The aim: Weight loss and heart health.
The claim: You'll drop about 8 pounds per month, and see improvements in your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, a fatty substance that in excess has been linked to heart disease.
The theory: Low carbs can lower the risk of death from heart disease and almost all other medical causes when the diet substitutes high-protein plants for fatty, cholesterol-loaded meat, and piles on fruits and vegetables. Nutritional scientist David Jenkins at Canada's University of Toronto popularized this twist on Atkins a couple of years ago.
How does Eco-Atkins Diet work?
Do: Eat steak and other meats if you like them.
Eco-Atkins calls for 31 percent of daily calories to come from plant proteins, 43 percent from plant fats and 26 percent from carbs. Beyond that there are no strict rules, and you can adapt it to fit your needs; most followers eliminate all animal sources but others incorporate fish, lean white meat and occasional dairy products.
Protein needs focus on beans – white, black, pinto or garbanzo. Other good sources include nuts, high-protein vegetables like Brussels sprouts, and grains like couscous and pearl barley. An ounce of almonds provides 6 grams of protein – more than 10 percent of a 150-pound person's daily protein needs. A small portion of cooked broccoli – half a cup – offers 2 grams.
You will also swap unhealthy for healthy fats. Saturated and trans fats – think butter, whole milk, fatty cuts of beef and hydrogenated vegetable oils – can be harmful. Omega-3 fatty acids, nut butters, seeds, avocados and olives are heart-healthier options. Vegetable oils such as canola oil, flaxseed oil and walnut oil are also beneficial. They can be used for cooking, as salad dressings, or toppings.
Fullness: Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that you've had enough. Hunger shouldn't be a problem on Eco-Atkins. Beans and other legumes, veggies and whole grains – all emphasized on the diet – are thought to take longer to digest, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. You're also free to choose how many calories you want to eat.
The final step is choosing carbs wisely. You have more leeway than you would on the traditional Atkins diet – 26 percent of calories come from carbs versus as low as 10 percent on Atkins. Starchy options like white bread, rice, potatoes and baked goods top the Eco-Atkins "don't-eat" list, while fruit, vegetables, whole-grain cereal, whole-wheat bread and oats are recommended.
Weight Loss: Regardless of claims made for low-carb diets, it's unclear whether the main reason for weight loss is carb restriction or simply cutting calories.
How easy is it to follow?
Depends on how long you can do without meat and "bad" carbs like white bread, potatoes and baked goods. Diets that severely limit entire food groups for months and years tend to have lower success rates than less-restrictive diets do.
Although it outperformed traditional Atkins, the experts felt Eco-Atkins is too fat-heavy and carb-light. Still, dieters needn't worry about malnourishment or overly rapid weight loss. Its score is middle-of-the-road.
Eco-Atkins is only an eating pattern. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise. Being physically active lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes, helps keep weight off and increases your energy level. Most experts suggest at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise – such as brisk walking – most or all days of the week.