Make no mistake: Vegetables are essential to the Atkins Nutritional Approach. | Atkins

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Make no mistake: Vegetables are essential to the Atkins Nutritional Approach.

November 20, 2014

Certain friends may have warned you that you’re going to negatively impact your health by doing Atkins. According to many self-appointed dietitians, Atkins restricts consumption of vegetables and therefore promotes heart disease and cancer. So if some misguided individual tells you that you won’t eat vegetables when you do Atkins, wave a stalk of celery at them. They are wrong.

Most of these finger-wagging critics haven’t bothered to do the required reading, such as The New Atkins for a New You or learn the principles behind the Atkins approach. If they had, they’d know Atkins followers actually eat more servings of vegetables at every phase of the program than do most other Americans. In addition to protein and healthy natural fats, certain vegetables are the foundation of the Atkins way of eating. Vegetables do contain carbohydrates but, in most cases, these are exactly the kinds of carbs you should be consuming. But the key word is “most.”

Rather than promoting the standard dietary fiction that all vegetables are equally healthful and should be consumed in unlimited servings, the Atkins way draws distinctions: A serving of spinach is better than a serving of peas; broccoli is more health-protective than potatoes.

Because controlling carbs will stabilize blood sugar, most people doing Atkins limit the amount of vegetables they eat. Eating too many veggies, especially starchy ones such as corn and potatoes, can undermine your weight-loss and weight-maintenance efforts. To spend your carbohydrate grams wisely, choose vegetables that provide the most antioxidant protection in combination with the fewest grams of carbs.

During the Induction phase, you’ll eat 12 to 15 net carbs coming in the form of vegetables. Depending on which vegetables you choose, that can translate into 5 to 8 servings of certain vegetables each day, primarily salad greens and other raw salad ingredients. Here’s where you’ll find kale; Swiss chard; cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts; beta-carotene-rich peppers and pumpkin; and lycopene-dense tomatoes, which help protect against prostate cancer.

As you gradually increase the amount of allowable carbs during the Ongoing Weight Loss, Pre-Maintenance and Lifetime Maintenance phases, your veggie intake can continue to increase.

Vegetables are an important and tasty part of Atkins from Induction through Lifetime Maintenance. They’re also the first foods you will increase when you gradually add carbs as your weight loss progresses. Rather than spend, say, five extra carbs on a quarter of an apple, you could have eight stalks of asparagus. Which do you think would make you feel more satisfied? Which would do more for your overall health? So go ahead and enjoy the rich diversity of vegetables. And tell all of those naysayers that this is one eating program that doesn’t make you choose between a healthy body and a shapely physique. With Atkins, you can have both!

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