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South Beach Diet
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

South Beach Diet Overview

Written by Alice.

The South Beach diet was designed by Dr. Arthur Agatston initially as a way to reduce cholesterol and insulin levels in heart disease patients. The basis of the South Beach Diet focus’ on a balance between good fats and good carbohydrate foods while reducing highly processed ‘bad’ carbohydrates and saturated fats. The strict reduction in ‘bad’ carbohydrates such as white breads, pasta, cakes, cookies, pastries and simple sugars is designed to help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. These ‘bad’ carbs are foods that rank high on the glycemic index and more importantly, high on glycemic load. The glycemic index measures the amount of carbohydrates in a specific food while the glycemic load is a ratio of the carbohydrate and fiber content of foods. Glycemic load is ultimately more important in measuring what is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ carbohydrate. The scientific background of a low ‘bad’ carb diet suggests that avoiding these high glycemic load foods reduces spikes in blood sugar and keeps the hormone insulin at healthy levels. Eating 3 main meals and 3 snacks throughout the day is another important factor within the South Beach diet. Eating every few hours helps maintain a balanced blood sugar and insulin level therefor reducing hunger and cravings. Dr. Agatston also talks about the importance of daily exercise including brisk walking programs and strength training.

There are three main phases in the South Beach Diet....

(for food lists for each phase, see below)

Phase 1: The initial Phase is a short two week phase that is considered the most strict phase of the South Beach Diet. This first phase eliminates all ‘bad’ carbohydrates, alcohol and low fat dairy products while including proteins, good fats, and low glycemic index carbohydrates in the form of mostly vegetables. Three main meals and three snacks are suggested to reduce hunger and stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels. After the two weeks, carbohydrate cravings should be gone as your insulin levels reach a normal healthy level. Rapid weight loss may occur during this phase . This phase is designed to regulate insulin levels back to a normal level so that you body will be better able to manage when good carbohydrates are reintroduced into the diet in phase 2 and 3.

Phase 2: Dr. Agatston suggests moving onto phase 2 after just two weeks on phase 1 for optimal benefits. During phase 2, good low glycemic index carbohydrates are slowly reintroduced into the diet. These good carbohydrates include some whole grains, fruits, sweet potatoes, and some vegetables that were excluded from Phase 1. It is not suggested to add in a lot of these carbohydrates all at once, but instead to gradually increase your intake of carbohydrates like adding one piece of fruit on day 1, and 1 slice of whole grain bread the next so your body can adjust. Protein, small amounts of good fats and lots vegetables are still very important during Phase 2 and 3. During phase 2, weight loss will be less dramatic (1-2lbs a week). This allows for a healthy reduction in weight while maintaining healthy insulin levels. You can stay at level 2 as long as you like until you reach your weight loss goal.

Phase 3: The final Phase of the South Beach diet is less of a Phase and more of a lifestyle change and way of eating for life. By this stage, your cravings for ‘bad’ refined carbohydrates should be mostly gone and after many weeks of eating a diet full of protiens, good carbohydrates such as low glycemic fruits and vegetables and a little bit of good fats, your body will have adjusted to this healthy way of eating. Insulin levels should be stable and blood sugar spikes should be gone. In Phase 3, there are very few restriction just guidelines about portion size as well as the same general suggestions of reducing bad carbohydrates and bad fats. The same basic concepts of avoiding ‘bad’ carbohydrates and bad fats are held while the consumption of proteins, good carbohydrates and some good fats are encouraged to fill most of your meals.

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Jennifer R. Scott. “Understand Phase 1 of The South Beach Diet,”, Sept. 9, 2009, My7daydiet. “South Beach Diet,” My7daydiet, July 16, 2008,

Nanci Hellmic. “'South Beach Diet' author's new plan draws fire,”, April 30, 2008,

South Beach Diet 101. “South Beach Diet Allowed Food,” The South Beach Diet 101, March 30, 2011,

South Beach Diet. “The South Beach Diet How it Works,” South Beach Diet, August 6, 2011,

South Beach Diet Plan. “South Beach Diet Plan For Beginners” South Beach Diet Plan, January 16, 2011,

WebMD. “The South Beach Diet,” WebMD, August 6, 2011,



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