Sometimes it is hard to believe how long it has been since I started on my personal nutritional journey to better health that quite literally saved me from the ravages of morbid obesity and chronic health issues that would have no doubt led to my early demise. But in just over a couple of months from now, I’ll celebrate the 10-year anniversary of starting on the Atkins diet that began back on January 1, 2004. The shifts in thinking I have experienced in regards to food, nutrition, and healthy eating over the past decade have been monumental as I continually strive to get better and better in the choices I make about what I put in my body. It’s never been about perfection, but pursuit of what works best for me to manage both my weight and my health.
It all started with an awareness of the importance of controlling refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour after reading Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution that my dear mother-in-law bought me for Christmas in 2003 (I was a bit insulted at the time, but now I’m VERY grateful for this fortuitous gift). I didn’t get to weigh 410 pounds and on three prescription medications at the age of 32 for nothing. So getting my carb intake dialed in to my personal tolerance level was the logical first step.
But it didn’t stop there. Thanks to the great work of people like Dr. William Davis and his sensational runaway New York Times bestselling book Wheat Belly, I quickly realized it’s not just the refined carbohydrates causing harm. There are major problems with modern-day grains and especially wheat that are directly related to raising insulin levels. This leads to increases in body fat and inflammation levels taking you down the road to diabetes, heart disease and worse.
Turning to the subject of fats, gaining an understanding of the problems with vegetable (seed) oils as explained in books like Toxic Oil by Australian consumer health advocate David Gillespie helped educate me on the right kinds of fats to include on a healthy low-carb lifestyle (and many low-carbers are consuming these in “legal” products such as mayonnaise and salad dressings that are generally LOADED with inferior soybean oil). And speaking of fat, it was Jennifer McLagan‘s book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient that began to shape and mold my thinking in the direction of consuming MORE of the right kind of fats in my diet to optimize my health.
Then after I read The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by esteemed low-carb researchers Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek last year that sparked my very successful nutritional ketosis n=1 experiment, I finally understood just how important it is to consume adequate amounts of the right kind of fats (saturated and monounsaturated) in conjunction with carbohydrate intake to my personal tolerance as well as finding my protein threshold to stave off gluconeogenesis. It’s been layered learning on all of this as I’ve added on fresh new knowledge year after year of eating this way.
Of course, I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t give a HUGE shout-out to my multitude of amazing friends in the Paleo community for helping those of us in the low-carb community put the focus back on food quality and eating real, whole foods as the primary source of nutrition in our diets. Although many were already adopting many of the great grass-fed, pastured, organic foods on their own, it seems the increased awareness of these things talked about in the world of Paleo has spilled over into the mindset of so many of us low-carbers, myself included beginning in 2011. If I start naming names, I’m gonna leave people off who deserve to be listed. You know who you are (and THANK YOU for educating us all!).
I think it has been far too easy for people on the Atkins diet to fall prey to looking for “low-carb” marketing gimmicks (like pasta and bread) because we’ve grown up in a society centered around processed convenience foods. We have justified it in our minds that as long as it says “low-carb” right there on the packaging that it must be good regardless of the ingredients. Believe me, that was my mode of thinking too back in 2004 when I was first finding success on the Atkins diet. But I wish someone had told me the truth about these products from companies like Atkins Nutritionals to save me from the heartache and pain of weight struggles despite doing what I thought was a good low-carb plan.
When the late, great Dr. Robert C. Atkins sold his namsake company over a decade ago, I don’t think he had any idea just how much they would bastardize his good name for the sake of profiteering off of innocent people attempting to shift their diet away from sugary, starchy, grain-based carbohydrates. And yet that’s exactly what they have done. Let’s just get one thing straight: all these products from Atkins Nutritionals are most certainly NOT an appropriate part of a well-formulated version of the Atkins diet. Period. I won’t get into all the details on the basic flaws in every single product that Atkins Nutritionals is putting out there for consumers, but I would like to zero in on their latest one that debuted last week to explain why it infuriates me to no end. Have you seen their new Atkins Endulge Chocolate Peanut Candies? These are supposed to be the Atkins knockoff version of Peanut M&M’s and I’m sure the creators of this product are very proud of themselves for making a legal “low-carb” version of a long forbidden item on the Atkins diet.
