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What are the health benefits of the Atkins diet?

This diet is usually recommended for people who are looking for a fairly quick way to achieve weight loss goals, but eating a low-carb diet will provide individuals with a wide range of valuable health benefits.

There have been more than 20 different studies to look at how this diet impacts weight loss and leads to other health improvements, and the diet has become a popular option around the world for people seeking enhanced wellness – without the stress of constantly monitoring your calorie intake.

One: The Atkins diet will improve your heart health.

Researchers who examined 17 different studies of overweight people found that following a low-carb, high-fat diet had a 98 percent greater chance of lowering the risk of stroke or heart attack than a low-fat diet. Because of how carbohydrates trigger your body to rapidly produce insulin, you’ll also end up holding onto excess fat for your body to use as fuel later, when your blood sugar crashes.

Cutting your intake of carbohydrates has a direct impact on your heart health several ways – decreasing your level of triglycerides, raising your levels of “good” cholesterols, lowering your “bad” cholesterols, and even helping to reduce blood pressure.

Two: The Atkins diet will help you lose weight.

Some followers of the Atkins diet have managed to lose more than 100 pounds – but your individual weight loss results will depend heavily on your adherence to the plan. Since a low-carb diet helps stimulate your body to burn fat, and a diet high in protein and fat helps suppress your appetite, it’s easy to see how the Atkins diet can lead to significant weight loss. However, you will need to pay close attention to the carbohydrate counts in everything you eat, as they can add up quickly and impede your potential weight loss results.

You’ll see even better results if you mix in a bit of exercise. With the additional energy you’ll have from eating clean and enjoying a strong metabolism, shoot for about 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity exercise.

Three: The Atkins diet will improve blood sugar levels.

Uncontrolled sugar levels are a major risk factor for both heart disease and obesity – and the Atkins diet, particularly during the induction phase, can drastically improve your body’s ability to properly process sugar. Even patients taking insulin before embarking on an Atkins diet were able to stop using insulin after changing their nutritional approach.

Limiting your intake of carbohydrates also helps to prevent blood sugar spikes, which are generally triggered by the glycemic content of high-carbohydrate foods. A low-glycemic diet is an effective way of dealing with that, but a low-glycemic diet combined with a reduced intake of carbohydrates is even better.

Four: The Atkins diet can prevent metabolic syndrome.

Most of the symptoms and risk factors that combine into what we know as metabolic syndrome can be treated with the nutritional approach of the Atkins diet. Abdominal obesity, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension can all be addressed through this dietary strategy, and thanks to the healthy intake of protein, you can ensure that your muscle mass is preserved.

Maintaining muscle mass helps you keep your body’s metabolism running efficiently, allowing you to continue burning fat and improving your overall wellness.

Five: The Atkins diet can help control your appetite.

You’ll probably suffer through some cravings at first, especially during the induction phase as you try to cut out carbs almost entirely – but by eliminating the constant spikes and drops in your blood sugar, you’ll enjoy a suppressed appetite. Not only will your Atkins diet help eliminate your cravings, you’ll also be eating healthier meals more frequently, keeping you well-satiated.

If you do find yourself struggling with cravings, break up your meals with healthy snacks, drink more water, and make sure there isn’t an emotional reason behind your physical food cravings. Once you get more familiar with your body, you’ll be able to tell what’s triggering your cravings and deal with them appropriately.

Six: The Atkins diet will boost brain function.

Low-carb diets have a reputation for negatively affecting your brain function, since your brain needs carbs for energy. However, once followers have gotten past the initial phase of reducing carbohydrate intake and their bodies have had a chance to adjust to a new metabolic process, the increased consumption of brain-healthy fats and B-complex vitamins found in leafy green vegetables work to produce more brain hormones like serotonin.

Low-carb fruits like berries also help enhance communication networks between your brain cells, promoting brain cell survival and regeneration.

Seven: The Atkins diet can provide increased physical endurance.

While scientists have long known how the Atkins diet can increase weight loss and the body’s ability to effectively and efficiently burn fat, studies are now being done to examine how the diet could augment the body’s physical performance and recovery.

According to some research, these athletes proved to be “very healthy,” even “beyond what you can achieve with good genetics and extensive training,” said Jeff Volek, lead researcher and professor of human sciences at the Ohio State University. Volek added that the restriction of carbs allows the body’s fat-burning program to “reboot” and enable athletes to reach significantly improved levels of performance and health.

