Reviewing the South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet is the latest in a series of diet fads. However, the principals applied in the South Beach Diet are not new, they are tried and tested. The South Beach Diet is not low-carb. Nor is it low-fat. Instead, this diet teaches participants to rely on the right carbohydrates and the right fats - the good ones. As a result, participants lose weight, lower their cholesterol, reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes, and eliminate cravings without feeling hungry. Some call it the "updated version of the Atkins diet"

The South Beach DietThe South Beach Diet is lower carbs, higher protein and healthy fats

The origins of the South Beach Diet lay with Arthur Agatston, MD, a cardiologist whose motivation was to improve the cholesterol and insulin levels of his patients, who had heart disease, by developing a healthy eating plan. Agatston has also published a book about his plan, The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss which is growing in popularity by the day.

Although a glamorous name the South Beach Diet involves a high degree of determination and self motivation. It appears to be scientifically based and is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, and it doesn't omit any major food groups.

According to Agatston, at the end of two weeks, most participants on the South Beach Diet are 8 to 14 pounds lighter. He notes the weight loss does not happen because participants eat less, but rather because eliminating simple carbohydrates has broken a bad eating cycle. As a result, participants continue to lose weight after the initial two-week period.

The South Beach Diet Phases

Phase 1, The Strictest Phase of the Diet - Lasts 14 days

In the first phase, you eat normal-sized helpings of lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, fish, and shellfish. Vegetables are also allowed, so are nuts, cheese, and eggs. The goal is to eat three balanced meals a day, and to eat enough so that you don’t feel hungry all the time.

Diet Foods to enjoy includes tenderloin, sirloin, skinless chicken or turkey breasts, all types of fish, boiled ham, turkey bacon, whole eggs, fat-free cheeses, peanuts and pistachios, green vegetables, legumes, canola and olive oils.

Diet Foods to avoid include, beef rib steaks, honey-baked ham, breast of veal, all yoghurt, ice cream, milk including whole, low-fat, soy, and full fat cheeses, beets, carrots, corn, yams, fruits and fruit juices, all alcohol, all starchy foods such as bread, cereal, oatmeal, matzo, rice, pasta, pastries, baked goods, crackers, etc.

Expected Weight Loss: 8-13 pounds.

Phase 2, More Liberal Phase Lasts Until You Reach Your Weight Loss Goal

The second phase is similar to the first phase, but you reintroduce some of the banned foods and eat from all the dietary food groups. You can start eating high-fibre carbohydrates, such as whole-grain breads, which raise your insulin levels in a much milder way that do simple, starchy carbohydrates.

Additional Diet Foods to enjoy include, most fruits, fat-free or 1 percent milk, other low-fat dairy foods, whole grain starches, barley and pinto beans and red wine.

Diet foods to eat sparingly, include: refined wheat baked goods, potatoes, beets, carrots, bananas, pineapple, watermelon and honey.

Expected Weight Loss: 1-2 pounds per week.

Phase 3 - Weight Maintenance

This diet phase, which is an even more liberal version of the initial diet plan, lasts the rest of your life. It should be used to maintain your healthy weight. Agatston describes this phase as a “way of life.” Should your weight begin to climb, you repeat the diet plan.

A typical day on South Beach Diet - Phase 1:

Breakfast

  • 6 oz vegetable juice cocktail
  • Eggs florentine
  • 2 slices canadian bacon
  • decaf coffee or tea w/ non-fat milk and sugar substitute

Midmorning Snack

  • Celery stuffed with 1 wedge laughing cow light cheese

Lunch

  • Chef salad (turkey, ham, low fat cheese on mixed greens)

Midafternoon Snack

  • 10 cherry tomatoes with 1/2 c low fat cottage cheese

Dinner

  • Orange Roughy in scallion and ginger sauce
  • Steamed snow peas
  • Shredded cabbage sautéed in olive oil

Dessert/Snack

  • Mocha Ricotta Creme

Although weight loss is achieved on the South Beach Diet some questions have been raised about the ability of the South Beach Diet to induce ketosis. This is a state when your body does not have carbohydrates to digest and results in rapid weight loss being achieved. Some health professionals are not convinced that by dropping carbohydrates and placing a greater emphasis on protein this is enough to induce ketosis.

Drawbacks of the South Beach

Much of the initial 8-13 pounds weight-loss is likely to be water-weight-loss caused by carbohydrate restriction. This weight loss is usually regained, as soon as carbohydrate intake resumes. A further drawback of the South Beach Diet is that it doesn’t fully cater for people who don't or can't eat dairy. Many snacks are dairy-based, yet the diet bans soy in the first two weeks.

Although Dr. Agatston has concerns regarding the liberal intake of saturated fats permitted on the Atkins diet plan, and offers sound advice on the subject, the issue on complex carbohydrates remains unaddressed. Most of the world outside America thrives on complex carbohydrates and these foods do not keep us overweight, nor do they warrant a 14-day ban.

As with any diet, despite the many positive aspects of Agatston's South Beach Diet, participants should consult a doctor before commencing. A balance diet and healthy lifestyle combining exercise is vital to maintaining weight loss.