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Vegan Atkins, Primal Atkins or Paleo keto: New data supports low carb diets

Learn about the phases of the Atkins diet.

Three new twists on high fat low carb ketogenic diets have become popular: Primal Atkins, Paleo keto and Eco-Atkins (also known as vegan Atkins). In an exclusive interview on Wednesday, Atkins nutritionist Colette Heimowitz, author of "The New Atkins Made Easy: A Faster, Simpler Way to Shed Weight and Feel Great -- Starting Today," explained how to choose the right one for you in light of a recent study on low carb diets.

Eco-Atkins is a vegan plant-based version of the high fat low carb ketogenic Atkins plan. A new study showed that it reduces the risk of heart disease while boosting weight loss.

"This study adds to the growing body of research that confirm increasing dietary protein and fiber relative to carbohydrate enhances weight loss possibilities, at least in part by increasing satiety," Colette explained to me. However, to optimize weight loss, she feels that the percentage of carbohydrates needs to be reduced by that in the most recent study.

"Those following the lower-carb program in this study consumed up to 43% of calories a day of carbohydrate," noted Colette. Based on the Atkins phases, dieters are allowed that many carbohydrates per day only on the fourth stage of Atkins, which is the maintenance phase.

The Atkins diet teaches individuals to reduce carbohydrates while increasing protein and fats. While the early phase of induction limits food choices to protein, fats and non-starchy vegetables, subsequent phases allow "low-sugar fruits, legumes and even whole grains in reasonable quantities," said Colette.

For those questioning whether vegans and vegetarians can succeed on Atkins, the answer is "Yes" from Colette. Her cookbook
"The New Atkins for a New You Cookbook: 200 Simple and Delicious Low-Carb Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less" contains recipes that cater specifically to plant-based dieters.

In contrast to Eco-Atkins, the induction phase (sometimes called Primal Atkins) consists of 20 net carbohydrates daily, which come primarily from vegetables. Dieters are advised to consume 25 to 30 percent of their calories in the form of protein.

In terms of calories, Colette told me that the recommend range for women is 1500 to 1800. Men are advised to consume 1800 to 2000.

Vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs can follow the ketogenic Primal Atkins induction phase by emphasizing those forms of dairy. "New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great" provides phase-specific details and meal plans for vegetarians.

Although the Paleo ketogenic diet also is low carb and high fat, Colette noted that the caveman diet has several guidelines that she feels makes it harder to follow than either version of the Atkins plan.

"If you are considering both diets, Atkins may be an easier entry point for many," said Colette. While Paleo dieters must avoid grains, they are allowed on later phases of the Atkins plan.

"In addition, with the Atkins Diet, you are able to incorporate approved Atkins bars, shakes and frozen meals into your plan, which makes this way of eating a little more convenient," she added. However, Colette feels that the Paleo diet deserves praise.

"Paleo’s emphasis on grass-fed or free-ranging meats and locally sourced fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits is ultimately very healthy for everyone, but these foods can also be more expensive and harder to find," she qualified. "Ultimately, both diets have numerous benefits, and the choice is yours."

For vegans and vegetarians who want to try a high fat low carb ketogenic diet, a Paleo plan can be extremely challenging. The Paleo diet does not allow legumes or dairy, making it difficult for plant-based dieters to get enough protein, according to Dr. Loren Cordain, author of "The Paleo Answer: 7 Days to Lose Weight, Feel Great, Stay Young."

However, for Paleo dieters who follow the traditional plan and eat animal protein, nutritional ketosis is attainable by counting carbohydrates. By consuming zero to 50 grams of carbohydrates a day, Paleo dieters can accelerate fat burning, according to Mark Sisson, author of "The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy."

Mark notes that Paleo keto diets can be used for "aggressive weight loss efforts, provided adequate protein, fat and supplements are consumed otherwise." He adds that it can "be ideal for many diabetics."

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