The Atkins plan, which recommends a high protein low carb diet, has fallen in and out of favor over the last few years. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine does indeed support the claim that a low carb diet can indeed help you lose weight while offering cardiovascular benefits. The study showed that pretty much any diet plan helped people in lowering risk factors for heart disease, and that a low carb diet meal plan especially helped to increase HDL or "good cholesterol" levels.

There are a number of misconceptions about the Atkins plan, according to Dr. Eric Westman, co-author of the book "The New Atkins for a New You". Dr. Atkins says that the diet itself has changed over time to become more flexible by incorporating new food options. Atkins now even offers a vegetarian low carb diet option.

The science behind the Atkins diet is that one should eat foods that do not significantly raise blood sugar. One can do this in a healthy way by eating whole foods that balance fat, protein and carbohydrates from good sources. Although it is still a high protein low carb diet, the new Atkins is much more well-rounded, incorporating seafood, poultry and diary products, as well as vegetables, in addition to the beef and pork with which it is frequently (and often exclusively) associated. Vegetables are actually quite important in the new Atkins diet.

In the original Atkins diet, which was published by Dr. Atkins in 1972, the carb restriction was 20 grams in a day. However, when you compare diet requirements between the old and new Atkins, you will see that the new version relaxes this restriction by incorporating the glycemic index and subtracting grams of fiber. Reducing fiber grams now allows you to eat more vegetables on the diet.

Although you can eat vegetables, you have to be selective about which ones you eat. You want to avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, and focus instead on leafy greens and others like tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, onions and string beans.

One concern with the old Atkins diet was that it sent your body into a phase called "ketosis" in the early phase due to the low carb restriction. Although you still go through ketosis in the new version, it's more limited in duration as you can gradually reincorporate some carbs into your diet. How much you reincorporate depends on your metabolism, as some people can tolerate more carbs than others. Whereas the old Atkins diet was meant to help you lose weight (which some people gained back once they got off the diet), the new one is more about a long-term balanced healthy diet.