The Atkins Advantageā„¢: How the Atkins Principles Give You the Edge

Welcome to the course! You've probably been hearing quite a bit about the Atkins Advantage lately. In this course, we'll explore the nutrition principles of the Atkins Advantage: what they are, why they matter and how they can help you keep your energy levels high and steady as you navigate your busy day. As we explore the principles in detail, you'll get practical tips on how to incorporate them into your daily routine.

In return, you can expect the reward of a long life, rich with health and the powerful sense of well-being that comes from truly being in control of some of the most vital aspects of your life.

That's the edge you get from the Atkins Advantage.

The Nutrition Principles of the Atkins Advantage
You can enjoy the Atkins Advantage by following these basic common sense nutrition principles:

High protein: Including protein in every meal provides your body the material it needs for repair and maintenance, helps build muscle, keeps your energy levels high and helps keep your appetite under control.
High fiber: Fiber offers huge benefits to your health, from helping to regulate the flow of fats and nutrients into your blood stream and helping your digestive tract function efficiently to aiding in the prevention of disease in the colon.
Low sugar: To avoid spikes in your blood sugar, you need to focus on fiber-rich nutrient-dense foods that have a minimal impact on blood sugar and will keep your energy levels even.
Vitamins and minerals: Adequate vitamins and minerals help your body to run like a well-oiled machine, providing energy and protecting your body from the ravages of free radicals. Choosing nutrient-dense foods tends to promote the intake of necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients.
No trans fats: Study after study has confirmed the detrimental effects of trans fats on human beings. Watch out for them, check the nutrition facts panel no matter what it says on the front of the package and strive for zero trans fats in your daily food intake.
In this lesson, we'll explore the first three of these principles in some detail. We'll define what they are, why they matter and how you can put them to work for you.

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We'll start with protein. In the most basic sense, that's what our bodies start with, too.

Proteins are the essential building blocks for much of the material our bodies are made of: muscles, nerves, organs, hair, just about everything. So protein is critical for both growth and repair of our bodies.

In general, we can't store protein the way we can carbohydrates, so it's pretty much a "use it or lose it" proposition where protein is concerned. That's why it's so important that we spread our protein intake fairly evenly throughout the day, and eat our required amount of protein every day to protect the lean muscle mass we have as well as build new lean tissue. This is especially true for athletes and others who are more physically active than average.

Protein Sources and Suggested Amounts
Our bodies can synthesize some proteins from certain amino acids, but it must get others from the foods we eat. Animal and dairy products are both sources of high-quality protein, along with some vegetables, like soybeans, and nuts and seeds.

How much protein you need depends on your activity level, metabolism and weight, but in general, you need a bare minimum of about a half-gram of protein per pound of body weight. Assuming that your activity level is higher than that of a sedentary individual, you will need more -- possibly twice as much. And if you're really into exercise or other physical activities, if you have a muscular build, if you're a nursing mother, or if you're dealing with a lot of stress, you may need even more than that. And since, as we age, our ability to utilize protein becomes less efficient, older people may need as much as 15 percent more protein than they did when they were younger.

Atkins Advantage Products and Protein
With 15 grams of protein in the shakes and up to 19 grams of protein in the nutrition bars, it's easy to see why Atkins Advantage products give you the protein edge. The protein content comes from several high-quality sources that offer a complete amino acid profile.

Sources include:

whey protein isolate
soy protein isolate
sodium caseinate
calcium caseinate
Why do we use these sources? Simple: They are among the best available in terms of your body's ability to maximize protein's inherent benefits:

Whey protein is very low in carbohydrates, high in protein, and has been shown in studies to possess immune-boosting capabilities. Whey protein also provides substrate and bioactive components to extend the overall benefits of physical activity.
Soy protein isolate has been shown to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, increase HDL ("good") cholesterol and inhibit the progression of atherosclerosis.
And sodium caseinate and calcium caseinate are milk proteins. Research has shown that resistance exercise plus a high-protein diet supplemented with caseinate, resulted in the greatest increases in lean mass and strength and greatest decreases in fat mass compared with an unsupplemented high-protein diet and resistance training.
The Research section has an ever-changing array of articles about protein, so check back often to catch up on the latest.

