In the 1990s, Florida based cardiologist Arthur Agatston, and dietitian Marie Almon, set out to change the way his patients ate by creating his own healthy diet to protect against serious medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
It initially aimed to help patients lower their risk of heart disease, but rapidly became popular as a diet for losing weight.
The Diet claims not to be a traditional low-carb diet, focusing instead on selecting the right carbohydrates, or carbs.
These include whole grains, specific fruits and vegetables, appropriate fats, such as olive oil, and lean protein sources.
It recommends avoiding certain carbohydrates, based on their glycemic index.
Commenting on the Diet, the Mayo Clinic explain that foods with a high glycemic index will increase blood sugar more quickly, to a higher level and for a longer time than foods with a lower index.
There is, they say, some evidence to suggest that increasing blood sugar levels stimulates the appetite, causing people to eat more.
The South Beach Diet is based on eliminating refined carbohydrates — white flour and sugar are the top culprits. People on the plan are urged to cut out carbs and focus on lean protein, low-fat dairy, and good carbs — whole grains, vegetables, and fruit — as a way to lose weight, get healthy, and actually reduce the cravings that put you in the typical hunger-overeat-gain weight cycle.
The three phases of the South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet has three phases: The first aims to kick-start the weight loss process, the second takes the dieter to their target weight, and the third aims to maintain the ideal weight.
An important emphasis is on controlling hunger by eating before it strikes. You get three meals, one dessert, and two snacks every day, even during Phase one, the most restrictive of the diet’s three phases. Phase one is only two weeks long and is the most limited in terms of food choices. The goals are to wean you off all the junk food you’ve been eating, and stop cravings by getting blood sugar under control.
The way to control overeating is to control blood sugar and your insulin response by eating every three to four hours, and eating a high-fiber diet, with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and heart-healthy fats.
Carbs affect blood sugar control. Have too many carbs at any one time(a big bagel, for instance) and you’ll be hungry again sooner, and more apt to eat something you shouldn’t be eating, adding that the South Beach Diet restricts those starchy carbs better than other diets.
In Phase I, the dieter will eat normal-sized portions of:
• Lean meats
• Fish and shellfish
• Reduced-fat cheese
The dieter will eat three balanced meals a day, with desserts, plus snacks.
Foods to avoid during Phase I include bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, baked and sugary foods such as cake, cookies, candy and ice cream, and fruits, and alcoholic drinks. Some of these are re-introduced in Phases II and III.
Phase II: Achieving the target weight
In Phase two, whole grains and fruits are added, and you will stay on this phase of the weight-loss plan until you reach your goal. “These carbohydrate-rich foods are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index — these good-carb choices have more staying power, take a long period to be processed and absorbed by the body, and prevent the purported fluctuations in blood glucose and quick secretions of insulin.
Weight loss may now be steady, but slower than in Phase I. During Phase II, the Diet says people normally lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, depending on the individual’s metabolism.
In Phase II, the dieter learns to reintroduce “good” carbohydrates, including whole-grain breads, whole-grain pastas, most fruits, and some treats.
The carbs are reintroduced little by little. First, one single carb is added to just one daily meal for one week. The person should monitor closely how their body responds to a reintroduced carb over a few days. If the body responds appropriately, they can add a second carb.
This continues until the person has two to three servings of the right carbs each day. These include healthy, complex, high fiber carbohydrates like whole grains, fruit, potatoes, peas, and brown rice.
If a person does not feel comfortable at this stage, they can return to Phase I for a few days, until they regain control.
Phase III: Adopting a lifestyle
In Phase III, says the South Beach Diet, the individual learns to make good food choices and maintain their new weight in the long term, while enjoying all foods in moderation.
Phase III is the “maintenance phase.” Now, the person should feel that they are adopting a lifestyle, rather than following a diet.
If the food cravings return, or if weight increases, the dieter can go back to Phase I or II.
The South Beach Diet: Short- and Long-Term Effects
The creators of the Diet list several advantages of their approach.
They say that people who follow the Diet are better able to:
• Maintain an ideal body weight for the long term
• Avoid diabetes
• Achieve normal cholesterol and blood fat levels
• Prevent hypertension.
The South Beach Diet, the approach offers a lifestyle, rather than a diet.