New All-Vegan “Eco-Atkins” Diet Shown to Reduce Bad Cholesterol

Green Soybeans in a BowlImage Courtesy: Kanko

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.

The “Eco-Atkins” Diet

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.

Overweight individuals who ate a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet high in plant-based proteins for four weeks lost weight, and experienced improvements in blood cholesterol levels and other heart disease risk factors, according to a new report. A high-carbohydrate, low-fat vegetarian diet also resulted in weight loss but without the additional cardiovascular benefits.

‘Eco-Atkins': Plant-based, Low-carb Diet May Promote Weight Loss And Improve Cholesterol Levels – ScienceDaily

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.

Foods in the Eco-Atkins Diet

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 and complex carbs like quinoa. Also recommended are vegetables with “good” fats like avocados.

Still in Testing Phase

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 veggie-heads – 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.


Maria (Niina) PollariMaria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.


  1. says

    I think most of this is a pretty good idea but would like to point out that most soy is full of MSG. That’s why it tastes like meat.

    I would recommend organic miso and some other protein like pea protein or hemp instead.

    I would also throw in plenty of fish oils because without the butter and dairy you won’t get true vitamin A or omega-3 fats.

    • Tea says

      Louise you are not well informed about vitamin a or omega-3 fatty acids, which aren’t in butter or dairy…

      fish oils are toxic, and rancid and destroy the ocean eco system… those of us who are informed get omega 3 from things like walnut and flax seed and certain seaweeds…

      there are plenty of sources for vitamin A which you should only get in whole foods such as orange vegetables…

      Oddly enough I’ve yet to have tofu, with MSG… in looking at the market i could not find a single brand…

      if you buy asian based packaged food products, you will find the most MSG content, and that’s because of it’s intense flavor compared to it’s levels of actual soduim… but eating whole foods means not using a bunch of prepackaged foods so you would avoid this by eating healtfully…

  2. Maria says

    Louise- Thanks for reading. I agree about most processed soy products, but processed is most often the less sensible choice good anyway. I’d say stick to tofu, which is naturally very low in sodium, and then sautee it lightly, etc. Flax seeds are a good source of some omegas, but you do need to watch your omega intake with any kind of vegetarianism/veganism.

  3. aly says

    hi, I was just wondering if you’ve actually read the Atkins book? Dr. Atkins actually includes a vegetarian plan. since the diet is a low carb HIGH FAT plan (NOT high protein as you’ve erroneously stated) it is very easy to adapt for vegetarians. in fact, many vegetarians successfully follow the principles of Atkins’s diet.

    the sad thing is your assertion that “Generally Atkins dieters gain back the weight that they lost once they stopped eating Atkins foods.”. isn’t that the case with ANY diet, once one returns to eating the same foods that made them fat in the first place? Atkins is meant to be a controlled carb way of life, not a crash diet.

    • Tea says

      You can be angry if you want but it’s been proven repeatedly that atkin’s fat and protien focused diets result in exaggerated weight gain after discontinuing because of the process in putting the body in a state of ketosis for short and long periods of time. this triggers the body to go into a panic storage mode once whole foods are re-introduced to the body… it’s just a fact, it’s been proven repeatedly, proven don’t get mad at the article writer.

      Also, since Dr atkins died of a heart attack following his own food plan one could assert it’s not heart healthy… but one would hate to make leaps…

      other doctors have already proved the effectiveness of whole food plant based diets, Dr joel Fuhrman, T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. “the china study”, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. , Neal Barnard, M.D. , Dr. Ornish of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute… I could go on…

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