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We'll get serious about fiber.

Dietary fiber comes from plants. Basically, it's the left-over parts of edible plants after the nutrients have been removed: seed casings, cell walls and such. It is a carbohydrate, but because it isn't digested in human beings. Fiber serves myriad useful purposes in promoting health and keeping your energy levels even. Some of the things fiber does are:

Slow the entry of glucose into the bloodstream, reducing blood sugar spikes
Slow the pace of food moving through your digestive tract, helping you feel satisfied longer and reducing cravings
Bind to cholesterol in the intestine, thus helping you eliminate it rather than having it slosh around in your blood stream and clogging your arteries
Absorb and eliminate bacterial toxins in your intestine and in general, support your immune system by crowding out harmful bacteria in your colon
Fiber Sources and Suggested Amounts
Fiber offers huge benefits to your health, from helping to regulate the flow of fats and nutrients into your blood stream and helping your digestive tract function efficiently to aiding in the prevention of some kinds of cancer.

Women need -- at a bare minimum -- 25 grams of fiber a day, while men need at least 35 grams and the hard truth is that most of us don't get that much from the foods we eat. We get it from nuts, seeds and fiber-rich vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and others. Getting enough fiber can be extremely challenging.

You can determine how much fiber you're getting from the foods you eat by checking the Nutrition Facts panel on the product label. The right nutrition bar or shake offers a great way to supplement for the fiber that you may not get from natural foods, helping you meet your optimal quota.

Among the various nutrition bars available on the market, Atkins Advantage bars, as well as our shakes, are rich in fiber. The bars have up to 11 grams of fiber, while the shakes have up to 4 grams. That means that each bar has 20 percent of the minimum daily amount of fiber needed for men. No matter what bar or shake you select, be sure to scan the label and use it to help you meet your daily fiber needs.

To learn more about fiber and why it's so important, read " Fiber: a Special Kind of Carbohydrate."

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Another important principle: low sugar.

Low glycemic impact foods help you avoid the dreaded "sugar spike and crash" that can come from foods high in sugar.

"Glycemic" simply means "relating to sugar." The higher the glycemic impact of a food the greater and more rapid its effect on your blood sugar when you eat it -- and the more insulin required to return your blood sugar to normal. Since insulin is a fat-storage hormone, high blood sugar and high insulin can sabotage your better health efforts. Eating lower glycemic foods with low sugar content is definitely the way to go.

Keeping an Eye on Sugar
In the early 1800s, the average sugar consumption was 12 pounds per person each year. This increased to 124 pounds in 1980 and to 152 pounds in 1997. Today, we consume an estimated 156 pounds of added sugar per person per year. This translates into more than 5 tons in a lifetime. Common table sugar represents about 20 to 25 percent of the daily caloric intake of the average American.

All of which makes it no surprise that fitness professionals in a survey conducted by Kelton research name sugar consumption as the number one issue facing their clients and the most difficult issue for their clients to control. Consumers, meanwhile, ranked eating less sugar as the most difficult nutritional challenge they face -- more difficult than eating fewer calories or eating carbohydrates.

However, consumers and fitness professionals are equally confused about the sugar content of nutrition bars and other snacks. Both groups incorrectly identified doughnuts as having the most sugar on the list, when, in fact, two popular "nutrition" bars (both containing as much as 20 grams of sugar) outrank a glazed doughnut, which clocks in with 10 grams of sugar. Fitness professionals make the mistake despite stating that 1) they count eating too much sugar as the number one issue their clients face, and 2) they rank sugar as the number one item to look for on nutrition labels.

