The Atkins diet has gone the same way as the Hoover vacuum cleaner. "Atkins" has almost become synonymous for any diet that restricts carbohydrate intake. In the 1960s, Dr. Robert C. Atkins was the first to experiment with a protein-rich, fat-rich and carbohydrate-poor diet. In 1972, he published his book "Dr. Atkins´ Diet Revolution." Back then, his theories flew in the face of established knowledge and were highly controversial. Nowadays, the medical profession acknowledges the value of low-carb diets to lower insulin levels and prevent heart disease.
Atkins -- The Original
The Atkins diet does not require counting calories. Dr. Atkins encouraged dieters to eat as much meat, poultry, eggs, cheese and butter as they liked, as well as leafy, non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, cucumber and green beans. The absence of carbohydrates forces the body to burn fat. This process is called Benign Dietary Ketosis. As a result, insulin production goes down, which prevents the body from storing energy as fat. According to Dr. Atkins, even a small amount of carbohydrates is counterproductive to inducing BDK. He recommends a carbohydrate intake of no more than 60 g daily to keep weight off.
Finding Your balance
The Atkins diet comes in phases: Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss and Maintenance. During Induction, which lasts for two weeks, only proteins and non-starchy vegetables are allowed. During Ongoing Weight Loss, dieters are encouraged to experiment with how many complex carbohydrates -- wholegrains, fruit, pulses, no sugar or white flour -- they can eat while still losing weight. This phase has to be maintained until the weight loss goal is achieved. The final phase, Maintenance, needs to be adhered to for the rest of your life if you want to keep the weight off.
Recently, the Atkins diet has experienced a renaissance. In 2010, doctors Eric Westman, Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek published the book "New Atkins, New You." They carried on where Dr. Atkins left off and adapted the diet to the 21st century. In this volume, they include a program for vegetarians, as well as suggestions how to apply Atkins while eating out.
Other Low-Carb Diets
More recently, other nutritionists have developed diets based on low carb intake. The most popular is Dr. Arthur Agatston´s South Beach diet, which he discovered while looking for a diet to prevent diabetes. The South Beach diet also has a very strict first phase and increasingly liberal second and third ones. The main difference to the Atkins diet is that Dr. Agatston advises restricting fat intake, which makes South Beach a low-carb and low-calorie diet by default. Another popular diet comes from France, where Dr. Pierre Dukan has developed the Dukan diet. This diet is the most extreme during the first week -- "attack phase" -- when dieters are only allowed proteins and not even vegetables. After that, it gradually reintroduces normal eating. After reaching their weight loss goal, people are allowed to eat anything they want again with one exception: one day per week has to be protein only for life.