The South Beach Diet is a popular weight-loss diet created in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston and outlined in his best-selling book, “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss.” The South Beach Diet is a commercial weight-loss diet, not a medical diet prescribed by your doctor.
The South Beach Diet, which is named after a glamorous area of Miami, is sometimes called a modified low-carbohydrate diet. The South Beach Diet is lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and healthy fats than is a typical eating plan. But it’s not a strict low-carb diet, and you don’t have to count carbs.
The purpose of the South Beach Diet is to change the overall balance of the foods you eat to encourage weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. The South Beach Diet says it’s a healthy way of eating whether you want to lose weight or not.
Why you might follow the South Beach Diet
You might choose to follow the South Beach Diet because you:
Enjoy the types and amounts of food featured in the diet Want a diet that restricts certain carbs and fats to help you lose weight Want to change your overall eating habits Want a diet you can stick with for life Like the related South Beach Diet products, such as cookbooks and diet foods
Check with your doctor or health care provider before starting any weight-loss diet, especially if you have any health concerns.
The South Beach Diet says that its balance of good carbs, lean protein and healthy fats makes it a nutrient-dense, fiber-rich diet that you can follow for a lifetime of healthy eating. The South Beach Diet says that it’ll teach you about eliminating so-called “bad” carbs from your diet. It defines bad carbs as those with a high glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index tend to increase your blood sugar faster, higher and longer than do foods with a lower index. Some evidence suggests that this increase in blood sugar can boost your appetite, leading to increased eating and weight gain and possibly diabetes, which can all contribute to cardiovascular disease.
The South Beach Diet also teaches you about the different kinds of dietary fats and encourages you to limit unhealthy trans fats and saturated fats, while eating more foods with healthier monounsaturated fats. The South Beach Diet emphasizes the benefits of fiber and whole grains and encourages you to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your eating plan.
The South Beach Diet is lower in carbohydrates than is a typical eating plan, but not as low as a true low-carb diet. On a typical eating plan, about 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories come from carbohydrates. Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, this amounts to about 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates a day. In the final maintenance phase of the South Beach Diet, you can get as much as 28 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates, or about 140 grams of carbohydrates a day. A true low-carb diet might restrict your carb intake to as little as 50 to 100 grams a day.
The South Beach Diet has evolved over time and now recommends exercise as an important part of your lifestyle. The South Beach Diet says that regular exercise will boost your metabolism and help prevent weight-loss plateaus.
Phases of the South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet has three phases:
Phase 1. This two-week phase is designed to eliminate food cravings and jump-start weight loss. You cut out almost all carbohydrates from your diet, particularly starches and sugars, including pasta, rice, bread and fruit. You can’t drink fruit juice or any alcohol. You focus on eating lean protein, such as seafood, skinless poultry, lean beef and soy products. You also can eat high-fiber vegetables, low-fat dairy, and foods with healthy, unsaturated fats, including avocadoes, nuts and seeds.
Phase 2. This is a long-term weight-loss phase. You begin adding back some of the previously banned foods, such as whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, fruits and more vegetables. You stay in this phase until you reach your goal weight.
Phase 3. This is a maintenance phase meant to be a healthy way to eat for life. You continue to follow the diet and lifestyle principles you learned in the two previous phases. You can eat almost all the foods that you want, including occasional indulgences.
A typical day’s menu on the South Beach Diet
Here’s a look at what you might eat during a typical day in phase 1 of the South Beach Diet, according to the South Beach Diet website:
Breakfast. Breakfast might be artichokes Benedict, an asparagus omelet with goat cheese, or baked eggs with spinach and ham, along with a cup of coffee or tea.
Lunch. Lunch might be a shrimp stir-fry or a warm beef salad, along with iced tea or sparkling water.
Dinner. Dinner may feature grilled sesame salmon or flank steak paired with a vegetable side dish and a salad.
Dessert. The diet encourages you to enjoy a dessert, such as a ricotta cheesecake or chilled espresso custard, even in phase 1.
Snacks. You can enjoy snacks during the day, too, such as a Muenster cheese and turkey roll-up or a spicy nut mix. Results
The South Beach Diet says that you’ll lose 8 to 13 pounds in the two-week period that you’re in phase 1. It also says that most of the weight will be shed from your midsection. In phase 2, it says that you’ll likely lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.
Most people can lose weight on almost any diet, especially in the short term. Most important to weight loss is how many calories you take in and how many calories you burn off. A weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week is the typical recommendation. Although it may seem slow, it’s a pace that’s more likely to help you maintain your weight loss permanently. Losing a large amount of weight rapidly could indicate that you’re losing water weight or lean tissue, rather than fat. In some situations, however, faster weight loss can be safe if it’s done in a healthy way. For example, doctors may prescribe a medically supervised very low calorie diet for rapid weight loss if you’re obese or have serious health problems. In addition, some diets include an initiation phase to help you jump start your weight loss, including the South Beach Diet and the Mayo Clinic Diet.
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The South Beach Diet, while mainly directed at weight loss, may promote certain healthy changes. Research shows that following a long-term eating plan that’s rich in healthy carbohydrates and dietary fats can improve your health. For example, lower carbohydrate diets with healthy fats may improve your blood cholesterol levels. On the other hand, no long-term, randomized controlled clinical trials have measured the health outcomes of the South Beach Diet. Nor have there been such studies of the overall health or cardiovascular benefits of following a low-glycemic-index diet. But eating such foods as whole grains, unsaturated fats, vegetables and fruits should help to promote good health.
The South Beach Diet is generally safe if you follow it as outlined in official South Beach Diet books and websites. However, if you severely restrict your carbohydrates, you may experience problems from ketosis. Ketosis, caused by the breakdown of dietary fat, can sometimes lead to weakness, nausea, dehydration and dizziness.