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South Beach Diet – What is the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach diet was developed by Miami, Florida-area cardiologist Arthur Agatston. It lays emphasis on the consumption of "good carbs" and "good fats". Dr. Agatston came up with this diet for his cardiac patients based upon his study of scientific dieting research. The South Beach diet first appeared in a book of the same name published by Rodale Press.

Dr. Agatston thinks that excess consumption of so-called "bad carbohydrates", like the rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates that are found in foods with a high glycemic index, creates an insulin resistance syndrome.

He further believes that excess consumption of "bad fats", such as saturated fat and trans fat, contributes to a rise in cardiovascular disease. To prevent these two conditions, The South Beach diet minimizes consumption of bad fats and bad carbs and encourages increased consumption of good fats and good carbs.

The South Beach diet consists of three phases. In all phases, Dr. Agatston advises minimizing consumption of bad fats. The South Beach diet distinguishes between good and bad carbohydrates, and good and bad fats.

"Good carbs" are those that are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, that is, they are digested and absorbed slowly. For instance, brown rice is permitted in moderation, while white rice is discouraged. Also, when eating any carbohydrates, Dr. Agatston recommends also having fiber or fat to slow digestion of the carbohydrates.

"Good fats" are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These, in particular are those that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Saturated and trans fats are considered to be bad fats according to Dr. Agaston’s South Beach diet.

The South Beach diet emphasizes the following:

1. Permanent amendments to one's way of eating
2. A wide assortment of foods
3. Simplicity and flexibility.

The South Beach diet encourages eating whole grains and large amounts of vegetables, along with adequate amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. This includes omega-3 fatty acids, such as those contained in fish. However, The South Beach diet discourages eating overly refined processed foods (particularly white flours and sugars), high-fat meats, and saturated fats in general.

The South Beach diet does not require counting calories or limiting servings. Dr. Agatston suggests that dieters eat until they are satisfied. South Beach Dieters are told to have 6 meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with small snacks between each meal.

South Beach Diet Menu - What are South Beach Diet Recipes?

You won't go hungry on the South Beach. In fact, it promotes strategic snacking – you are not doing it right if you don't snack.

In the South Beach, there is no counting calories or strict portion sizes. However, there's no gorging, either. The idea here is to have normal portions. To many people, normal portions may, initially, appear small. Nevertheless, they are enough to satisfy hunger, no more.

As mentioned above, sugar-rich carbs are off the South Beach menu. These include rice and potatoes, and vegetables – like beets and corn – that have high sugar content. What's more, there are no pastries or other sugar-filled desserts, either. Alcohol is also forbidden in the induction phase of the South Beach diet and limited in the long-term run.

Three phases of South Beach Diet Menu:

There is a 14-day induction phase that forbids eating bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods, and fruit. You can't even have a drop of beer, wine, or any form of alcohol. However, the South Beach diet promises that, after a couple of days, you really won't miss the stuff. As for dairy products, two servings of low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, or buttermilk are now permitted in this phase.

The "reintroduce the carbs" stage of the South Beach diet gradually adds back some of the banned foods but not all of them. However, if you are a pasta maniac, you can have some. At one time carrots used to be on the "foods to avoid" list in the first two phases. However, you can now have them at the start of phase two. Tomatoes and onions, limited earlier, are now fine, in any phase. Fruit makes a return, as well; just pick and choose a little now and then, no more. How long does this phase last, you may ask? It lasts until you hit your target weight.

The final stage of the South Beach diet is your diet for life. Now you can eat normal foods in normal portions, following a few basic guidelines.

Working of South Beach Diet Plan:

The South Beach diet plan is based on the observation that Americans are carb crazy. That is the reason behind the induction phase – those first two weeks are meant to help people quit craving carbs. That is also why carbs are minimized throughout the diet.

According to the South Beach theory, highly processed carbs, get digested too fast. That makes insulin levels – a hormone that the body makes to process sugars – spike. Once those fast-burning carbs are used up, your high insulin level makes you yearn for more food. So what do you tend to eat now – more carbs, of course.

The South Beach diet promises that, by breaking this cycle, you will want to eat less food, but better food.

South Beach Diet – Pros and Cons

Advantages of the South Beach Diet - Pros

In today's dieting world where low-carb, high-fat diets are in vogue, it is good to see a diet that recommends eating lesser foods packed with saturates and replacing some of them with heart-healthy fats. The South Beach Diet that is based on eating low GI foods is becoming increasingly popular. In general, it encourages you to 'de-junk' your diet and cut down on carb-rich foods, which are packed with few other nutrients like white bread, sugary cereals and sweets.

Disadvantages of the South Beach Diet - Cons

The extreme carbohydrate restriction in the first two weeks of the South Beach Diet calls for serious willpower. It may even leave you feeling weak and wobbly. In the meantime, you won't be getting your five fruit and veg each day during Phase One. This may leave you missing out on some vitamins and minerals. Doing away with all carbohydrate-rich foods during this phase also means you'll be cutting out some other good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals. For instance, wholegrain breads and cereals are full of fiber, B vitamins and iron, while milk is an excellent source of calcium and zinc.

South Beach Diet –What the experts say?

Most experts say that the South Beach Diet truly does meet several of the criteria for a healthy diet. It is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, they say. What is most important is that it does not exclude any major food groups.

However, some of them warn that during the induction phase, a lot of the lost weight is water weight. Losing so much water could throw one’s electrolyte balance off. Hence, if you are following the South Beach Diet, it is a good idea to work closely with a registered dietitian or your physician.

In spite of its popularity, the South Beach diet plan has no one-size-fits-all recipe. Only a dietitian can help you personalize the South Beach diet to fit your health needs.

Submitted on January 16, 2014