For years, people have been swearing by low-carb diets. They claim these diets help you lose weight, reduce your food cravings, and they even have a beneficial effect on your heart and memory. The most popular low-carb diet is the Atkins Diet, which has spawned into a multimillion-dollar company because of its supposed benefits. But is this the winning diet for you?
What Is the Atkins Diet?
Like the name implies, low-carb diets entail strongly limiting the amount of carbohydrates that you consume in a day. Throw away those carbs and replace them with high-fat and high-protein meals. The Atkins Diet also encourages eating vegetables, and after a few weeks, participants can add nuts and berries.
Why Is the Atkins Diet Healthy?
The Atkins Diet is by far the most popular low-carb diet, and the people at Atkins say their diet is healthy and effective, because it encourages people to fill up on meals with tons of protein, rather than filling up on empty carbs.
The Atkins web site cites about 50 studies to prove why a high-fat, high-protein diet is healthy for you (although, keep in mind that many of the studies were funded by Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.).
The latest support for a high-fat, high-protein diet comes from a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that compared people on a high-fat diet to people on a low-fat diet. Those on the high-fat Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, had a 30% lower risk of heart attack, death, and stroke.
Other studies have found the Atkins Diet to be more effective than popular diets like The Zone, LEARN, and Omish diets.
But keep this in mind
Many of the studies that tout the Atkins Diet just show that the certain types of fat that people are eating—like nuts and healthy oils—are good for you. That’s a big jump from saying that a low-carb diet that happens to incorporate some of those fats is also good for you.
Food4Thought Bottom Line
We like that this diet does encourage you to eat nutrient-dense foods, like whole grains, and proteins; but we’re concerned, because fruits and vegetables are only allowed in Phase 3 of the diet plan, which is also when you’re allowed to reincorporate grains, including bread.
Our final word: reducing the amount of carbohydrates you consume is beneficial if you want to lose weight, but following a strict diet may backfire in the long run. Analyze your own eating habits to figure out where you can cut back, and then make sure you’re eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, and proteins to make up for it. You don’t want to cut out carbohydrates completely, because your body needs them to function properly.
“The Program: Overview,” Atkins web site; http://www.atkins.com/Program/Overview.aspx, last accessed March 19, 2013.
Estruch, R., et al., “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet,” The New England Journal of Medicine; published online February 25, 2013.