South Beach Diet Review

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The South Beach Diet is a popular diet that starts people out losing weight quickly through restricting certain foods for the first two weeks. After two weeks of strict food restriction, dieters switch to a long-term calorie-controlled diet where they lose approximately one to two pounds a week. Eventually, dieters reach a maintenance plan.

The main aspects of the South Beach diet are it differentiates between good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates based on glycemic index, and it also differentiates between good fats and bad fats based on their degree of saturation.

If you want to lose weight quickly at first, then eventually switch over to a permanent maintenance food plan after losing all your excess pounds, the South Beach Diet may be a good option for you.


Dr. Arthur Agatston, a preventive cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, designed the South beach diet for obese cardiac patients who were having problems staying on the standard low-fat food plan recommended by the American Heart Association. When his patients started having success with his diet, he began to promote it to the public.

Agatston’s book, The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss, was published in 2003, and television coverage helped boost the popularity of his food plan. In 2004, the Agatston Research Foundation was founded. It is a nonprofit organization for conducting research on diet, cardiac health and disease prevention

Principles of the South Beach Diet

The South Beach diet is divided into three phrases, and it’s neither a low-carbohydrate nor low-fat diet, says Agatston, even though it restricts both food groups. The diet is designed to restrict carbohydrates and fats in a way that helps eliminate cravings.

Phase One

Phase one lasts for the first two weeks. Dieters eliminate all bad carbohydrates, so this means they cannot eat foods like bread, fruit, pasta, potatoes or milk. Dieters consume about 1,200 to 1,400 calories each day spread out among three meals plus two to three snacks. The first phase is not only designed to help dieters lose a lot of pounds quickly, it’s also designed to help them eliminate food cravings.

Dieters can eat foods like lean meat, skinless chicken, turkey, cheese, seafood, eggs, tofu, non-starchy vegetables along with olive oil and canola oil. Sugar-free treats are allowed in limited amounts. Dr. Agatston claims that dieters can lose as much as 13 pounds during phase one,  especially from their stomachs.

Phase Two

After phase one, people can start adding a limited amount of good carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index. People can expect to lose one to two pounds each week in phase two. In addition to the foods from phase one, dieters can begin to add portions of whole grain foods like whole-grain bread, oatmeal, pasta, low-fat milk, several fruits and wine.

Foods that are not allowed during phase two include watermelon, raisins, bananas, white flour and sugary foods. Other forbidden foods include saturated and trans fats, which come from butter, animal fats and some solid margarines.

Phase Three

Dieters move to phase three, the maintenance phase, after they reach their goal weight. There are still restricted foods in phase three such as white flour foods and foods that contain a lot of sugar. People who have slips usually go back to phase one and start the diet again.

Moderate exercise and strength training are recommended. There are also tools on the South Beach Diet Website–for a fee–to help dieters stay focused and on track.

Risks of South Beach Diet

Some health experts claim the diet may not provide long-term nutrition because limiting milk and whole grains may lead to calcium and vitamin B deficiencies. The fast weight loss in the first phase is also objectionable because it goes against general weight loss guidelines of losing one to two pounds per week. Another questionable claim is the ability to lose a significant amount of belly fat during the first phase.

On the other hand, most health professionals agree it’s a good idea to replace saturated fat with unsaturated fats.


Davidson, Tish A.M. and Longe Jacqueline L. “South Beach Diet.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets. Ed. Jacqueline L. Longe. Detroit: Gale, 2008. 2 vols.

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