The South Beach Diet is a relatively new weight loss diet. It is written by Dr. Arthur Agatston, director of the Mount Sinai Cardiac Prevention Center in Miami Beach, Florida. Published by Rodale ($24.95, hardcover, 310pp).

Agatston says he created the South Beach diet program after becoming disillusioned with the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet of the American Heart Association and the high fat theories of Dr Atkins. In the end, the South Beach Diet falls somewhere in between.

South Beach Diet – Brief Explanation

Like the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet plan is divided into phases.

  1. * Phase 1 – Lasts 14-days – The Strictest Phase of the Diet
    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. A typical South Beach diet breakfast is two eggs and lean bacon. A mid-morning snack is Celery stuffed with 1 wedge Laughing Cow light cheese. Lunch might be salad greens with grilled chicken. For an afternoon snack, 10 cherry tomatoes with 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese. Dinner may be lean meat again with fiber-rich vegetables.
    Diet Foods to Enjoy: include, tenderloin, sirloin, or top round, skinless chicken or turkey breasts, all types of fish and shellfish, boiled ham, canadian bacon, 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 yogurt, 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.
  2. * Phase 2 – Lasts Until You Reach Your Weight Loss Goal – More Liberal Phase
    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-fiber carbohydrates, such as whole-grain breads, which raise your insulin levels in a much milder way that do simple, starchy carbs.
    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.
  3. * 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.

South Beach Diet – Claims

* Promotes rapid initial weight loss of 8-13 pounds in 14 days.
* Thereafter, offers weight loss of about 1-2 pounds, per week.
* Helps to improve eating habits and stabilize blood sugar levels.
* Helps to improve good to bad cholesterol ratio and reduce triglycerides.

South Beach Diet – Drawbacks

* The South Beach Diet is subtitled The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss. Such a description is bound to raise expectations to unrealistic levels. The truth is, there is nothing especially new about this diet – or any diet plan that cuts out unhealthy processed foods together with excess sugar, and recommends less saturated fat.
* Much of the initial 8-13 pounds weight-loss is likely to be water-weight-loss caused by carbohydrate restriction. Such weight loss is typically regained, as soon as carb-intake resumes.
* Another drawback of the South Beach Diet is the lack of options for people who don’t like 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, he remains unreasonably unyielding on complex carbs. Most of the world outside America thrives on complex carbs and these foods do not keep us overweight, nor do they warrant a 14-day ban. In this way, Dr Agatston is helping to perpetuate the American fear of carbs.
* Despite the many positive features of the South Beach Diet, it’s best to seek the advice of a registered dietitian or your doctor before undertaking any diet plan that induces ketosis (as a result of carb-restriction) because the body is shedding water and this might cause an electrolyte imbalance without proper hydration. In addition, low-carb diet plans are not generally recommended for anyone with kidney problems.

South Beach Diet – Our Opinion

Although we do not agree with some of the anti-carb propositions in the South Beach Diet, this diet is full of sensible advice about (e.g.) fat, hunger, refined foods and balanced eating. Who cares if it doesn’t contain any new or ground-breaking dietary advice? The South Beach Diet is a perfectly do-able diet plan with a range of interesting recipes and diet ideas, and encourages long-term eating from all food groups