet, and more.

 

Evidence-Based Studies on the Atkins Diet Plan

Given the Atkins’ diet relatively long history, there are numerous studies that have been conducted on both its efficacy and its safety.

  • Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease: “A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease” (Siri-Tarino et al., 2010).
  • Saturated Fat versus Sugar Related to Heart Disease: “To reduce the burden of coronary heart disease, guidelines should focus particularly on reducing intake of concentrated sugars, specifically the fructose-containing sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup in the form of ultra-processed foods and beverages” (DiNicolantonio, Lucan & O’Keefe, 2016).
  • Low Carbohydrate versus Low Fat Diet: “Based on these data, a very low carbohydrate diet is more effective than a low fat diet for short-term weight loss and, over 6 months, is not associated with deleterious effects on important cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women” (Brehm et al., 2003).
  • A Randomized Trial of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet for Obesity: “The low-carbohydrate diet produced a greater weight loss (absolute difference, approximately 4 percent) than did the conventional diet for the first six months… The low-carbohydrate diet was associated with a greater improvement in some risk factors for coronary heart disease” (Foster et al., 2003).

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