From the Atkins web site....
The Truth About Fat
Colette Heimowitz, M.S.
Recent media reports have suggested that we at Atkins have suddenly changed course and now recommend that people limit their consumption of saturated fat. These reports are totally inaccurate.
We appreciate the many letters and calls we have received encouraging us to get the right message out. Don’t worry: We are, and we always will. And we also want to respond to your inquiries. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received from Atkins followers like you in the past few weeks, along with our answers.
I always thought that the kind and amount of fat I could eat on Atkins was entirely up to me—as long as I ate foods on the acceptable list. Is that still the case?
That’s true, and it was always Dr. Atkins’ approach; nothing has changed. Some people choose to eat lots of beef, while others opt for more fish and poultry. We recommend eating a variety of protein and fat sources to get as many nutrients as possible. The beauty of the Atkins Nutritional ApproachTM (ANA) is that you can individualize it to suit your appetite and tastes, and as long as you are controlling your carbohydrates, you don’t need to worry about how much fat you eat. As always, the only type of fat restricted on Atkins is manufactured trans fat, which is listed on the labels of most baked goods and many other packaged foods as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.
So what is all the fuss about?
This tempest in a teapot came from a misinterpretation of one of the basic concepts upon which Atkins is based: Controlling carbs means that there is no need to limit fat. Our nutritionists used a recognized nutritional software system to analyze the fat content in a week’s worth of Induction-phase meal plans, which included protein choices such as pork, lamb, beef, fish, eggs and some cheese. Overall, the meal plans contained an average of approximately 19 percent saturated, 28 percent monounsaturated and 11 percent polyunsaturated fat as a component of total calories.
This has been corroborated by a study funded by the American Heart Association, in which individuals were randomly assigned to follow either a low-fat dietary program or the Atkins program. After six months, the subjects doing Atkins were getting an average of about 17 percent of their total calories from saturated fat, 16 percent from monounsaturated fat and 8 percent from polyunsaturated fat.
Upon hearing the figure of roughly 20 percent, a journalist wrote a story claiming that we were now limiting saturated fat to 20 percent! This is simply untrue. An estimate based on meal plans is not a limit. Subsequent media reports added to the confusion. None, however, bothered to look at the consistency of Dr. Atkins’ own words in the books he wrote over the past three decades.
Is it OK for me to consume more than 20 percent of my calories in the form of saturated fat?
Absolutely, although you would really have to work at it because protein-rich foods that are high in saturated fat, such as bacon, sausage, butter, cream, the skin on poultry and the fat in red meat, fill you up pretty quickly, which means that your appetite for them is self-limiting. But this is actually beside the point. Whether you end up with 15 percent of your calories as saturated fat—or even 20 or 25 percent—you’re fine as long as you’re also following the rules of the ANA, which include controlling your carbs. There is no scientific research showing that consuming fat, saturated or otherwise, is bad for you in the context of a controlled-carbohydrate lifestyle. Indeed, as most of our followers are now aware, independent studies on the ANA released in the past two years have repeatedly confirmed that Atkins offers a hearty-healthy lifestyle. In fact, one-third of the fat in beef is stearic acid, which has been found to have a neutral or cholesterol-lowering effect.
If I control my carbs, can I eat as much as I want on Atkins?
Hunger is a no-no on Atkins. Dr. Atkins always encouraged people to eat until they were full but not stuffed and to have a low-carb snack if they were hungry between meals. The best way to avoid overeating is to never allow yourself to get too hungry. The statement “You never have to go hungry” means being able to respond to hunger cues, but it has never been a license to gorge. The media has delighted in depicting the ANA as a program that allows people to eat a pound of bacon and a dozen eggs for breakfast. This is a distortion of the Atkins message.
I thought Dr. Atkins said you could eat as much red meat as you wanted. Is this untrue?
A misunderstanding of Dr. Atkins’ original recommendations has caused some confusion. With its gift for instant simplification, the media has always tended to refer to Atkins as the “red-meat diet.” Yet anyone who has actually read Dr. Atkins’ books knows that he emphasized consuming a variety of healthy protein foods. Chicken and fish get just as much attention as steak or lamb chops in Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, Atkins for Life and The Atkins Essentials. Indeed, you need only skim these books to discover that Dr. Atkins’ enthusiasm for vegetables was red hot. The recipes in these books and on www.atkins.com
reinforce the importance of variety.
In a section of New Diet Revolution called “A Message to My Friends, the Die-Hard Carnivores,” Dr. Atkins writes: “There are lots of people who start Atkins more than a little pleased with the fact that I certainly won’t discourage them from eating meat, fish and fowl. I’m a carnivore, too. But I’m also an omnivore—meaning I eat anything that’s healthy. ...I hope you’ll become a vegetable-eating convert...if you can lure yourself into dietary habits that put more of them on your plate than most Americans eat, you will be doing your noble, hardworking body an immense favor.”
The good news is that the media circus we have witnessed in the past couple of weeks has resulted in many more people considering what Atkins is really about. As Dr. Atkins said, when you do Atkins, “you can eat the natural, healthy animal and vegetable foods that people ate and grew robust on in centuries past.” That pretty much says it all.
What if I simply want to cut back on saturated fat?
Although it is not necessary for health purposes, if you choose to limit saturated fat for taste reasons, simply select predominantly white-meat poultry, as well as fish and tofu; eat eggs and cheese in moderation; use plenty of olive oil; and limit your consumption of manufactured trans fats (listed on the labels of most baked goods and many other packaged foods as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil). Interestingly, although there is a common misconception that beef is high in saturated fat, you can choose leaner cuts that are lower in saturated fat. For example, the actual ratio of fats (as a component of total calories) in a choice porterhouse steak is 17 percent saturated to 22 percent mono to 2 percent poly.
Should I cut back on fats as I move through the phases and add more carbs?
It is important to understand that as you increase your intake of vegetables, fruit and later whole grains, you will not be increasing the amount of food you eat. Instead, you will be gradually changing the percentages of various components. So yes, as you add carbs, you should slowly cut back a bit on your portions of fat. However, even in Lifetime Maintenance, you will be consuming plenty of healthy fats.
Some of the newscasts reported that Atkins Nutritionals was writing a new book that would revise the recommendations for saturated fat.
We’ve heard that, too, and it’s news to us. We just published The Atkins Essentials a month ago, and its recommendations are completely unaltered from what was stated in the past. In the fall, we’ll release the book on diabetes that Dr. Atkins was writing at the time of his death. His recommendations remain unchanged, including no limitations on saturated fat.
Millions of people have experienced the results of doing Atkins in the form of weight control and improved health. We’re satisfied with that, and we intend to continue to change the way the world eats. End of story.