Friday, April 24, 2009

The South Beach Diet

The South Beach diet is a popular diet developed by a cardiologist, Arthur Agatston of Miami. It was originally intended to help his patients avoid or improve cardiovascular disease, with weight loss as a secondary aim.

What Is It?

The South Beach diet is based around the idea that there are good and bad carbohydrates and good and bad fats. It does not count calories and you are expected to eat until you are satisfied, but you are restricted on what foods you can eat. It also rates foods according to their sugar content (the glycemic index).

'Bad fats' (mainly saturated fats and trans fats) are to be avoided because of their alleged contribution to heart disease, which has been widely researched. This means cutting down on high fat meats and dairy products, replacing them with lean meats, oily fish and olive oil.

'Bad carbohydrates' are the quickly absorbed high glycemic index carbs such as sugar and refined grains (white flour, white rice etc). They are replaced with whole grains and high fiber foods, plus fruit in limited quantities.

There are three phases to the diet. Phase 1 is the most restrictive, lasting 2 weeks. Almost all carbohydrates are avoided in this first phase, including fruit. At this point the diet may seem a little like the Atkins diet but this is only for a limited 14 day period. A person might lose 8-13 pounds during these 2 weeks.

More foods are added back into the diet in phase 2. You will stay on phase 2 until you meet your weight target, hopefully losing 1-2 pounds per week during this time. Phase 3 is a maintenance plan, more flexible still, that you can use when you are at your ideal weight.

South Beach encourages dieters to eat 6 times a day (3 meals plus 3 snacks) and to eat more non-starchy vegetables.

Why Does It Work?

The first phases probably induces ketosis in the same way that the Atkins diet does. In the absence of carbohydrates the body uses its fat reserves for energy.

Beyond that, the addition of more fiber into the diet is good for us. The standard American or Western diet often does not contain even the minimum of fiber. Fiber also helps us to lose weight because it is a bulky substance that is not easily absorbed by the body. It fills us up while containing very few calories.

This means that although you are not consciously restricting calories on the South Beach diet, you are likely to reduce your calorie intake automatically, just because you will be filling your stomach with bulky, low calorie foods.

Switching to a diet containing more vegetables is likely to provide more of the essential minerals than most people have in their diets right now. This also increases satisfaction so that we will stop eating sooner. Often, people overeat partly because on a high fat diet they cannot get the nutrients they need without consuming a huge number of calories.

Also, research has shown that eating frequent, smaller meals is often better for weight loss than restricting yourself to 2 or 3 meals per day. So there are many factors which make the South Beach diet work for many people.

Any Negatives?

Although there are vegetarian options, strict vegetarians and vegans may find the first two weeks difficult, as may people who have a very active lifestyle. There is not much emphasis on exercise in this program.

Artificial sweeteners are accepted and even recommended on the diet. Some of these have health risks in themselves and using them will keep you in the habit of having sweet tasting foods, so you are likely to still crave sugar and candy.

If you have been on the standard Western diet, your food costs might increase a little because healthy food tends to cost more. Replacing junk food with fresh vegetables can increase the grocery bill. However, you will probably save on items like candy and alcohol (a little red wine is allowed in the later phases, but that is all).

It has the reputation of being a faddy, celebrity-driven diet but this may just be because of the name and the hype that it has had. Overall the South Beach diet is a good healthy weight loss plan for many people.

South Beach Diet is a very popular with people who want to lose weight, but not have to count carbohydrates, fat grams, and every thing else!

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