The Atkins Diet is a controversial diet plan shrouded in myth and controversy. It works by changing the way your body powers itself, something that can only be accomplished through a dramatic alteration in eating habits. Though alcohol is not recommended while on the Atkins Diet, moderate amounts of red wine can be consumed during certain periods.
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The Atkins Diet works by forcing your body to burn fat for energy instead of sugar. This is the primary goal of the initial Induction phase of the Atkins Diet, which imposes the greatest restrictions on foods and carbohydrate intake. Ketosis is the name for this condition because a consequence of fat metabolism is the production of chemicals called ketones, or ketone bodies. In a state of ketosis, ketones are used by the brain instead of sugar as the main source of energy. Induction is so named because the goal of this phase is to induce a state of ketosis.
Alcohol and Induction
Just as the body will naturally burn carbohydrates for energy before fat, it will also metabolize alcohol first. Thus, drinking alcoholic beverages can interfere with the onset of ketosis. For this reason, all alcohol is forbidden during the first two weeks of Induction. One glass of wine is allowed occasionally after the first two weeks.
Red Wine and Ketosis
Once you’ve entered ketosis, consuming alcohol will not necessarily reverse the process or prevent weight loss. After the first two weeks, you can enjoy red wine in moderation on the Atkins Diet, but you must count the energy in it towards your daily intake. A 3.5-ounce glass of red wine contains alcohol equivalent to about 4.3 grams of carbohydrates.
Red Wine and Carbohydrates
Alcohol has little to no effect on the glycemic index. This means it does not cause a spike in blood sugar. If you must drink alcohol while on the Atkins Diet, red wine is the best choice for a variety of reasons. Unlike beer, wine and liquor naturally have very low carbodyrate content in addition to the alcohol. But unlike liquor, which is usually consumed in cocktails made with sugary mixers, red wine has very few carbohydrates and no added sugar.
One of the criticisms often leveled at the Atkins Diet is that it encourages people to consume elevated levels of saturated fats and that, over time, the Atkins Diet could lead to heart disease. In fact, the Atkins Diet encourages consumption of whole foods including vegetables and fruits and other nutritionally dense foods. Red wine can be a helpful adjunct to this diet because it is proven to improve cardiovascular health. The color of red wine comes from the skin of the grapes, which contain an antioxidant called reservatrol. According to the Mayo Clinic, reservatrol is known to reduce the risk of blood clots and improve flexibility of blood vessels. Though grape juice might also contain equivalent levels of reservatrol, the sugar content of juice makes it less consistent with the Atkins Diet than red wine.