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For Immediate Release: July 16, 2009

NW: Questions about Eco-Atkins diet, brown mushrooms, calories in sushi

Week of August 24, 2009
Contact: Mya Nelson, (202) 328-7744

Nutrition Wise
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: What is an Eco-Atkins diet? Is it healthier than the regular version of this diet?

A: The Eco-Atkins diet is a meatless version of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The original Atkins diet and most other high-protein diets include large amounts of meat, poultry and fish. High meat diets can raise the risk of some cancers and cholesterol-related heart disease. The protein in the Eco-Atkins diet comes from plant foods. Primary sources are gluten (the protein in wheat, available in stores as seitan) and soy, though some also comes from vegetables, nuts and other grains. So far, the only research on this diet is a single one-month study that involved 47 people. It compared weight loss on the Eco-Atkins diet to a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet, which was also meatless but derived most of its protein from dairy products and eggs. People on each diet achieved the same drop in calories and lost the same amount of weight, just short of 9 pounds in one month. Although everyone began with high cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol dropped on both diets. That’s no surprise, since both diets dropped saturated fat consumption below the 7 percent of calories recommended to reduce blood cholesterol. This study shows that reducing carbohydrate does not have to mean increasing meat and unhealthy fats. But we need to see longer studies involving more people to check safety and long-term effectiveness when people find and prepare foods themselves rather than having it provided for them. We already know that plant-based diets are healthy and can promote weight loss if calorie consumption is reduced.

Q: Are brown mushrooms more nutritious than the regular white ones?

A: No. Brown mushrooms, including portabellas and the smaller criminis, are somewhat higher in antioxidants according to initial research, but both are excellent choices to include in the broad array of vegetables found in a healthy diet. Brown, white and shiitake mushrooms are all rich sources of the mineral selenium, which has antioxidant properties. The mushrooms also contain other antioxidant compounds, which preliminary research suggests may play a role in cancer prevention. Choose whichever mushroom suits the flavor you seek (white mushrooms are milder, brown have a deeper, earthier taste) or your budget (brown are sometimes slightly more expensive). Adding mushrooms and other vegetables to soups, stews and casseroles is a great way to make a dish more filling and nutritious.

Q: Is sushi low in calories?

A: Traditional versions of sushi with fish – vinegared rice with fish (usually raw) wrapped in seaweed – is low in calories as long as you don’t overdo on portions. But excessive portions or choosing “updated” versions that include cream cheese, meat or fried vegetables increases the calories considerably. The calories in each piece (about one ounce each) of traditional sushi might contain just 15 to 30 calories if it’s all rice and vegetable; when it includes fish the same size piece may be 25 to 65 calories. As long as you aren’t choosing the “new-fashioned” high-fat options, most adults can have 8 to 10 pieces, fill up on a cup of soup or seaweed salad and still keep calories at an appropriate level.


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