The Best Diet for You
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The Atkins’ Nutritional ApproachAtkins’ Nutritional Approach stresses dramatically reducing your intake of carbohydrates and replacing them with foods rich in protein and fat. The theory goes like this: “Your body burns carbohydrates and fat for energy. With Atkins’ unique approach, you limit carbs so your body burns fat.”
What’s InvolvedThe Atkins’diet has 4 phases. During the induction phase, you eat 20-25 grams of carbohydrates per day, mostly from salad greens and other acceptable vegetables. This means no bread, pasta, rice, fruit, milk, yogurt, cereal, juice, cookies, sweets, or potatoes, among other foods. However, you can eat as much as you like from foods that are pure protein and fat, such as meats, eggs, oils, and butter. The induction phase lasts at least 2 weeks, and usually results in rapid weight loss.The next 3 phases are ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance, and lifetime maintenance. During these phases, you will slowly reintroduce carbs until your weight loss slows and, when you reach your goal, stays at that level. Then, you will monitor your weight, and if you gain, you take away carbs again until you lose the weight again. This means that your calorie intake and your weight is moderated by adjusting your carbohydrate intake. Protein and fat are not restricted. You are also advised to take a multivitamin and drink plenty of water each day.
The ResearchIn 2003, a study reported that people following the Atkins’ diet lost more weight than a control group after 3 and 6 months, but that both groups had lost approximately the same amount of weight after 1 year. Since then, studies have continued to show that compared to other diets, a low-carbohydrate diet leads to greater weight loss at 6 months, but similar amounts of weight loss at 1 year. A 2009 study looked at 13 different studies and concluded that after 1 year on a low-carbohydrate diet, dieters tend to lose as much weight—if not more—as dieters on a traditional high-carbohydrate diet.
The ConcernsThe Atkins’ diet is rich in high-protein and high-fat foods, such as bacon, steak, and cheese. While this eating pattern has not been shown to be harmful when followed for 1 year, many nutrition experts worry that the high levels of saturated and trans fats in these foods will increase your risk for heart disease if you follow the diet for an extended period of time. Information about the long-term effects of low-carbohydrate diets is still being collected. A 2009 study found that after 1 year, an Atkins-type diet increased both good and bad cholesterol. However, a 2010 study found that after 2 years, a low-carbohydrate diet improved cardiovascular disease risk factors more than a low-fat diet. There is concern that the high levels of protein can overload and damage the kidneys, which is especially dangerous for people with diabetes or kidney disease.