To avoid high sugar content, you simply need to read the nutrition facts panel to see how many grams of sugar are listed. It's important to note that sugar content will include naturally occurring sugars (found in fruits and nuts, whole grains and dairy) as well as added sugars (also listed in the ingredients section) which include but are not limited to:

high-fructose corn syrup
Atkins Advantage® nutrition bars have only 3g or less of sugar, preventing the dreaded spike and crash that can occur after eating other nutrition bars. Also, Atkins Advantage bars have more protein, and more fiber than most other leading nutrition bars. Compare Atkins Advantage bars to bars offered by PowerBar and Clif Bar, some of which clock in at a hefty 18 to 20 grams of sugar. This chart shows you the actual sugar content for several popular brands.

Moving Forward
In this lesson, we've covered the first three principles of the Atkins Advantage nutrition principles and have shown you how they give you the edge on health and energy. In the next lesson, we'll cover the other two: sufficient vitamins and minerals and no trans fats.

Before moving on to Lesson 2, be sure to do the assignment and take the quiz, then join your instructors and fellow students on the Message Board to share questions, answers, tips and experiences. See you there!

Welcome back! In the last lesson we explored the first three Atkins Advantage principles: high protein, high fiber and low sugar. Now, we'll look at the last two: vitamins and minerals and avoiding trans fats. We'll see what they are, why they're important, how to apply them to your everyday life, and how Atkins Advantage products support them.

Nutrient levels in fruits, vegetables and some other food crops have declined dramatically over the past 50 years. Research indicates that the old maxim "you can get all the vitamins you need from food" is increasingly less true. Recent studies of vegetables, fruits and wheat have revealed a 5 to 35 percent decline in some concentrations of vitamins and minerals and even protein. "High-yield crops grow bigger or faster, but are not necessarily able to make or uptake sufficient nutrients to maintain their nutritional value," said Donald Davis, a biochemist at the University of Texas.

Some experts are wondering whether this may result in a backlash among consumers clamoring for healthier food and food products. One class of food that may benefit is organic fruits and vegetables. Recent studies have tested the effects of organic growing on antioxidant levels in food." On average, antioxidant levels increased by about 30 percent in carefully designed comparative trials," Davis said. "Organically grown produce offers significantly enhanced health-promoting qualities."

The declining level of nutrients in our food supply is definitely cause for concern. And fruits and vegetables are not the only casualties. Even meat has been affected. In one study of nutritional tables published in the UK it was found that iron content in 15 different varieties of meat had decreased by an average of 47 percent over a sixty year period. Virtually every day a new study shows the benefit of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, plant sterols or omega-3 fatty acids. Proper intake of these vitally important nutritional compounds is a cornerstone principle of the Atkins Advantage. Getting sufficient vitamins and minerals is one of the best things you can do for your health and energy levels, Fortunately, great-tasting nutrition bars and shakes from Atkins Advantage are packed with vitamins and minerals -- so you can enjoy great taste, convenience and superior nutrition wherever you go! Everyone knows that vitamins and minerals are important but did you know that most vitamins are water-soluble? That means you should take vitamins at intervals throughout the day to help maintain stable nutrient levels. Atkins Advantage products offer a convenient way to meet your vitamin needs.

Always on the go? B-complex vitamins give you greater resilience for whatever life brings your way. And even though we all know the health benefits of calcium -- strong bones and teeth, as well as circulatory and nervous system support -- sometimes it's hard to fit adequate natural sources of calcium into in a busy lifestyle. Along with 15 grams of protein, an Atkins Advantage shake includes 23 essential nutrients plus 30 percent of your calcium needs!

If you've been paying any attention at all, you've heard something about trans fats lately, because new labeling laws have gone into effect that require listing them on the Nutrition Facts panels of food products, if they're in a product. The reason they're required to be listed is that our government has finally recognized the results of decades of clinical research proving that trans fats are just plain unhealthy.

Learn more about a huge study that's been running for over three decades, involving well over 100,000 nurses, that has contributed data resulting in changing labeling laws in the United States.

Trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, can be made from just about any vegetable oil that's liquid at room temperature. It's done because hydrogenating a liquid oil raises its melting point so it can be solid at room temperature, and it increases its shelf life. That's useful for products like vegetable shortening and margarine.

But those two advantages are extremely costly in terms of human health. Trans fats have been solidly linked to heart attacks and circulatory diseases. They make the arteries more rigid, and contribute to clogging. They harden cell walls and over time, that renders the cells less effective in their functions. Trans fats also lower HDL -- the "good" cholesterol -- and raise the levels of LDL -- the "bad" cholesterol.

Even with the new labeling law, you need to be careful because if the amount of trans fats in a single serving of a product is below a half-gram, manufacturers are allowed to report the amount as zero trans fats, and not list them on the Nutrition Facts panel. So again, you should always check the ingredients list, too. Look for the words, "partially hydrogenated" and if they're there, trans fats are there, too. Put the product back on the shelf.

Good Fats, Bad Fats
Don't let all this information about trans fats scare you away from fats in general. A reasonable mix of fats -- including saturated, mono-unsaturated, and poly-unsaturated fats -- is an important component of healthy nutrition, and all three types of fats contribute to good health.

If you're cutting out all the fat in your diet you may not be getting the most out of your fruits and vegetables. It turns out that some of the very best stuff in fruits and vegetables are what's called "fat-soluble." That means these powerful cancer-fighting compounds need fat in order to be absorbed. If you don't have some fat in the meal, all these wonderful compounds are missed.

The vitamin C in fruits and vegetables is water-soluble, so it is unaffected by dietary fat. But beta-carotene and the other carotenoids, as well as vitamin E, are fat-soluble and require some fat for best absorption from the digestive tract. And you don't need that much. A teaspoon of oil, three ounces of poultry (or other lean protein), an egg, or a tablespoon of nuts will do it!

In one recent study at the University of Michigan, four groups of women consumed varying amounts of fruits and vegetables with a diet of either 30 percent fat or 16 percent fat. While some nutrients were not affected by the fat content of the diet, some other extremely important nutrients decreased noticeably on the lower fat diet, including a very important form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol which seems to be anti-inflammatory and may even stimulate self-destruction of cancer cells. On the low-fat diet, gamma-tocopherol dropped by more than 50 percent. We get gamma-tocopherol from pistachios, pecans, walnuts and peanuts, as well as a small amount from avocados. In other research at Ohio State University, adding some avocado to a fat-free salsa significantly increased the absorption of two important cancer fighting antioxidants: lycopene and beta-carotene.

These fat-soluble antioxidants are better absorbed by the body if consumed with a little fat:

Lutein (spinach and kale)
Beta carotene (carrots, cantaloupe)
Lycopene (tomatoes)
Zeaxanthin (spinach, kale)
Vitamin E (broccoli, spinach, walnuts, pistachios)
Bottom line: A hard-boiled egg or some olive oil on that spinach salad will increase its value to your body!

Learn more about the evolving research about dietary fats.

Atkins Advantage Products and the No-Trans-Fats Principle
Put clearly and simply, no Atkins Advantage products contain any trans fats whatsoever. They never have. The fats in Atkins Advantage products are a healthy blend of dietary fats designed to give you the edge in nutrition, health and flavor.

Next Up
Putting it all together.

Well, that's about it. We've run through the principles of the Atkins Advantage:

high protein
high fiber
low sugar
vitamins and minerals
no trans fats
You've learned what they mean, why they're important, and gotten some tips on how to apply them to your daily life. Now, do the assignment and take the quiz, then join us on the Message Board to share questions, answers, goals and conclusions.

Thanks for taking this course, and enjoy the health and energy that you'll get from following the principles we've discussed here!


Disclaimer: Nothing contained on this Site is intended to provide health care advice. Should you have any health care-related questions, please call or see your physician or other health care provider. Consult your physician or health care provider before beginning the Atkins Diet as you would any other weight loss or weight maintenance program. The weight loss phases of the Atkins Diet should not be used by persons on dialysis or by pregnant or nursing women.