With a myriad of trendy fad diets that are supposedly effective in helping you achieve a good physique, it can be hard to determine which one works best. Health gurus and fitness advocates have their own candidates of allegedly beneficial diet plans. One particular example is the South Beach Diet, a commercial weight-loss diet designed by Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist, and best-selling author. This popular diet has garnered both praises and criticism since its introduction to the dieting world in 2003. In this article, we’ll be discussing three detailed reviews of the South Beach Diet from three credible sources: the Mayo Clinic, the U.S. News, and registered dietician Franziska Spritzler.
The South Beach Diet was first discussed 16 years ago in Dr. Agatston’s book entitled “The South Beach: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss”. The name was derived from a prosperous commercial beach area in Miami. Another term used to pertain to this diet was the “modified low-carbohydrate diet”.
This diet plan pushes for lower consumption of carbs and a higher intake of protein and healthy fats. However, it’s not extremely strict and doesn’t require you to count the carbs you’re taking in on a daily basis. It also doesn’t completely eliminate the entire carb food group. It only aims for the elimination of “bad” or processed carbs such as white bread and refined grains.
The South Beach Diet utilizes the glycemic index and glycemic load as references to determine which carb-rich food must be avoided. According to experts in nutrition and dietetics, foods that have a high glycemic index spike up blood sugar levels and intensify the body’s response to insulin. Clinical evidence shows that heightened blood sugar levels lead to undesirable results such as mood swings, decreased mental clarity, and increased appetite. Studies also suggest that an enhanced appetite compels overeating and consequently leads to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Aside from carbs, the South Beach Diet also encourages you to select dietary fats wisely by limiting the intake of unhealthy varieties and opting instead for healthy monounsaturated fats. Moreover, it emphasizes the nutritional benefits of fiber-rich whole foods such as whole grain, vegetables, and fruits.
Modified Low-Carbohydrate Diet
As previously stated, another term for the South Beach Diet is a modified low-carbohydrate diet due to its aim of reducing carb consumption. The Mayo Clinic provides a comparison between an average eating plan and the South Beach Diet. In the former, about 45 to 65% of your daily calorie intake comes from carbs. This is approximately 225 to 325 grams of carbs based on an everyday diet of 2,000 calories. In the latter diet, carbs only take about 28% of your daily calorie intake. That’s amounts to an estimate of 140 grams per day.
Three Phases of the South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet entails three phases: the two-week phase, long-term weight-loss phase, and maintenance phase.
The main goal in this period is to lessen cravings for foods with high sugar and starch content. It involves eliminating carbs such as bread, pasta, rice, and even fruits. Juices, alcohol, and sweetened beverages are not allowed. For two weeks, you’ll need to increase your intake of lean protein to make up for the drastic change in lowering carb consumption. Other foods that you must focus on eating are vegetables, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and sources of unsaturated fats like nuts and seeds.
In the long-term weight loss phase, you can start adding back some food items that you cut out in the first phase. These include natural whole foods such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, whole grains, and fruits. You’ll be required to maintain this eating plan until you achieve your weight loss goal.
Lastly, in the maintenance phase, the objective is to maintain your achieved body weight. You’re now allowed to eat all types of food as long as you’ll be wary of portion sizes and stay consistent in applying the lifestyle principles you’ve learned so far.
According to Dr. Agatston, the South Beach Diet will make you lose about 8 to 13 pounds in phase 1. In phase 2, the estimated weight loss is about 1 to 2 pounds each week.
Now that you’re informed of how the diet works, let’s move on to the verdicts of Mayo Clinic, U.S. News, and Franziska Spritzler.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a weight loss of a pound or two per week is a common medical recommendation. It’s a slow pace but easier to attain and more likely to help you permanently keep off unwanted weight. The initiation phase also allows you to effectively jumpstart your weight loss.
The South Beach Diet may also promote beneficial dietary changes. In fact, a long-term diet high in healthy carbs and unsaturated fats has been proven to optimize health by improving blood cholesterol levels.
However, the Mayo Clinic also presents potentials risks. Severe restriction of carbs in the first phase of this diet can cause symptoms triggered by ketosis such as headache, nausea, brain fog, halitosis, dizziness, and dehydration.
In an assessment of 41 popular diets, U.S. News placed the South Beach Diet in rank 20 with an overall score of 3.1 over 5. In their review, U.S. News highlighted the meal delivery program and availability of recipes on the website of South Beach and described them as time-saving and convenient. U.S. News also discussed that online members are able to “track meals, weight and diet goals with the South Beach Diet app” as well as “chat with a counselor seven days a week online”.
According to Spritzler, one of the drawbacks of the South Beach Diet is that it allows harmful types of fat that contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, the type linked to heart disease and other health conditions. It also doesn’t allow coconut oil—an extremely healthy plant-based oil—because it’s composed mainly of saturated fat. However, Spritzler does state that you can avoid the said drawback by selecting good sources of unprocessed monounsaturated fats. In addition, Spritzler acknowledges that it’s generally effective in boosting weight loss and easy to stick within the long term.
Like other diet plans, the South Beach Diet has its pros and cons. The good news is it does tick off the arguably most important characteristic in the checklist of an effective weight loss: sustainability. Indeed, it appears to be more realistic and relatively easier to follow than popular fad diets. However, it’s still important to ask for the recommendation of a medical professional before starting any type of diet especially if you have certain health concerns.