By now, everyone’s pretty familiar with the Atkins diet – the ultra-low-carb, high-protein meal plan that results in moderate to dramatic fat reduction, as well as a reduction in insulin resistance, a lower level of triglycerides (fats in the blood), and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, or “good” cholesterol). One thing that Atkins has consistently failed to do, however, is reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol – (LDL-C, that is, the “bad” cholesterol). This is because of the high levels of meat and dairy that the Atkins diet requires in order to be effective. Atkins, or the old-school version of it, is not even an option for vegetarians, and it’s not a good long-term solution for meat eaters who want to watch their cholesterol either. Generally Atkins dieters gain back the weight that they lost once they stopped eating Atkins foods.
Now, Dr. David J. A. Jenkins has made news by coming up with a potential alternative – the “Eco-Atkins” diet, a low-carb, high-protein, entirely vegan regimen. In a controlled four-week study, Dr. Atkins had two groups of participating subjects. One group consumed a low-fat vegetarian diet, and the other consumed the “Eco-Atkins” diet high in vegetarian protein and low in carbohydrates. Both groups lost weight and saw approximately all the same benefits of a regular Atkins diet, including weight loss and lower levels of triglycerides. But what was dramatically different about the group consuming the Eco-Atkins diet was that they saw a reduction of 20% in LDL-C levels. A lower level of this bad cholesterol means a lower risk of heart disease for the individual. This is good news for dieters and environmentalists alike: the Eco-Atkins is not only good for the environment, it’s also good for the individual person – conclusively.
The Eco-Atkins diet recommends consuming 150g of protein a day from low-carbohydrate vegetarian sources such as soy, nuts, and certain grains like quinoa. Foods that are acceptable in the Eco-Atkins diet include soy-based proteins, nuts, wheat gluten (seitan), high-protein, complex carbs like quinoa. Also recommended are vegetables with “good” fats like avocados.
This new diet is still in its testing phases, and so it may be “premature” to recommend it as a long-term solution. Nevertheless, the “Eco-Atkins” diet provides good news for all potential veggieheads – namely that there’s a way to stay healthy, get all your nutritional requirements, and maintain low levels of LDL-Cs. I, for one, am excited about the possibilities – the fact that this kind of study exists may mean that the diet industry is finally taking an interest in permanent, healthy solutions that are good for us and good for the world.