Did Atkins have it Right?

At the peak of its popularity around 2004, tens of millions of people around the world followed the Atkins Diet. Their low-carb approach became so popular and widely known that popular fast food restaurants started producing bun-free burgers and low-carb wraps to accommodate their preferences.

But as popular as the diet was — and as popular as it remains in some circles — there was always an air of controversy. Could a diet that eliminated the bun and promoted essential fats really be the key to weight loss? And how could you possible eat a cheeseburger without the bun, anyway?

The Importance of “Good” Carbs

Part of the controversy surrounding the Atkins diet was that it flew directly in the face of the food pyramid system sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration. The food pyramid, at the time, promoted a diet that was low in fats and high in both carbohydrates and starches. In the decades that have ensued since that dietary guide was released, science proved it a much better way to gain weight than to lose it.

In eliminating most carbs and focusing on essential fatty acids and so-called “good” sources of saturated fats, the Atkins diet was largely ahead of its time. Studies that have ensued in the years since the peak of Atkins’ popularity have concluded that good carbohydrates — such as whole grains — actually promote weight loss by keeping the body’s insulin levels even.

Bad (or “empty”) carbs, such as white bread, cause almost immediate spikes in blood sugar levels. When those levels return to normal, they promote hunger — causing someone to overindulge and eat more calories than is necessary. By eliminating these bad carbs before the public understood how they worked, the Atkins Diet was ahead of its time and certainly getting it right on just how to control real hunger. When hunger is under control, temptations disappear and eating becomes less frequent.

Keeping Fats in the Diet

At the same time Atkins was essentially promoting “good carbs,” like those in whole grains and fruits, it was also promoting “good fats.” These are the fats typically found in animal meats as well as the essential fatty acids found in fish and certain vegetables and seeds. These good fats don’t only promote good levels of weight loss and appetite, but scientists have linked them to softer skin, smoother hair, straighter and whiter teeth, and a host of other extraneous benefits.

In combination with the better array of carbs that the typical Atkins follower eats on a daily basis, good fats help to promote all the aspects of a healthy body — including state of mind. Indeed, the fats found in fish (which Atkins dieters were encouraged to eat plenty of) can help balance mood swings and assist in recovery from depression. As any scientist can attest to, a healthy body free of stress burns calories more efficiently and doesn’t hold onto the bun-free cheeseburger as long as those with high levels of stress and anxiety.

Atkins Was onto Something

The Atkins diet — whether intentionally or not — was the first shot fired in the battle to redefine what a good diet meant. We now understand that some carbs are good and others are bad, just as some fats — such as trans-fat — are terrible for the body while others promote increased happiness, health, and metabolism. It ran counter to the food pyramid and was often the subject of controversy and ridicule, but it worked.

Today’s diets all take a page or two from the Atkins model, and today’s “conventional wisdom” about fats and carbs comes straight from this first-of-its-kind diet of the 2000s. Atkins was a food pyramid (or two) ahead of its time.

LowFatDietPlan.org is a site that reviews the latest nutrition and fitness research to provide readers with science-based diet tips that they can fit into their daily diet plans.