05/14/2011 - Articles

Low carb vegetarian diet is a good choice for health

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD

Low carb vegetarian diet is a good choice for health


A low carb diet (also called a “reduced carbohydrate” or “controlled carbohydrate” diet) is the opposite to a low fat diet.
A low-carb diet does not require you to follow a rigid diet format, but advise limiting the consumption of foods with fats and carbohydrates. Low carb diets help reduce blood sugar and insulin production, which enables the body to utilize stored fat for energy more easily, as well as providing other health benefits and better control over eating.


The high animal protein consumption in the low carb diet (Atkins-style) may have a detrimental effect on heart disease risk by raising cholesterol levels. Researchers have carried out a comparison of a vegetarian version of the diet, replacing meat with vegetable protein like soya, against a conventional low fat diet.

In both cases, participants lost about 4 kilograms in weight. But in the ‘eco-Atkins’ diet, blood cholesterol profile was also improved, which should have an added benefit on heart health.



The Atkins diet (a low carbohydrate diet created by Dr Robert Atkins) is famous for its emphasis upon a low carbohydrate intake and high input of animal protein including meat and eggs. Many nutritional experts frown at the latter aspect of the eating plan, being concerned that it may have an adverse impact on cholesterol levels. Comparisons of different dietary approaches are valuable in informing us about food choices for keeping to a healthy weight – so the current study, comparing an adaptation of the low carb diet with a conventional low fat diet is particularly interesting.


What was done

Researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada studied a group of 47 overweight individuals of whom 44 completed the study. They were assigned to either the ‘eco-Atkins’ plan or a low fat diet. In the former, 26% of total calories came from carbohydrate and they also ate high-vegetable protein foods like soy, nuts, gluten, fruit and vegetables and vegetable oils. The low fat group consumed 58% carbohydrate, 16% protein and 25% fat. Food was provided to make up just 60% of calorie requirements. They followed the diets for four weeks.


What was found

As expected, all participants lost weight – an average of about four kilograms (enough to make a significant improvement in health). Those in the eco-Atkins group had greater reductions in LDL-C (low density lipoprotein cholesterol – the ‘bad’ kind) and in total cholesterol than those on the low fat diet. They also had greater reductions in blood pressure.


What this study means

The health benefits of a diet rich in nuts, fruit and vegetables are well known – this is the basis of the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) and Mediterreanean (‘heart healthy’) diets. This study compares the impact of low and high carb approaches to diet and also adapts the Atkins diet for vegetarians. The result is a healthy diet that leads to both weight loss and the added benefit of improved cholesterol profile.

Related Article:

Cholesterol Diet - A Low Cholesterol Diet


Jenkins DJA, Wong JMW et al The effect of a plant-based low-carbohydrate (‘Eco-Atkins’) diet on body weight and blood lipid concentrations in hyperlipidemic subjects Archives of Internal Medicine June 8 2009;169:1046-1054

Created on: 06/17/2009
Reviewed on: 05/14/2011

Your rating: None Average: 3.6 (8 votes)
Anonymous wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

When I was planning a low carb vegetarian diet, I made some researches for recipe ideas and found that most of the vegetables are already low in carbohydrates. As a vegetarian, it was very easy to go on a low carb diet.
Vegetables that I mainly consume in my low carb vegetarian diet are spinach, cbeans, celery, broccoli, onions and cucumbers.
I'm glad to see that low carb vegetarian diets are popular today. Even if you're not vegetarian, low carb vegetarian diets are perfect for everyone.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

concerning the Low Carb Vegetarian Diet, I think that most of the vegetables are already low in carbohydrates. Therefore it's good for vegetarians trying to go on a low carb diet because this would mean a large variety of vegetables to choose from when it comes to actual consumption.

great article

rica11 wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

This article is true and says it all.
Some people do go to famous bowls meaning happy eating with a good price but is very harmful to ones health. For me, it's much cheaper to just buy and prepare real nutritional foods, eating less of the carbo and more of protein intake.
Be a role model by eating healthy yourself.

(this comment was moderated by the admin)

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

he term low-carbohydrate diet today is most strongly associated with the Atkins Diet. However, there is an array of other diets that share to varying degrees the same principles (e.g. the Zone Diet, the Protein Power Lifeplan, the Go Lower Diet[40] and the South Beach Diet).[41] Therefore, there is no widely accepted definition of what precisely constitutes a low-carbohydrate diet. It is important to note that the level of carbohydrate consumption defined as low-carbohydrate by medical researchers may be different than the level of carbohydrate defined by diet advisors. For the purposes of this discussion, we focus on diets that reduce (nutritive) carbohydrate intake sufficiently to dramatically reduce or eliminate insulin production in the body and to encourage ketosis (production of ketones to be used as energy in place of glucose).

(this comment was moderated by the admin)