The Atkins Diet: Everything You Need to Know

The Atkins diet has recently become popular with the general public and has also become the subject of concern from health professionals. Atkins dieters love the instant weight loss; critics point towards the high-fat content of the allowed foods as being health hazards.

The Atkins diet has been around for years but has only recently become the subject of news stories and has joined the fad-diet list. The “inventor” of the diet, Dr. Atkins, died in the last few years, but he left behind a raging debate about carbohydrates and protein.

On the Atkins diet, carbohydrates are forbidden foods. The list of carbohydrates includes potatoes, bread, bananas, muffins and ketchup. The first phase of the diet allows for 20 carbohydrates per day, and health experts recommend using that allotment to eat heart-friendly fare such as lettuce. The list of allowed foods on the Atkins diet include meat, cheese, eggs, mustard, diet pop and fish. Dieters do not need to count fat grams on the Atkins diet, nor do calories count either. The Atkins diet is popular among dieters because it is not too complicated to follow, and dieters do not need to count calories or fat. Many dieters crave on other diets and end up cheating by bingeing. The elimination and strict monitoring of carbohydrates allows for the body to drop pounds of water weight in the first week, and most dieters (depending on body weight) experience quick results in the following weeks. The more one weighs in the beginning, the more one will lose, providing the Atkins formula is strictly adhered to.

Some of the those who have had maintained their weight loss success say the Atkins diet has also helped to “cure” diabetes, and for some, has eliminated the need to take cholesterol-controlling and blood thinning drugs.

Critics of the Atkins diet, however, point towards the reason the diet is popular – the people on the diet are overweight, and overweight people do have a much higher chance of having heart-related problems. While Atkins dieters are able to stop taking medication, critics say, this would have happened with weight loss on any other diet. Doctors are especially concerned with Atkins dieters who eat steak and cheese every day, which does not improve heart conditions. Some (not all) Atkins dieters also experience bad breath, which may be related to one’s food choices on the diet.

Lifestyle fitness magazines such as “Self” recommend that, for a healthy person, 45 to 65 percent of one’s foods should come from carbohydrates. Twenty to thirty-five percent of one’s calories should come from fat. The percentage of fat or carbohydrates in one’s diet, and the total number of calories allotted, depends on one’s activity level and how much daily exercise one gets. Health advocates also say that carbohydrates should not be in the form of white bread or sugar-laden sweets, which have no nutritional value and spike blood sugar levels, resulting in sleepiness an hour after eating. Many fruits and vegetables are included on the Atkins “forbidden foods” list. Instead, whole wheat bread or low-fat peanut butter or fruit or salad should compose most of one’s daily carbohydrate intake.

Thus, while the Atkins diet may “work” for those looking to lose weight, it is not in itself a cure for health ailments. Many Atkins dieters also become discouraged when, upon going off the diet and eating more carbohydrates, they gain 10 pounds of water weight back.