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colette_heimowitz's Blog

Protein is a very important part of Atkins, and it plays a key role in your weight loss. When you combine it with healthy dietary fat and fiber from vegetables, it makes it easier to decrease your carbohydrate intake without feeling hungry. Protein also protects lean muscle mass, so you lose fat, and it moderates your blood sugar, which helps control your appetite for several hours. Think of it this way: You could enjoy a spinach salad with sliced tomatoes, and you might feel hungry a lot sooner than if you top your spinach salad with a serving of grilled salmon drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and sprinkled with an ounce of feta cheese. Suddenly you have a delicious and satisfying meal that will keep your appetite in check and your metabolism humming along.

To be clear, Atkins is not a high-protein diet. I suggest eating 4 to 6 ounces (cooked weight) of protein at each meal. If you’re a petite woman and you’re not very active, you may be satisfied with 4 ounces of protein. If you’re an active guy, 6 ounces should do the trick, and a very big guy may even want 8 ounces. On an average day, your protein intake will range between 12 and 18 ounces (cooked weight) a day. But don’t worry. I don’t expect you to weigh your food or count your calories. You can easily eyeball your protein portions using these guidelines:


FOOD                                                                                    

4 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Smartphone
6 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Hockey puck
8 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Slim paperback book
3 ounces fish  = Checkbook
1 ounce hard cheese = Four dice or the size of an individually wrapped slice 


The Truth About Red Meat
Red meat is a very popular (and delicious) protein source, although it has been vilified in the past, due to its casual association with a higher incidence of heart disease and diabetes. Such a sweeping judgment, however, ignores a significant difference between distinct subtypes of saturated fatty acids (SFAs).  Foods like red meat, butter, cheese, poultry, eggs, pork and fish are primarily composed of palmitic and stearic SFAs, which have virtually no effect on “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, i.e., it is considered “neutral”. While studies to date have found no association with the consumption of fresh meats, there have been positive trends in risk when consuming cured and blackened meat, so it is best to eat fresh meats and limit processed meats. And when you consume saturated fat on Atkins, where your body is burning primarily fat for fuel, published research has shown that the level of saturated fat in the blood does not increase.

Picking Your Protein

For a full list of protein sources, click here:

http://www.atkins.com/Program/Phase-1/What-You-Can-Eat-in-this-Phase.aspx

And here are some guidelines for picking your protein:
I recommend selecting organically raised, free-range meat, poultry and eggs whenever possible. Not only are they more flavorful, they're also more healthful, because they don't contain harmful hormones including growth hormone, estrogens, and antibiotics. Follow these additional guidelines when picking your protein:
Eggs: Free-range eggs are about 20 times higher in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. You can also get omega-3-enriched eggs.

Cold cuts and hot dogs: Read your labels. Less expensive brands may be full of added sugars and other hidden carbohydrates. Processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, salami, olive loaf and the like usually contain nitrates and nitrites. Whenever possible, choose nitrite- and nitrate-free deli meats. For a delicious (and budget-friendly) alternative, roast a whole ham, roast beef or turkey breast and slice and freeze portions that you can defrost as you need.

Bacon, sausages and more: Most sausages, bacon and aged hams also contain nitrates and nitrites. Once again, read your labels and look for preservative-free brands. Just remember that what you do 90% of the time really counts. If you can’t find nitrate-free meats, just make sure you don’t eat them on a daily basis and remember that fresh is always best.

 

It can be a full-time job to keep up on the latest developments in clinical research on controlled-carbohydrate nutritional practices and the Atkins Diet’s reduced carbohydrate way of eating. This is why I thought it may be a good idea to post a research update every few months that summarizes the latest research for you and how it relates to Atkins.

