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South Beach

- The basics
- Upside
- Downside
- Is It for You?
- Sample Menu
- Our Nutritionist Says
- iVillagers Say

Reviewed By:
Lynn Grieger, RD

South Beach Diet basics

South Beach DietThis low-carb diet promises quick weight loss without hunger or cravings, plus improved cardiovascular health.

The South Beach Diet is a low-carb diet that emphasizes normal portions of lean proteins such as fish and chicken; unlimited amounts of low-glycemic-index vegetables; ample amounts of healthy fats such as olive and canola oil, nuts and avocados; and small portions of "healthy carbs" found in fruit and whole grains. By following this way of eating, the plan promises positive changes in markers of cardiovascular health: lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, along with increased HDL cholesterol levels.

There are three phases in this diet. Phase I is the most restrictive and lasts for two weeks. It emphasizes lean proteins, fat-free or low-fat cheese, nuts, eggs, tofu, legumes, healthy types of fat and low-glycemic-index vegetables. Phase II reintroduces fruit, whole-grain bread, rice, pasta and fat-free milk and yogurt. Dieters stay on Phase II until they've lost their desired amount of weight. Phase III is for maintenance and should be followed for life. Dieters are encouraged to move back and forth between the different phases as needed to maintain their weight loss.

The South Beach Diet also produces a variety of ready-to-eat meals and snacks, which conform to the principles of the diet plan.

Upside of the South Beach Diet

  • There's a welcome emphasis on whole grains, fruits and vegetables that is often lacking in many low-carb diet plans.

  • The South Beach Diet encourages three balanced meals plus snacks if necessary, and allows a lot of flexibility in food choices.

  • The author, cardiologist Arthur Agatston, encourages eating all the types of foods known to prevent heart disease, including nuts, monounsaturated fats such as olive and canola oils, soy products, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Downside of the South Beach Diet

  • The glycemic index is used to encourage the consumption of certain types of grains, fruits and vegetables. Major U.S. health associations such as the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association do not endorse using the glycemic index for weight control or in planning menus for people with diabetes. Eliminating some healthy foods just because they have a high glycemic index number doesn't make sense for every person.

  • Some people may follow Phase I for long periods of time (although this is not recommended), which can cause deficiencies of several nutrients including fiber and calcium.

  • Some people experience fluctuations in weight as they move between phases. Although this is normal, it can be frustrating and disheartening.

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Review Date: 11-08-2007

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