What is the South Beach Diet and what are its benefits and its drawbacks? The South Beach Diet is the creation of cardiologist Arthur Agatston, MD, director of the Mount Sinai Cardiac Prevention Center in Miami Beach, Fla. And like the Atkins Diet, Dr. Agatston’s South Beach Diet also limits the intake of carbohydrates as well as including a severely restrictive two week induction phase that is followed by a long term diet. So this means that potatoes, fruit, bread, cereal, rice, pasta, beets, carrots, and corn are no longer allowed, especially during the induction phase. So, with the aforementioned similarities, you may be wondering where Atkins and South Beach actually differ.
First of all, while Atkins promotes the obscene consumption of saturated animal fats, South Beach bans all unhealthy fats while, on the other hand, promoting the consumption of healthier unsaturated fats. The other difference can be found in their opposing views of carbohydrates. The South Beach diet doesn’t count grams of carbohydrates and low-sugar carbs are actually recommended. Therefore, South Beach is unable to be pegged as simply as “low-carb” unlike the Atkins diet, and it’s stance on fats disqualifies it from being labeled a “low-fat” diet as well. One of the more beneficial points that the South Beach Diet makes is for people to snack throughout the day so that hunger pangs are offset and their metabolism remains elevated. Actual meal portions will be just large enough to satisfy one’s hunger but no larger. Another point that many diets such as South Beach are stressing is insulin control by eating less refined carbs and more complex, fiber-rich carbs that will keep your energy levels high and your risk for diabetes low.
But what about this harsh induction phase? As mentioned above, one must begin the South Beach Diet with what they call an induction phase that lasts for 14 days. During these 14 days, one’s choices for food are limited greatly. Foods to avoid include bread, cereal, fruit, pasta, rice, potatoes, and alcohol. While one can have dairy products, only two servings of low-fat or non fat dairy are permitted during induction. Once the induction phase is over, and your carb cravings have waned, you can now begin to reincorporate some carbs back into the diet. However, most foods are still banned, but things like pasta can be had occasionally. This diet is maintained until you reach your target weight.
Now, South Beach is not as wonderful as Dr. Agatston would like for you to believe. In my opinion, any diet that includes a highly restrictive period that leaves people nutritionally unbalanced is not a good idea. Furthermore, most of the weight lost during induction turns out to be water weight, therefore disrupting the electrolyte balance and leaving you dehydrated. Lastly, the induction phase is a necessary stage, yet it is a nearly impossible challenge for many to go without grains, pasta, and fruit for two weeks. And for the uninitiated, this induction phase simply asks for too much too soon. So, Dr. Agatston’s heart appears to be in the right place, but one-size-fits-all diets like the South Beach Diet appear to be more trouble than they are worth.