This is a critical distinction because the health benefits of these minimally-processed foods and ingredients are all but lost when a person turns to processed, manufactured foods. Worse yet, most processed foods are tainted with highly toxic chemical additives that are well known to promote brain tumors, colon cancer, endocrine system disorders, stubborn obesity, and other problems that are avoided outright when eating raw, fresh food ingredients.
Let me give you an example of this. The meat category shows beef, pork and fish, but nowhere in the meat category do you find bacon. Virtually all bacon at the grocery store contains a cancer-causing chemical ingredient known as sodium nitrite. It's listed right on the label. Sodium nitrite, when consumed, results in the formation of highly carcinogenic nitrosamines, which are so toxic that lab researchers actually use nitrosamines to give lab rats cancer as part of their experiments! (To learn the shocking facts about sodium nitrite, read the sodium nitrite section of Low-Carb Diet Warning.)
You don't find bacon on the Atkins pyramid, but the vast majority of low-carb dieters consume large quantities of bacon, exposing themselves to alarming levels of cancer-causing sodium nitrite. Technically, they believe they're following the Atkins diet, but in reality, they're exposing themselves to chemical toxins that lead to serious, chronic disease. They'd be much healthier if they actually ate what was pictured on the Atkins pyramid: fresh meats, not packaged meats.
In case after case, many people on the Atkins diet try to bend the definition of whatever they're eating to make it match a recommended category on the Atkins pyramid. A person eating commercially-prepared guacamole, for example, may not read the label and discover that it's not really made from avocados. The primary ingredient? Hydrogenated oils, which are on the "no" list and are well known to cause severe cardiovascular damage. Food manufacturers use hydrogenated oils because they're cheaper than avocados. Add a little artificial green coloring, a hint of avocado, and viola! You've got guacamole! Most consumers never bother to read the labels, leading them to believe they're consuming yet another food item that's on the Atkins pyramid when, in fact, they're eating junk food.
The fruit category is especially ripe for abuse, no pun intended. Canned fruits are almost always packed in liquid sugar, transforming them into fruit-shaped chunks of sugar candy. Fruit drinks are very high on the glycemic index, counting more like sugar than whole fruits. I've even seen Atkins dieters buy apple pie and claim it counts as a fruit!
The point is, the Atkins pyramid clearly recommends unprocessed, unrefined, non-manufactured foods and ingredients. But in reality, that's not what people eat. They generally eat whatever they want and then try to squeeze it into an acceptable category on the Atkins pyramid.
If people would actually follow the Atkins pyramid and eat what's shown on the pictures, they would experience an amazing health transformation. Raw broccoli contains powerful cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Fresh avocados are loaded with healthy oils. Berries are abundant sources of antioxidants and disease-fighting vitamins and minerals. Fresh egg yolks contain a fascinating array of nutrients and sulfur compounds simply not found in the plant kingdom. The list goes on and on. By eating the foods actually pictured, a person can follow the Atkins pyramid and literally transform their health in a matter of weeks or months.
In reality, however, most people don't eat those foods. And that's why their Atkins diets are stalled out, or their chronic disease conditions may even worsen on the Atkins diet.
Technically, the diet shown on the Atkins pyramid is the Unrefined Foods Diet, which is one that I have promoted for years. The Unrefined Foods Diet allows you to eat practically anything you want, as long as it isn't processed, altered or manufactured. On the Unrefined Foods Diet, you can eat raw, cooked, or prepared foods of any kind as long as you buy them in their fresh, non-refined, non-processed state.
The only difference is that milk doesn't belong on the Unrefined Foods Diet, since milk is actually a highly refined food that has been artificially altered by homogenizing the naturally occurring milk fats, transforming them into health-damaging substances that the human body cannot properly metabolize. Not only that, but milk is nutritionally imbalanced for human consumption. It's the perfect food for baby cows, but it's a terrible choice for adults of an entirely different species. To learn the shocking truth about milk and why even Atkins dieters should avoid cow's milk, read the cow's milk section in Low-Carb Diet Warning.
Overall, then, the Atkins pyramid recommends unrefined, unprocessed foods with an emphasis on meats and vegetables. From a nutritional standpoint, that's an outstanding diet. While some might argue that vegetables should be consumed in higher quantities than proteins, there's little question that if both categories of foods are consumed in their unprocessed, unrefined state, the results will be a dramatically improved health outcome.
Just remember this: if you're following the Atkins diet and you're not eating the foods pictured on the Atkins pyramid, you're not really following the Atkins diet. You're actually following a low-carb junk food diet, and that's very different from the Atkins diet.
The bottom line is that probably 90% of the people who say they're on the Atkins diet really aren't. They're on some evil twin version of the Atkins diet that's loaded with processed foods and disease-causing ingredients like hydrogenated oils, sodium nitrite, monosodium glutamate, and many others. And that's not the pathway to losing weight.
This article is reprinted from Analysis: The Atkins Lifestyle Food Guide Pyramid, a public education ebook provided free of charge by the non-profit Consumer Wellness Research Center.
Next: Part 4: The Importance of Exercise
Next: Part 4: The Importance of Exercise