Here’s what has happened in just the last three months:

1. Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids with Coronary Risk
Authors: Rajiv Chowdhury, MD, PhD; Samantha Warnakula, MPhil; Setor Kunutsor, MD, et al

Ann Intern Med. 2014; 160(6):398-406-406. doi: 10.7326/M13-1788

Background: Current guidelines suggest consuming more omega-6 polyunsaturated fat and less saturated fat is better for cardiovascular health.

Purpose: Review multiple studies (a meta-analysis) to analyze the connection between fat consumption and heart disease.

Conclusion: The results of this meta-analysis show no connection between saturated fat consumption and heart disease risk. The evidence does not support the current recommended guidelines.

What does this mean to you? This meta-analysis supports Atkins’ recommendations for fat consumption. Especially in the context of a low-carb eating program, the fat consumed on Atkins is burned for energy and does not raise the risk of heart disease.

2. The Cardiometabolic Consequences of Replacing Saturated Fats with Carbohydrates or Ω-6 Polyunsaturated Fats: Do the Dietary Guidelines Have it Wrong?

Author: James J DiNicolantonio

Open Heart 2014; 1:e000032. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2013- 000032

Background: Dietary Goals for Americans, published in 1977, proposed increasing carbohydrates and decreasing saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet. This increase in consumption paralleled an increase in the incidence of diabetes and obesity in the U.S.

Purpose: Are saturated fats as bad as we have lead to believe? This editorial discusses the data.

Conclusion: There is no conclusive proof that a low-fat diet has any positive effects on health; when carbohydrates replace saturated fat, it actually increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. A public health campaign is needed to educate everyone on the dangers of a diet high in carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods.

What does this mean to you? If you’re doing Atkins, you’re already doing exactly what Dr. DiNicolantonio (the editorial’s author) suggests by following a plan that incorporates a balance of healthy fats (including saturated fats), fresh vegetables, whole grains (eventually if your metabolism allows) and protein, and limits refined carbs, sugar and processed foods. 

3. The Low-Carbohydrate Diet and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Epidemiologic Studies

Authors: T. Hu, L.A. Bazzano, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases (2014)

Background: Researchers analyzed multiple studies conducted from January 1966 to November 2013 comparing low-carb diets and low-fat diets. Randomized, controlled studies have shown that low-calorie low-carb diets are at least as effective as low-fat diets for weight loss.

Purpose: To compare low-carb diets to low-fat diets for weight loss and the improvement of heart disease risk factors.

Conclusion: Both low-carb and low-fat diets can help you lose weight and decrease your risk of heart disease, although low-carb diets may be more effective at decreasing waist circumference. The researchers concluded that a low-carb diet can also be recommended to diabetic patients to help them lose weight, but they emphasize that a healthy low-carb diet should emphasize dietary fiber intake derived from whole grains, fiber-rich fruit, low-carbohydrate vegetables (such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables), avocado, olive and vegetable oils, soy, fish and chicken, and restrict or eliminate consumption of processed and unprocessed red meat as well as starchy vegetables and refined grains.

What does this mean to you? When it comes to decreasing your risk of diabetes and heart disease, while losing weight and slashing inches from your waist, Atkins may be just what the doctor ordered.

4. A Non-Calorie-Restricted Low-Carbohydrate Diet is as Effective as an Alternative Therapy for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes

Yoshifumi Yamada, Junichi Uchida, Hisa Izumi, Yoko Tsukamoto,
Gaku Inoue, Yuichi Watanabe, Junichiro Irie and Satoru Yamada

Internal Medicine, January 2014

Background: In a six-month, randomized controlled trial, 24 patients with type-2 diabetes were either put on a low-carb diet or a calorie-restricted diet.

Purpose: To determine the effect of the two diets on average blood glucose concentration, which is an indicator of blood sugar levels. Reductions in total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, blood pressure, markers of atherosclerosis and renal function were also measured.

Conclusion: The low-carb diet significantly improved blood sugar levels and triglyceride levels compared to the calorie-restricted diet. And although calories weren’t restricted on the low-carb diet, after six months, calorie intake for both groups was almost the same.

