Same Benefit as Atkins, but Better for You & Mother Earth

Though not without its detractors, the Atkins diet has been found effective for weight loss and reducing insulin resistance, lowering triglycerides and raising HDL (good) cholesterol — but the key criticism from doctors and nutritionists has been that eating such large amounts of animal protein can cause harm to your health. In part, this is what prompted University of Toronto researchers, headed by David J. A. Jenkins, MD, PhD, DSc, the scientist who developed the glycemic index, to study the effects of a similar diet based on plant protein and oils rather than on animal protein and fats. The diet is called “Eco-Atkins” because it’s not only better for the people on it, but many believe also for the planet.


The four-week study involved 44 men and women, all overweight and with elevated LDL cholesterol levels, randomized into two groups. The control group ate a low-cal, high-carb, lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (which means they were able to eat dairy and eggs). The difference for the Eco-Atkins group was a lower proportion of carbohydrates — they ate a low-carb, lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet high in protein from nonanimal sources, including gluten, soy, nuts, fruits, vegetables, cereals and vegetable oils, plus a small amount of psyllium. Both groups consumed 60% of their normal caloric requirements and lost eight to nine pounds, but the Eco-Atkins group showed greater improvement in LDL and total cholesterol… reductions in other blood lipid markers… and also small but significant reductions in blood pressure.


Using protein (primarily from animal muscle meats) as an alternative source of glucose is the foundation of the Atkins diet. However, protein is also abundant in plants — for instance, one cup of brussels sprouts has 5.64 grams of protein and one cup of oatmeal has 5.9 grams. Animal protein contains greater amounts of some essential amino acids, and the levels of various types of protein differ among plants — but Dr. Jenkins adds that the old idea of balancing amino acids and proteins through combinations of cereals and legumes (rice and beans, pasta and fagioli, etc.) provides complete protein that rivals animal protein. (To learn more about how to combine foods to meet protein requirements, visit To find plant-based protein foods, go to