The South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet is an immensely popular weight loss diet created by cardiologist Dr. Agatston. It’s original purpose was to prevent heart disease. However, the South Beach Diet also promises a mind-blowing weight loss of 13lbs in two weeks.


The South Beach Diet is essentially based on the Glycemic Index (a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels). After eating, carbohydrates get broken down into simple sugars, which are absorbed and enter our bloodstream. Therefore, blood sugar levels rise after eating carbohydrates. In response to the increase in blood sugar, the hormone insulin is released. The function of insulin is to push the extra sugar into cells. This serves two main purposes, first to provide our cells with energy (sugar is energy) and to keep the blood sugar level constant. High sugar levels are potentially dangerous and can cause damage to our body (as happens in diabetes).

The South Beach Diet has a simple premise: replace “bad” carbohydrate with “good” carbohydrate and replace bad fats with good fats.

Bad carbohydrates (heavily refined sugars and grains) cause a huge surge in blood sugar levels, which is “bad”. These spikes in blood sugar are usually followed by crashing lows that cause carbohydrate cravings and lead to overeating. Furthermore, you require large amounts of insulin to clear these surges in sugar from the bloodstream. Over time, this can cause insulin to become less effective (insulin resistance), causing health problems and weight gain. On the other hand, good carbohydrates (vegetables, beans and whole grains) are broken down more slowly and cause a slower increase in blood sugar, resulting in steadier blood sugar levels. This provides a nice and steady supply of energy and leaves you feeling satisfied for longer. You suffer with fewer carbohydrate cravings, do not feel hungry constantly and are far less likely to overeat. Furthermore, avoidance of large and sudden blood sugar surges decreases your chances of becoming resistant to the effects of insulin and also means that continue to burn fat efficiently.

With regard to bad fats, the South Beach Diet restricts saturated fats and cuts out trans-fats entirely. The South Beach Diet replaces the bad fats with good fats that are rich in unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Although the replacement of one fat for another does not directly contribute to weight loss, it plays a significant role in health. Bad fats are associated with heart disease and cancer, while good fats possess beneficial health effects. Therefore, foods like red meat are eschewed in favor of lean meats, nuts and oily fish.


The South Beach Diet is divided into 3 phases. Each phases becomes increasingly easier to follow.


Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet is two weeks in duration. During this phase of the South Beach Diet all sugars, processed carbohydrates and fruits, as well as some higher glycaemic vegetables are prohibited.

Banned foods include:

  • Bread
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Fruit
  • Milk
  • Sweets
  • Cake
  • Cookies
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol

Foods such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, low-fat cheese and olive oil are recommended. Most carbohydrates are prohibited, as the goal is to stop the fluctuating blood sugar and insulin levels in order to halt insulin resistance. This also stops the hunger cycle and instigates substantial weight loss. In the first phase weight loss is fast and claimed to be 8 – 13lbs per week.


This phase is followed until your reach your target weight. During this phase, you are allowed to eat most fruit and vegetables and some whole grains. Weight loss is approximately 1 – 2lbs per week


During phase 3 of the South Beach Diet, you re-introduce most foods. There is no specific list of foods you should avoid. However, your are expected to have learned, understood and live by the basic principles you have learned in the preceding weeks on the South Beach Diet. This phase is the maintenance phase of the South Beach Diet and lasts for life.


Most of the controversy of the South Beach Diet lie in the extreme carbohydrate restriction required in the first two weeks (phase 1). This calls for will power and determination, but can also cause you to feel week, tired and woozy. Moreover, this phase will also lack sufficient micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), as you have to cut out a significant proportion of foods. Also, much of the initial weight loss may be water weight.


The South Beach Diet is not a calorie counting diet per se. Therefore dieters tend to avoid the traditional hunger pangs associated with calorie restricting diets. The South Beach Diet also makes you look at your diet with a long-term view and tries to guard against repeated cycles of weight loss and weight gain. Many health exerts generally view the South Beach Diet favorably, though tend to warn against the first phase of the diet. Although, the South Beach Diet advocates significant losses of weight in the first two weeks, remember that for weight loss to be mostly fat loss (your goal), you should aim to lose between 1 – 2 lbs per week (perhaps a little more if you are very overweight).

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