Morgan is a doctoral candidate in the field of clinical nutrition and nutritional neuroscience, having received her bachelors degree from Central Washington University.
The Atkins Diet consists of four phases, with the first cutting out a large majority of foods, and the remaining phases becoming less restrictive as you lose weight and work towards maintenance. The first phase, referred to as “Induction”, lasts for a minimum of two weeks, but may persist for longer depending on your exact weight loss goal and progress. During the induction phase, you’re allotted 20 g of Carbohydrate each day, from non-starchy vegetables only. Meat, cheese, and fats provide the bulk of all Calories, and the majority of foods you’re used to consuming will be forbidden. Dairy is not allowed during the induction phase (with the exception of cheese), nor is alcohol, caffeine, beans, nuts, grains, or starchy vegetables. Luckily, each Atkins stage incorporates more foods back into your diet, eventually leading to a maintenance stage wherein you’ve found your place on what Atkins followers have deemed the “carbohydrate ladder”, or the amount of carbohydrate you should consume to maintain your new weight, or your “ACE.”
The Atkins Diet was established in 1972 by Dr. Robert Atkins, in his book “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution”, after he observed that a reduction in carbohydrate intake yielded quicker and more effective weight loss than traditional diets.
Many people have a hard time sticking to the diet, especially in strict, early phases, but generally find later phases of the diet to be more enjoyable, as each phase becomes gradually more moderate as dieters move closer to weight maintenance.
The Atkins Diet is not particularly time-intensive; the only time spent involves reading Atkins material and preparing meals.
Atkins is a safe diet for individuals who choose “healthy” fats, rather than saturated and trans fats. However, for individuals who are already overweight, obese, or with a family history of heart disease or diabetes, the macronutrient balance of the Atkins diet may be problematic. Dieters with concerns can choose to discuss the diet with their doctors, as should any dieter with existing health conditions or concerns. By making healthy fat choices and reducing carbohydrate intake, individuals with Diabetes may benefit from an Atkins-inspired plan.
Whenever an entire food group is removed entirely, a diet makes itself susceptible to criticism. While health officials argue over the exact amount of carbohydrate that belongs in a healthy diet, they can agree that a reduction in Caloric intake, and a reduction in carbohydrate, is essential to thwarting the new American trademarks of obesity and diabetes. In a CDC-published analysis of American Dietary Intake (Trends in Intake of Energy and Macronutrients --- United States, 1971—2000) researchers concluded that there was a marked increase of Calories in the American diet, and that those Calories were largely from Carbohydrate sources. Other common criticisms of the Atkins diet include low compliance and the potential for excessive consumption of Saturated Fat, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The newest edition of the Atkins diet encourages healthy fat choices, but is still relatively high in total fat, which should be of concern when choosing a diet plan, especially for those with a history of high blood pressure, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or other symptoms commonly associated with heart disease.
Benefits: The main pros of the Atkins Diet are that it increases carbohydrate awareness and it is very effictive at moderating caloric intake.
Downsides: Dieters may struggle through the strict introduction phase. There is also a possibility that some dieters may consume too many saturated fats.
The Bottom Line: Depending on the individual dieter, Atkins has the potential to be a good choice: by choosing healthy fats and lean meats, the plan is balanced and healthy by the “maintenance” phase, and dieters will likely have success if they are able to stick to the plan long-term.