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- Basics
- Upside
- Downside
- Is It for You?
- Sample Menu
- Our Nutritionist Says
- iVillagers say

Reviewed By:
Lynn Grieger, RD

Atkins Diet basics

Atkins DietThe Atkins diet plan allows unrestricted amounts of protein, including meats, eggs and cheese, and severely limits foods containing carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and fruit.

The Atkins Diet states we can change our metabolism and lose weight easily simply by eating foods high in protein and fat and limiting foods high in carbohydrate. It was formulated by the late Dr. Robert Atkins, a physician. Consuming a high level of carbohydrates causes overproduction of insulin, leading to increased hunger and weight gain. In phase 1, carbohydrates are limited to less than 20 grams per day - roughly the amount in a large slice of bread - while protein and fat are highly encouraged. Since the Atkins and other carb-restricted diets gained popularity in the late '90s, there has been an explosion of low-carb versions of traditionally high-carbohydrate products, such as bread, pasta and even candy. There are four stages to the Atkins diet: Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss, Pre-Maintenance and Lifetime Maintenance. Each stage becomes progressively less restrictive and gradually increases carbohydrates allowed.

Upside of the Atkins Diet

  • Many people like being able to eat as much protein and fat as they wish, because these foods are often restricted in more traditional diet plans.

  • For people who have tried a low-fat, high-carbohydrate weight loss plan without success, increasing protein in their diet often results in decreased food cravings and more rapid weight loss.

  • The diet is relatively easy to follow; there are no complicated meal plans

Downside of the Atkins Diet

  • Eating unlimited amounts of fat, especially saturated fat found in meat products, can lead to increased risk of heart disease.

  • Any diet that limits carbohydrate causes the body to rely on fat or muscle for energy. When our body breaks down stored fat to supply energy, a byproduct called ketones is formed. Ketones suppress appetite, but they also cause fatigue, nausea, and a potentially dangerous fluid loss. Anyone with diabetes, heart, or kidney problems should check with their physician before following a low-carb diet.

  • Unpleasant side effects include constipation (caused by the low-fiber diet) and bad breath.

  • Extensive research on healthy populations tells us to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Restricting these foods in the name of weight loss may lead to long-term health problems.

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Review Date: 11-08-2007

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