Atkins Diet: Review on Benefits and Risks

Learn about the risks as well as the benefits associated with the Atkins diet, which is a low-carb diet. We also made a list of foods to eat and avoid for this diet plan.

atkins diet

Before the ketogenic diet became popular, the Atkins diet was favored by most individuals. It is quite similar to the keto diet where carbohydrate intake is limited, and protein intake is increased. However, unlike the keto diet, the Atkins diet follows four phases. Learn more about these phases as well as the benefits and risks of this low-carb diet plan.

What is the Atkins Diet?

Developed in the year 1960 by the cardiologist named Robert C. Atkins, the Atkins diet limits the intake of carbohydrates and focuses on the increased intake of fats and protein. The primary purpose of the diet is to help an individual lose weight and maintain the ideal weight for life. Much like other diet plans, this diet evolves through time. Aside from an increase in proteins and fats, the diet also encourages increased intake of high-fiber vegetables.


As mentioned, the diet follows four phases. An individual starting on the diet can start at whichever phase preferred, depending on their goals for losing weight.

1. Phase 1

This phase is called induction where all carbohydrates are restricted. The carbohydrates are limited to at least 20 grams in a day and should be sourced from vegetables. Such vegetables serve as the foundation of the diet, and these include peppers, green beans, cucumber, celery, broccoli, and asparagus.

Fruits, pasta, baked goods, nuts, grains, and alcohol are also restricted. More than eight glasses of water a day must be consumed. Moreover, protein intake is sourced from cheese, eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, and fish. Depending on the weight loss goal, this phase lasts two weeks.

2. Phase 2

This phase, called balancing, entails the continuation of consuming at least 15 grams of carbohydrates from vegetables. An individual stays at this stage until they reach approximately 4.5 kilograms from the goal weight.

3. Phase 3

Known as the pre-maintenance phase, an individual increases the variety of food consumed. The diet now includes whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits. Ten grams of carbohydrates are added to the diet weekly. If the weight loss stops, then cut back on the grams of carbohydrates added each week. Until the goal weight is reached, an individual must stay at this phase.

4. Phase 4

This phase is known as the lifetime maintenance phase. It is the stage where the goal weight has been reached. An individual who reaches this phase must stick to this diet plan for life.


This low-carb diet offers many health benefits, which are not limited to the following.

1. Eases Seizures and Epilepsy Symptoms

In a study done from the years 2004 to 2014, the diet showed proof of easing symptoms associated with epilepsy. It also reduced seizures in children and adults.

2. Alleviates Acid Reflux

Food high in fat or caffeine stimulate acid reflux. However, a diet that is low in carbohydrates can prevent the symptoms of acid reflux. Further study is needed on the effect of the Atkins diet on acid reflux experienced by individuals with GERD.

3. Reduces Acne

A diet low in carbohydrates directly impacts the skin. According to a study by Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, a diet low in carbohydrates has a positive effect on skin and reduces the occurrence of acne.

4. Improves Symptoms of Migraine or Headache

Research published in the Functional Neurology study in 2013 claimed that a low-carb diet improves the symptoms of a headache or a migraine.

5. Reduces Risk for Heart Disease

Studies done in the years 2002 to 2014 show that low-carb diets reduced the risk of heart disease by levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Furthermore, the diet helps improve one’s blood pressure level.

6. Reduces Risk for Cancer

Apart from reducing the factors that lead to heart disease, a diet low in carbohydrates significantly reduces the risk of getting cancer. It does this by lowering the dietary glycemic load often linked to the intake of carbohydrate. Moreover, it helps an individual lose excess weight.


Drastically removing carbohydrates from the diet has repercussions, especially for individuals who have depended on carbohydrates for fuel and caloric intake. Some adverse reactions may manifest which include the following.

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Weakness

Low-carb diets limit essential carbohydrates that lead to insufficient fiver and nutritional deficiency. Such health problems linked to this include nausea, constipation, and diarrhea. Remember to consult with a primary healthcare provider before starting this diet or any other diet.

Dietary Management

The diet usually starts at limiting carbohydrates by 20 grams in a day. However, an individual starting on the diet can adjust the amount to 40 grams in a day. If the weight is not reduced or is maintained, then they can cut down the amount to 30 grams or less.

Food to Eat

The diet includes the following food.

  • Meat: bacon, chicken, pork, beef
  • Fish: sardines, trout, salmon
  • Eggs: pastured or omega-3 enriched
  • Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, spinach, kale (as long as low in carbohydrates)
  • Dairy: cream, cheese, butter, yogurt (must be full-fat)
  • Seeds and Nuts: sunflower seeds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds
  • Fats: avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin oil

A meal plan following the Atkins diet should be based around nuts and vegetables that are good sources of fatty proteins and healthy fats. With regards to the beverages, one can consume in this diet, and these include the following.

  • Water: this must be the go-to drink
  • Green Tea
  • Coffee: preferably black coffee without sugar and milk

Beer is high in carbohydrates and must be avoided. Consuming alcohol is fine as long as it is consumed in tiny amounts. Opt for dry wines that do not contain sugar.

Food to Avoid

The food to avoid for this diet include the following food groups.

  • Fruits (High in Carbohydrates): grapes, pears, oranges, apples, bananas
  • Vegetables (High in Carbohydrates): turnips, carrots
  • Vegetable Oil: canola oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, soybean oil
  • Starches: sweet potatoes, potatoes
  • Legumes: chickpeas, beans, lentils
  • Grains: rice, barley, rye, spelt, wheat
  • Sugar: ice cream, candy, cakes, fruit juice, sodas or carbonated drinks

Avoid food that also claims to be “low-fat.” Processed food that contains “hydrogenated” on its list of ingredients must be avoided as well as these are high in trans-fat.

atkins diet

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