Okay, so here are 7 reasons low-carbers should AVOID this product in their diet:
1. 17g carbohydrates
Before you start talking about “net carbs” (believe me, I used to argue this point as well), I have a stark reality check–that’s nothing more than a marketing term meant to sell more products. As you can see from the image to the left, this product claims to have just 1g net carb per serving right there on the front packaging. So it must be true or they couldn’t put it on there, right? Well, technically they are allowed to say that because of the assumption that the sugar alcohols and fiber can be subtracted from the total carbohydrates. Unfortunately, I fell for that lie far too many times and paid the consequences for it when my weight loss stopped and I even began gaining weight. If you can handle 17g of carbohydrates in your personal carbohydrate tolerance level and choose to consume this product, then more power to ya. But before you do, be aware of the #2 reason to avoid these…
Oh, where do I start with this one? If you’re going to pick a sugar alcohol to consume, the LAST one you would ever choose is maltitol. It’s a highly inferior and cheap sugar alcohol (compared to erythritol and xylitol, for example) which is why all these companies that make sugar-free products love it so much. They have been putting this stuff in diabetic candies and low-carb products for years despite the fact that it leads to some rather nasty and disturbing effects on the stomach and digestive system. If you never want to experience the pain and gas that this causes, then you might not want to consume this product. And there’s growing consensus that these sugar alcohols like maltitol are not freebies on their blood sugar and insulin impact. That’s one of the major traps that people who eat the Atkins diet without regard to food quality fall for that leads them down the path to frustration. I did back in the day and I’m trying to save others from being victimized by the marketing.
Well, as much as people who eat low-carb would like to think that peanuts are an ideal option to be consuming on their diet change, there’s just one problem–peanuts are not a nut, they’re a legume from the bean family. The problem with peanuts is they contain a protein called lectin that causes them to be super difficult to digest. When you eat peanuts, this problem with digestion can lead to a immune response that then promotes systemic inflammation in the body. Not good. But that’s not all that’s wrong with the peanuts used in this product. Did you see the oil they use to roast them in…
4. Corn oil
With all we have learned about how unhealthy these vegetable (seed) oils are in recent years, it’s unbelievable that the Atkins Nutritionals company would be so oblivious to the problems associated with the omega-6 fats. In Cholesterol Clarity, we identified carbohydrates and vegetable oils as the two primary things that increased the level of inflammation in the body. If the purpose of a low-carb diet like Atkins is to lower inflammation levels (and it is), then why in the world would you EVER put an inflammatory corn oil in a product designed for a low-carber to eat? This is insanity at its very worst.
5. Soy lecithin
Another major shift in my thinking about nutrition over the years has been in regards to soy. After reading The Whole Soy Story by Dr. Kaayla Daniel, I quickly became up-to-speed about why soy should not be a part of anyone’s low-carb lifestyle change. Read this for just a few of the reasons why. Furthermore, soy is the most genetically-modified crop put in our food supply on the planet! You’re better off just avoiding anything that contains soy in any form, including the ubiquitous soy lecithin that is used as a bonding agent to keep all the ingredients in the chocolate intact. And it’s dirt cheap which is why virtually everything processed includes it.
6. Fake food colorings
Did you see that list of food colorings at the end of the ingredients list? Titanium Dioxide Color, Yellow 5 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6–this all sounds like something from a bad science fiction experiment, but it’s as real as real gets. How do you think they got all those “candies” to be so brightly colored? It’s these fake food colorings that people think are completely innocuous to their health. And yet you might want to read this to learn a bit more about these ingredients used to artificially color that low-carb product you think you need in your diet. See, it’s not just about the carbohydrates people. There’s so much more to pay attention to and be aware of regarding the foods you are consuming.
7. Processed food-like product
Last but not least, lest anyone forgets the biggest reason why a low-carber should be avoiding these new Atkins Chocolate Peanut Candies–IT’S NOT REAL FOOD! At best, you can describe these as a processed food-like product that resemble something familiar from your sugar-addicted, high-carb eating days. But now that you are choosing to improve your weight and health by lowering carbohydrate intake, there are so many better choices for nourishing your body than this. As someone who was severely addicted to sugar, I never truly recovered from that until I gave up processed foods of all kinds. Trading heavily processed high-carb M&M’s for heavily processed “low-carb” M&M’s wanna-be products created with the worst ingredients possible is no way to live your low-carb life. Get off this kind of stuff, consume real whole foods as much as possible, and make anything like this an infrequent or NEVER part of your diet. You’ll be glad you did.
Here’s the bottom line: Be discerning about what you allow in your mouth. Stick to real food as much as you can. Don’t fall for the “net effective carbs” marketing scheme–this is a scam people. Buyer beware! Don’t fall for this just because it has the Atkins name on the packaging. I want you to succeed on your low-carb lifestyle so you don’t become the next victim of thinking you’re doing low-carb well when you’re really not. If you do choose to eat this kind of product, then make it as infrequent a “treat” as you possibly can because in the end it will do you more harm than good. Be well my friends!