Eight: The Atkins diet can help clear your skin.

Studies have shown that the Atkins diet has a positive effect on a variety of chronic and unpleasant skin conditions – clearing up some of the redness, itching, and irritation associated with psoriasis, eczema, acne, and even vitiligo. Not only that, but even in practitioners without ongoing skin concerns, eating a low-carb diet can make your skin feel and look more radiant, moisturized, and healthy.

These benefits also impact your hair and your nails, which will all be stronger and healthier. The increased intake of vitamins and minerals you’ll get from eating more vegetables and fruits will have a major effect how you feel inside and outside.

Nine: The Atkins diet will help you eat more nutrients.

By focusing your diet on whole, unprocessed foods, you’ll enjoy eating far greater quantities of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – all of which will directly impact your health and well-being. These nutrient-dense foods have a number of varied properties that will all provide a range of health benefits, which you wouldn’t get if you were eating a plate of spaghetti or a pizza instead.

Your meals should include an adequate portion of protein along with an array of high-fiber, low-glycemic fruits and vegetables. This encourages you to eat different kinds of produce and get different kinds of nutrients, achieving a well-balanced, healthy diet.

Ten: The Atkins diet will decrease inflammation.

Inflammation is an important part of your body’s defense system, and a certain amount is to be expected in any healthy individual – especially during times of illness or injury. However, chronic inflammation can lead to serious health concerns like cancer, heart disease, and even neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

A lot of this inflammation can be attributed to the insulin spikes that come from eating processed foods and sugars, including carbs. Eating a variety of foods that decrease inflammation, like those recommended on the Atkins diet, can prevent chronic inflammation from causing lasting damage.

Eleven: The Atkins diet will improve digestion.

While your digestive system will likely need a bit of time to adjust to your new eating habits, a low-carb diet has proven to improve overall digestion. Thanks to the increased fiber intake found within the Atkins diet, you’ll enjoy a healthy digestive system and reduced acid reflux, heartburn, and bloating.

Initially, you may find you are more flatulent than usual, but as your body gets used to your nutritional intake, you’ll find that you suffer from gas less, as well.

Twelve: The Atkins diet can help prevent cancer.

A nutrition plan that focuses on getting enough healthy fats can drastically reduce your chances of developing certain types of cancers. Cancer growth happens when your body is running inefficiently, creating a breeding ground for developing infections. Uncontrolled blood sugar is a major trigger for this development, but the Atkins diet has proven effective at keeping these levels stable.

The reduced inflammation also helps keep your body’s immune response functioning effectively, and helps your body react effectively to stress.

Thirteen: The Atkins diet targets abdominal fat deposits.

Excess fat that has accumulated around your midsection can lead to a number of health risks – impacting almost every organ in your body by producing excess chemicals and hormones. Major concerns include type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

This fat is troublesome to lose and easy to put on, but can be reduced thanks to three major factors – exercise, sleep, and diet. The Atkins diet gives you the tools to tackle all three, starting with your nutritional intake.

Fourteen: The Atkins diet can enhance sleep quality.

With your increased consumption of nutrients, healthy amounts of fat and protein, and stable blood sugar, your body will be under less stress and feeling much healthier and more energetic. This will dramatically reduce the time you spend fighting insomnia, meaning you’ll be able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

The quality of your rest will also be improved thanks to the brain-boosting power of the Atkins diet, and the added energy you’ll see from all the nutrients you’re putting in your body.

Fifteen: The Atkins diet helps with weight maintenance.

Once you’ve reached the fourth phase of the Atkins diet, you’ll be in maintenance mode. With most diets, followers use this as an opportunity to return to their regular eating habits – and will end up piling all that lost weight right back on.

However, since Atkins is considered a life-long nutritional approach instead of a temporary diet, you’ll have much better luck maintaining your weight loss and health benefits. Introduce carbohydrates slowly, and if you start having cravings, lower your intake. Switching between the third and fourth phases while keeping an eye on your overall health is a great way to keep those pounds off and enjoy the healthy lifestyle Atkins delivers.

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About The Author

Jacky Miller's picture

Jacky Miller is a Registered Dietician based in New Zealand. She specializes in chronic conditions and through diet and lifestyle changes helps her patients improve their health, and lead richer, more fulfilling lives. She writes regularly on health related topics for blogs including MindBodyGreen, Jen Reviews, and The Huffington Post. 

Follow Jacky on Twitter and Facebook.


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