What does this mean to you? If you have type-2 diabetes and you have tried calorie-restrictive in the past without success, a low-carb diet like Atkins can help manage your type-2 diabetes while helping you control your calorie intake without feeling hungry.

Fat has long been the vilified third cousin of the nutrition world. But with Atkins, we have learned that fat can be your friend. Countless studies show that replacing sugars and refined carbs with natural healthy fats may help you lose weight, and keep it off. As long as you are burning fat for fuel, it’s not being stored as that fat that loves to reside on your belly, hips and thighs. Fat also helps you feel full, and it carries flavor, which makes food that much more satisfying.

One of my favorite fats is olive oil. It is a monounsaturated fat, and it should be a staple of your diet on Atkins. It has many heart-healthy benefits, it’s rich in antioxidants, and it will add depth and variety to your meals. You can use it when sautéing food, or you can make your own salad dressing by adding a tablespoon to lemon juice or vinegar. Drizzle some over steamed asparagus (or any veggie) and finish with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper for a simple, yet perfect, side dish. The options are endless.

When shopping for olive oil, look for the following qualities:

• Extra-virgin olive oil in dark green glass or in packaging that shields it from light. Never buy olive oil in clear, plastic bottles.
• The words “cold pressed"
• A harvesting date on the bottle
• Look for the California Olive Oil Council Seal (COOC), which means:
o Less than .5% free oleic acid             
o No chemicals or excessive heat during a mechanical extraction   


 

This may not be revolutionary news to those of you who follow Atkins or have read many of my previous blogs, but according to a new editorial in the journal Open Heart, written by Dr. James DiNicolantonio, a leading U.S. cardiovascular research scientist, low-carb diets beat low-fat diets for weight loss, heart disease and longevity. As you may know, I have discussed several studies that show that a low-carb diet is better for weight loss and lowering heart disease risk than a low-fat diet, while larger observational studies have not found any proof that low-fat diets reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

According to DiNicolantonio, saturated fats were vilified in the past because of the belief that they increase total cholesterol (a flawed theory, also according to DiNicolantonio), and therefore must also increase heart disease risk. And since fat contains more calories, it was thought that by reducing the intake, it would naturally curb obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. These theories, based on flawed and incomplete data from the 1950s, led to the current dietary advice to replace saturated fats with carbohydrates or omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. Research now shows that eating refined carbohydrates is a dietary factor behind the surge in obesity and diabetes in the United States. And replacing saturated fats with omega-6 polyunsaturated fats—without a corresponding increase in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats—may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

DiNicolantonio says that a public health campaign is needed to educate the public on the dangers of a diet high in refined carbs and sugar, and that processed foods should be avoided at all costs.

Sound familiar? If you’re doing Atkins, you’re already doing exactly what DiNicolantonio suggests by following a plan that incorporates a balance of healthy fats (including saturated fats), fresh vegetables, whole grains (eventually) and protein and limits refined carbs, sugar and processed foods. 

I have the chance to talk to people every day about Atkins, and I always find it interesting that there is still the misperception that all you eat on Atkins is bacon, eggs, heavy cream and beef. Nothing could be farther from the truth—when you follow Atkins, you may be surprised to find yourself eating more veggies than you ever did before. In Phase One (Induction), you eat 20 grams of net carbs each day, with most of them (12 to 15 grams of net carbs) coming straight from veggies. Initially you’ll be eating primarily what we call foundation veggies, which have a lower carb content and often a higher fiber count than the starchy veggies higher up the Carb Ladder.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to track every detail, you can keep track of your daily net carb intake in a journal, or you can enter your daily food into fitday.com, which is a free online food and fitness dairy. Enter the food, and fitday will do the math, telling you percentages of protein, fat and carbohydrate, calories and even nutritional content. If journaling and tracking is not your style, you can still succeed by using the cup method (see the ideas below).

