About 40 years ago, Robert Atkins created a low carb diet that still carries his name today. The Atkins diet is one of the most well known, and most followed, diets that people work with. While it was considered a fad diet to begin with, it is now regularly recommended by doctors and nutritionists as a good plan to follow when you want to lose weight.
Atkins Versus Mediterranean Diet
While both diets pay attention to carbohydrate intake, the Atkins diet allows red meat and dairy while a Mediterranean diet concentrates more on fruits, vegetables and fish. Nutritionally a Mediterranean plan is more balanced and probably more heart-healthy, but Atkins users have had rapid and noticeable weight loss. The plans are very different in their meal planning.
Low carb diets, like Atkins, are designed to change how your body gets its energy. Usually your body will burn carbs to produce energy, not fat. By starving your body of carb, your system turns to fat for energy and this is where weight loss will come from.
Studies have shown that this type of diet can be more successful with long term weight loss than just counseling and behavior management. It, like most diets, works best with an exercise program started at the same time. This type of weight loss tends to be more permanent and the health benefits are more noticeable.
Generally, excess weight is a negative for your body. Too much weight can lead to high blood pressure (and hyper tension), heart problems and the possible onset of diabetes. Low carb diets like Atkins have been successful in reducing hyper-tension and helping to reduce or eliminated diabetes symptoms. This diet also reduces sugar intake and benefits from this are also seen early in the diet process.
Overall energy levels tend to increase as your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates. Adding an exercise program helps as well to increase energy and improve your general health. Because of some of the restrictions on certain types of food, it is recommended that you consult with your health professional and pay close attention to your vitamin intake.
What Can You Eat?
Atkins diets start off with a lot of green vegetables, meat and dairy. This may sound wonderful but it does require some discipline in meal preparation. Most dairy is allowed (milk, cheese, butter) as well as red meat and fish. There are no starches (a key source of carbs) so you will be giving up bread, rice, pasta and potatoes.
Surprisingly, some desserts are allowed with this diet, but not the usual suspects. No cake or doughnuts, no cookies or ice cream. There are some interesting dessert options using ricotta and sugar substitute that can really help to handle any sugar cravings. Some of the cookbooks we reviewed have wonderful salad and entree recipes that will help keep boredom from setting in.
Ready Made Foods
Following an Atkins diet can be easier than some other diet plans due to the wide variety of ready made food options that you can pick up at your local grocery store. Some of the meal selections are very good and the snack and drink options are spectacular. The protein-rich shake is thick, creamy and can be served cold. The snack bars are great treats to have on hand. Low in carbs, they help to satisfy not only any hunger pangs but also to help with those times you just have to have a sweet.
Does This Diet Work?
Yes, but like any diet it will take work and discipline. Many people like Atkins because so many of their favorite foods (steak, hamburger, cheese) are allowed. Some find the meals dull and heavy, it does take some creativity to plan meals that have flavor and variety. At the start, your body goes into a ketosis state. This can lead to some indigestion and even bad breath. This state passes soon but it can be a few days before all the symptoms disappear. Nutritionally the diet is not as sound as a Mediterranean or DASH diet but careful planning and the addition of vitamins can offset any shortcomings.