If you want to eat your vegetables as part of your three daily meals, you might try getting 4 veggie net carbs with breakfast, 5.5 veggie net carbs with lunch and 5.5 veggie net carbs with dinner.  If you want to keep it fairly simple, without having to make a lot of fancy recipes, here are some examples of what that might look like:

Breakfast ideas:
    
Sautee ¼ cup chopped broccoli and ¼ cup chopped onion in 1 Tbsp. real butter.  Then add 2 beaten eggs to the pan.  Stir over medium-high heat until the eggs are set.  If you like, sprinkle 2 Tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese over the eggs in the last 30 seconds of cooking.  5 total net carbs, with 4 of them coming from veggies.

Here are some other combinations of veggies that you can easily add to an egg scramble or omelet that will total 4 net veggie carbs:  ¾ cup chopped tomato and ¾ cup chopped spinach, ¼ cup chopped onion and ½ cup chopped mushrooms.

For a breakfast on the run, grab a couple of hard-boiled eggs, a slice of real cheese, and one of the following raw veggies to crunch in the car:  1-3/4 cup chopped cucumber, 1 cup string beans (green beans), 1-1/2 cups chopped cauliflower, 1 cup chopped green pepper.

Lunch ideas:
       
Salad is a good way to get in your veggies!  Start with 2-1/2 cups shredded romaine lettuce and add any of the following for a total (including the lettuce) of 5.5 veggie net carbs:  2 cups chopped cucumber, ¾ cup chopped jicama, 2-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms, 1 cup chopped green peppers, ¾ cup chopped red peppers, 2 cups sliced radishes, 1 cup chopped broccoli, 1-1/2 cups chopped cauliflower, ¾ cup chopped tomatoes, 1-1/2 cups sliced yellow squash.  (If you want more than one added veggie in your salad, use half the measurement of one veggie, combined with half the measurement of another, like ½ cup green peppers and 1 cup chopped cucumber.) Plus, you can add 4 to 6 ounces sugar-free salad dressing

Of course, if you don’t like salad, you can just eat raw or cooked veggies, and use the following dinner ideas:

Dinner Ideas:
     
You can have another salad at dinner, or eat cooked vegetables.  Add butter or even mayonnaise to hot cooked veggies. Here are some more examples for measuring and tracking raw and cooked vegetables:

         How many cups of sliced raw veggies equal 5 net carbs?
       
•        1 avocado = 4
•        8 marinated artichoke hearts = 4
•        2 cup broccoli, raw = 4
•        1 cup cauliflower, raw = 3
•        1 cup jicama = 5
•        12 black olives = 2
•        12 radishes = 1

How many cups of sliced raw veggies equal 2 net carbs?
      
•        1 cup cucumber = 2
•        ¼ red pepper = 1.5
•        5 cherry tomatoes = 2.2
•        1 cup broccoli, raw = 2
•        1 cup cauliflower, raw = 3
•        1/2 cup jicama = 2.5
•        12 radishes = 1
•        2 stalks of celery = 2
 
How many cups of cooked vegetables would equal 5 net carbs?
      
•        1 cup green beans = 6
•        1.5 cup cooked broccoli = 4.5
•        1.5 cup green cabbage = 4.5
•        12 spears asparagus = 5
•        1.5 cup eggplant = 4.5
•        1 cup kale = 5
•        1/2 cup button mushrooms = 5
•        1.5 cup zucchini = 4.5
•        1/2 cup spaghetti squash = 4      
 
How many cups of cooked vegetables equal 2 net carbs?
       
•        1/2 cup green beans = 3
•        1 cup cooked broccoli = 3
•        1 cup green cabbage = 3
•        6 spears asparagus = 2.5
•        1 cup eggplant = 3
•        1/2 cup kale = 2.5
•        1/4 cup button mushrooms = 2.5
•        1 cup zucchini = 3
•        1/4 cup spaghetti squash = 2

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